Reports from Chechnya have revealed over the past few months the distressing news of gay men being rounded up and placed inside ‘concentration camps’.
Intelligence is imprecise, but suggests that over 100 people have been interned at these camps, allegedly using gay dating apps as a means to locate homosexuals and persecute them. Why is this persecution happening and what can the UK and its citizens do to stop this?
Professor Dan Healey, an expert in Russian LGBT history, wrote a recent article for the Huffington Post where he discussed the collectivist culture surrounding Chechnya, the perceived cultural shame that homosexual people bring to their families, and why their families are encouraged to kill them.
This would explain the Chechnyan Leader, Ramzan Kadyrov’s, spokesman’s statement that there were no gay men in Chechnya, and ‘if such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return’. It also explains the reports that a 17 year-old Chechnyan boy was pushed from a balcony nine-stories up for being gay.
Such explanations do not, however, offer justification. They merely contextualise and understand why this persecution has arisen, not as a sudden outburst of homophobic violence, but as the culmination of a systematic cultural persecution of homosexuals which has intensified and looks to be transforming into a gay genocide.
Such a term for the recent human rights violations in Chechnya requires justification. Classification of gay men being persecuted along similar lines as the atrocities against the Jews of Europe, the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire and the Tutsi of Rwanda needs to be contextualised. Kadyrov has reportedly claimed that he wants to have eliminated the gay community by the end of May. If these reports are correct – and considering that they are consistent with reports from Amnesty International of the persecution – they are certainly credible, then this statement is certainly one which should be taken seriously.
Not only does it show a clear intent to eradicate male homosexuals, but gives a deadline for when this aim is to be achieved. Such clear expressions for an eradication of homosexuals clearly justify the use of the term genocide and indicate that action must be taken to end this persecution.
The British Response: how effective is it?
Contrary to some claims by users on twitter, the British Government has responded to these reports. Baroness Anelay, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has condemned not only the systematic persecution but has also called the disregard for LGBT+ people expressed by the Chechnyan Government as ‘particularly abhorrent’.
Alan Duncan, another FCO Minister, who himself is an openly gay man, has condemned the reports of the planned eradication of homosexual men in Chechnya and called upon both the Russian Federal Government and Vladimir Putin to take action.
Placing pressure on Putin is not enough. Professor Healey has identified that increased international pressure, given Putin’s vulnerable position over Syria and Russian involvement in the US Election, will encourage him further.
This has been done, not by our Prime Minister Theresa May, but by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel openly condemned the reported persecution of LGBT+ people in Chechnya in a press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, and called on him to investigate the claims and stop these violations of our most basic human rights.
This evidently had an impact as, three days later, Putin was reported to now be putting greater support behind investigations into the reports of anti-gay violence, after initially not doubting the denials by Chechnyan Leader Kadyrov. A working group, called for by Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova, has been created to investigate claims of anti-gay violence.
This is a step in the right direction, and reflects Professor Healey’s emphasis on international pressure against Russia to act. This is not, however, the point to accept victory. Instead, we must increase our international pressure on the Russian Federal Government to intervene and put an end to this gay genocide.
Given that the Chechnyan Leader has spoken of eradicating all gays by the end of May, greater pressure on Russia to intervene could help to stop the already existent effort from becoming too little too late. The British Government should join the voices of contempt against such atrocities in the world, and call on Russia to intervene to stop the efforts which have already been achieved from eroding into irrelevance.