We Exist, and We Will Not Be Silenced

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A warning that there is some sensitive and possibly upsetting material in this post.
If you are not aware, right now in Chechnya men purely suspected of being gay are being rounded up and put into what can only be described as concentration camps. First, known gay rights activists were taken, their phones were searched and any men in their contacts were also taken. Some men have been given to their families for “honour killings”, while others have been sent to their deaths in these camps. At least four men have been killed.
If you are not aware I can understand why, because mainstream media seem to be on radio silence about the situations. While gay news outlets are in outcry about the atrocities, and the breach of human rights being committed in Chechnya, the mainstream media doesn’t seem to give a damn. The mainstream media is showing its total lack of solidarity with the LGBT community and I don’t think it’s acceptable.

Ok so they’re saying something. But in my mind the fact that our brothers in Chechnya are being rounded up based on the suspicion that they are gay and the fact that human rights are being violated left, right and centre should be headline news, not just a few stories here and there. Last week a 17-year-old was pushed from a building by his family as part of an honour killing, and at least three men have been killed in prison camps.  This is a genocide campaign, yet as this news broke on LGBT sites, the front page of the BBC news website was free of stories about Chechnya. Other mainstream news sites were much the same. I haven’t talked much about LGBT issues on this site before, but I think now is the time to start.
The rounding up of gay men, and others suspected of being gay, was triggered after the Russian LGBT Network applied for protest rights. This was then followed by police officers arresting over 100 gay men and taking them to prison camps where they were tortured. It has since been discovered there are at least six prisons in the region holding men on suspicion of their sexuality. These men are being tortured with the hope they will tell the police about other gay men.

And what did the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, have to say about all of this when questioned? That they cannot be killing what doesn’t exist; his defence is that there are simply no gay men in Chechnya, an area populated by well over a million people.

The message now coming from Chechnya to families is to kill your gay family members before the government takes them and kills them. It is heartbreaking and disgusting. Reports have said Kadyrov wants the gay population eradicated before Ramadan. This is serious.
But there is hope, the Russian LGBT Network has rescued over 40 men from persecution and they keep trying. The UN as well as major political figures, such as Angela Merkel has also spoken up against this horrific breach of human rights. Russia is even starting an investigation into these killings, though little will probably come from this apart from lies and denial. More does need to be done.
And there are things that you can do. Firstly, spread the word about what is happening in Chechnya; let the mainstream media know you’re not happy about their lack of news. Show your solidarity and your outrage. You can also sign petitions like the Amnesty International one to bring visibility. Secondly, put pressure on your local government to do something, to tell Russia this is unacceptable and to cut ties with them. Even if this is very unlikely (in places such as America), add the pressure anyway. Thirdly, you can donate to the Russian LGBT Network which is trying desperately to get men out of Chechnya and to safety.

Let people know that the LGBT community, along with its allies, is a community that will stand with its brothers and tell the world that we exist and will not take this breach of human rights.

I’d like to thank those that spoke at the protest in Nottingham a few weeks ago. You were all amazing speakers, and though I’ve never done a post like this on here before, you inspired me to find my voice, so thank you. If it’s you in any of these pictures please let me know. All photos are from that protest.

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