In an age where gay men are being allegedly persecuted from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, one group is stepping up to save lives.
The Russian LGBT Network is evacuating gay men from the country after reports from Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that over 100 gay men were detained and tortured — with several reported murders.
The network has helped 40 gay men evacuate the republic so far, according to the communications manager in an interview with NPR. The manager chose to remain anonymous due to the risks to her job.
“For most of them, (it) is just deadly dangerous to stay in Russia,” the manager said, noting that they evacuate men first to other Russian regions, then out of the country.
According to one survivor, men are allegedly interrogated and tortured in Chechen prisons, and families are told to kill their gay children.
“Some of them are being hunted by their relatives,” the manager added. “Because homosexuality is considered to be a stain on the whole family and it is believed that the only way to wash away this stain is to kill this person.”
The network set up a helpline for gay Chechen men to contact, but according to the manager, many are reluctant to call or email out of fear for their safety.
“Since the very beginning, the first people who contacted us … were terribly scared, they were not even sure if we [could] be trusted [or] if we were going to kill them.”
The Russian government offers no support “to any LGBT organizations,” she claimed.
“What we want from them right now is for them to have a proper investigation on the matter,” she said. “There was lots of attention from the international community; there was a lot of pressure, and Russian authorities were asked a lot about what’s going on in Chechnya and at some point they were unable to be silent anymore, and they started to do something.”
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, alongside his spokesperson, has denied the persecution of gays. His spokesperson stated “you can’t detain and harass someone who doesn’t exist in the republic.”
The manager claims the Russian government members are “monsters” for their inaction.
If you want to help gay men flee Chechnya, you can participate in this Facebook fundraiser here.