Last month, a gay rights group in Moscow applied for permits to hold rallies in the Muslim-majority North Caucasus region, all of which were denied. As Novaya Gazeta, a Russian investigative newspaper reported, this marked a spike in anti-gay tensions and the disappearance of gay teenagers and adults. 

Chechnya has a conservative majority-Muslim society that regards any expression of sexuality other than straight as sinful — with LGBT targeting common in the region. 

“In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep,’ and it went as far as real murders,” the newspaper reported. 

Chechen authorities addressed the reports. Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly disputed the story according to the Boston Globe, stating, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.” 

“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return,” Karimov continued. 

Despite the dismissal by the Chechen administration, Novaya Gazeta reported the arrest and detainment of over 100 gay men in the country. 

“The situation in Chechnya is part of a global pattern of ongoing state-enabled or state-sanctioned violence against LGBTQ people,” Kimahli Powell, executive director of human rights organization Rainbow Road said Thursday. 

Rainbow Road is one of a growing number of LGBT groups who are working to help protect and evacuate gay men in Chechnya. 

“Since we first received initial reports of gay concentration camps being established in Chechnya, Rainbow Road immediately re-classified Eastern Europe as a priority region,” Powell told NewNowNext. “This means we’re expanding our on-the-ground contacts as well as increasing our capacity to identify and assess new or alternative safe routes out of Chechnya.” 

Grindr has begun helping gay men in Chechnya by using the app’s location services to update users who may be in danger. They have also provided Chechen users with news reports of the progressing situation. 

“Grindr for Equality is gravely concerned about the atrocities occurring in Russia and is devoted to raising awareness of the danger Chechen LGBTQ people find themselves in,” jack Harrison-Quintana, Director of Grindr for Equality said in a press release. “We are dedicated to opposing anti-LGBT violence across the globe and urge our users to support the cause in Chechnya today.” 

Other human rights groups have also acted against the violations against gay men in Chechnya. GLAAD called on U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to investigate and condemn the violence against gay men, and the Russian LGBT Network has made efforts to contact the victims and has established a hotline to provide emergency support. 

Russian efforts are underway to enforce protections for the targeted gay men in Chechnya. Anyone can help by donating to the efforts and signing a petition that opposes the treatment of these victims. 

If you want to help gay men flee Chechnya, you can participate in this Facebook fundraiser here.