Screen grab from Grozny TV of assembly held in the Central Mosque April 3 and led by Muslim religious leaders, and said to be attended by 15,000-20,000 people.
Novaya Gazeta, an independent new site in Russia, was the first to break the story of the persecution and even murder of gays in Chechnya (see Russian original, Honor Killing: How the Ambitions of a Prominent LGBT Activist Unleashed a Terrible Ancient Custom in Chechnya), as they have broken other news of repression in the North Caucasus republic, including recent accounts of the point-blank execution of Chechen suspects.
Novaya Gazeta’s story about the crackdown on LGBT claimed that it appeared to have been triggered by the request for permits to hold gay parades in multiple cities in Russia including in the North Caucasus. (The LGBT activist responded that a permit was not sought for Grozny). Novaya Gazeta obtained reliable reports, which have been corroborated independently by Human Rights Watch, of the execution of at least three persons and the detention and torture of some 100 more, causing some to flee the republic. Chechen authorities have responded in contradictory fashion, first saying there were no gays in the republic, then claiming that if they did exist, their own relatives would kill them.
Yet ample testimony to human rights groups of persecution indicates that as in any country, there are LGBT in Chechnya and even if they maintain a very low profile, they run the risk if not of “honor killings” of police informants even among their own families turning them in for certain arrest and even death.
On April 1, Novaya Gazeta reported mass detentions and torture of residents of Chechnya suspected of non-traditional sexual orientation. We know the names of three people killed, and we also know that there are many more people killed. Extrajudicial reprisals, so called “honor killings,” are committed even by the victims’ relatives.
On April 3, three days after our first publication, an emergency assembly led by representatives of 24 Chechen virds [Sufi religious communities], Islamic theologians and public opinion leaders, took place in the central mosque of Grozny. According to official information, 15,000 people took part. Adam Shakhidov, advisor to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov publicly accused the collective of Novaya Gazeta at that meeting of libel, and clearly designated “the enemies of our faith and our motherland.”
Sakhidov’s speech, and also those by other Chechen theologians were broadcast by local television and disseminated widely on the Internet, provoking a wave of intolerant statements on social networks.
“By virtue of the fact that an insult has been dealt against the age-old pillars of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men, and also to our faith, we vow that retribution will be delivered to the true instigators, no matter whom they are, without any time limit.”
It is obvious to us: this resolution urges religious fanatics to take reprisals against journalists.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
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