LGBT People Under Attack: Raids in Belarus, Murder in Chechnya, Registration of Gays in Central Asia

Singer and Entertainer Zelim Bakaev Apparently Murdered by the Security Services of Chechnyan President’s Security Services

The LGBTQI community is under assault in Eastern Europe as well as Central Asia. The most recent crackdown in the region was this past weekend’s raids of nightclubs popular with the LGBT community in Belarus, during which two clubs were shuttered, and patrons were harassed—and in some cases detained—by police.

“The reports out of Belarus are alarming. It is alarming that police targeted legal businesses, violated the privacy of their patrons, demanded personal information, and dragged some away to detention,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “This appears to be the latest example of increased persecution of LGBT communities in the region—following egregious cases in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.”

These reports come on the heels of reports that Chechen singer and entertainer Zelim Bakaev, who had disappeared in August, had been tortured and murdered by the security services of Chechnya’s strongman president, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Bakaev, a Chechen singer who had been targeted based on rumors of his sexual orientation, traveled to his home in Grozny, Chechnya over two months ago and disappeared shortly after. His visit coincided with a long-running crackdown on LGBT Chechen’s that detained hundreds, tortured many, and left several dead. Members of the LGBT community in Grozny now report that Bakaev never left detention and died following torture by Chechen security forces.

“Over the past two months, the international community hoped that rumors of Zelim’s death were only that. But as we continued to raise concerns with the State Department, that hope dimmed. We are now forced to conclude that he was tragically swept up in this anti-gay purge and lost his life because of it,” Gaylord told NCRM.

NCRM spoke to sources in the human rights activist groups in Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya, as well as in Kharkov, Ukraine, where a small group of gay Chechens had fled to. They confirmed that Bakaev has been murdered within hours of his being detained. One source told NCRM that the murdered entertainer had “been acquainted with [President] Kadyrov, which may have greatly factored in his death.”

The Belarusian raids come after a wave of incidents targeting the LGBT community in the region. Last Wednesday a Russian court fined activist Evdokiya Romanova 50,000 rubles for violating the country’s notorious “anti-gay propaganda” law for sharing news articles on social media featuring LGBT people.

Later last week, reports surfaced in the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan, that government representatives had created a registry of gay and lesbian citizens—a step that Human Rights First’s Gaylord noted could serve as a precursor to violence and discrimination against LGBT people in the country.

At the beginning of October, in Azerbaijan, authorities detained and tortured dozens of gay and transgender people under the auspices of cracking down on the illegal sex trade and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Gaylord said his organisation is greatly alarmed and disturbed by the recent wave of attacks and crackdowns on the LGBTQI community in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“These incidents are part of a broader pattern of organized persecution of LGBT people in the region that dates back to legislation targeting the free speech and expression of Russia’s LGBTQI community,” he said. “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has to take immediate action to ensure the perpetrators of crimes against LGBT people in the region are held accountable and that the governments of Russia, Belarus, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan protect their LGBTQI citizens.”

Gaylord also told NCRM that his organization will continue to call on the U.S. government to protect LGBTQI people globally and to combat impunity for those who have perpetrated acts of violence and persecution against LGBTQI communities.

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.

by Brody Levesque
Source – The New Civil Rights Movement