State-sponsored violence in Chechnya against men perceived to be homosexual will not be forgotten, writes Matt Beard of All Out, and those responsible will be held to account
One year ago this week, news broke of a wave of terrifying, state-sponsored violence in Chechnya against men perceived to be gay or bisexual. In scenes that would not have been out of place in Nazi Germany, innocent men were rounded up and removed to illegal detention centres. Men like Maxim Lapunov, who spent 12 days in a blood-soaked cell just because he is gay, but who today is bravely speaking out for justice. Men like the pop singer Zelim Bakaev, who disappeared last August during the round-ups and has not been seen since.
Prisoners were held in appalling conditions: starved, humiliated, beaten and subjected to extreme torture. Some who were rounded up did not get out alive. The authorities also outed many of the men to their families, directly inciting relatives to carry out honour killings against their sons, brothers and fathers. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, has both denied the existence of LGBT people in his country and said that gay people should move to Canada “to purify our blood”. But it is Vladimir Putin and the Russian government who have the final say on what happens in Chechnya. Russia has failed to conduct any meaningful investigations into the appalling abuses that took place. Nobody has been brought to justice. This is unacceptable.
On Saturday 7 April, All Out, its members and partners will come together at 2pm outside the Russian embassy in London and in cities around the world to honour our gay and bisexual brothers murdered in Chechnya. We will stand in solidarity with men like Maxim who survived the torture camps. We will make sure the world does not forget about what happened in Chechnya. We will tell the Russian government “we are watching you”. We won’t rest until we get justice for Maxim, for Zelim and for the dozens of other men who were tortured and murdered in Chechnya.