Gay Chechen who fled Kadyrov's anti-LGBT purge: 'If I return, I will be murdered'

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied allegations of an anti-LGBT purgeREUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

In April, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a report about alleged mass reprisals against gay people in the Chechen Republic. Hundreds of men were being arrested, tortured and even killed on suspicion of being homosexual.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, has denied these allegations. He has denounced journalists and human rights defenders multiple times, claiming that gay men were not being persecuted in the region, because "we have none".

In a recent interview with HBO, he suggested taking gay people away from Chechnya to Canada. "To purify their blood. We don't need such ones," Kadyrov said.

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Despite the anti-constitutional statements by the Head of the Republic, the Kremlin has once again failed to bring down Kadyrov.

It seems like while Putin is in power, it is pointless for gay Chechens – victims of Siloviki, the Russian security services – to hope for protection.

Each month, I keep a blog where I keep track of Putin's chances of remaining the Russian president in 2018. His chances to govern a country until 2024 are currently estimated at 85.71% which means there's no hope for the improvement of LGBT rights in Russia, let alone Chechnya.

Aslan Yamadayev*, a 22-year-old gay man whose name has been changed for safety reasons, fled his native Chechnya at the age of 18. He is currently living in Moscow and is planning to apply for political asylum in the United States.

It was his mother who helped him escape and hide from his relatives, who threatened him. He left for Moscow after she told him to "leave, or they'll kill you".

"After moving to Moscow, I initially didn't even call my mother. But once I called, she asked me in tears to leave the country," Yamadayev says via Skype.

His mother travelled to Moscow to say goodbye, but faced repercussions from her husband. "I'm a nobody to her husband, just a disgrace; and disgrace, from his radical point of view, can only be wiped out with blood."

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Is it true that there are secret prisons for gay people in Chechnya where they are tortured and murdered?

"I haven't come across them myself, it is not common to talk about it in Chechnya, but there are definitely so-called 'hospitals' in Grozny where gay people are "cured" of homosexuality."

What will happen to you if you return to Chechnya?

"I guess I won't reach the 'hospital' - I will be murdered. My relatives are against me. They all are very radical. My relatives threaten me, they found me in VKontakte (Russian social media network), my cousin and two uncles. They told me via WhatsApp that I disgrace their family.

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"Only my mum has my phone number now. It's calmer in Moscow, but they can get me even here. My brother's authority has fallen because of me. He is a member of Chechen diaspora in Moscow. Problems with Chechens are solved very quickly and brutally."

"We Chechens sometimes have such meetings like a family council – relatives come together (brothers, uncles, grandfathers) and talk about different problems.

"This 'topic' is also discussed at such meetings. They all gather at my grandmother's. I have two uncles and a cousin – he is a local kingpin. He was the most furious and said they must bump me off, because of family honour and disgrace.

"If I disgrace my relatives and they kill me, no one will even file a case against them. The police live according to Sharia; judges judge according to Sharia. I'm a nobody there now."

*Names have been changed.

Alexander Kargaltsev is a writer and artist. Follow his blog on Putin's chances and see his latest artwork here.

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