Two gay men fled to Russia after escaping alleged torture in Chechnya. On February 3rd, they were seized by Russian police and taken back to Chechen police.
Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev — the latter of whom is only 17 years old — escaped the Chechen police in April 2020. They were initiallydetained for moderating a Telegram channel, an instant messaging app, which exposed the government’s hostile human rights activities. While incarcerated, both men were tortured; and, along with nine other teens, were allegedly compelled to make humiliating “apology videos.”
After Magamadov and Isayev successfully escaped Chechnya’s authorities, the LGBT Network facilitated their relocation a few months later to settle in a Russian town.
In June 2020, nearly eight months later, the Russian LGBT Network reported the Russian police arrested the two men at their apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, 280 miles (450 km) east of Moscow.
About 3 pm on February 3rd, one of the men called the Russian LGBT Network’s emergency assistance line. The network could hear screaming in the background. Alexander Nemov, Magamadov and Isayev’s lawyer, arrived at their apartment only 30 minutes later.The men were gone, but there were signs of disturbance.
After he filed a missing person’s claim with local police, Nemov learned that the two men werehanded over to Chechen authorities.
Nemov, the LGBT group’s lawyer for the victims, said both men were apprehended by Chechen and Russian authorities who teamed up to arrest them. The men were returned to Chechnya by car. He followed them. But upon arrival, the police refused to give him any information about his clients, where they were, or why they were detained. Authorities then denied Magamadov and Isayev their legal counsel.
In recent years, several reports of abductions, mass detentions, torture, and human rights violations against gay men in Chechnya have emerged.
Ramzan Kadyrov, a regional authoritarian leader, consistently denies the reports. He also declared that no LGBT people exist in Russia’s North Caucasus, which is predominantly Muslim.
Women have also been held under similar circumstances, though the Chechen government prefers to use their families to punish them. Chechen authorities adhere to the Stalinist practice of “shared responsibility.” They often blame the LGBT detainee’s families for poorly raising them as “public enemies.” Instead, authorities will punish them if they don’t help abuse or even murder the gay victims in “honor killings.” Often families will be imprisoned, blackmailed, harassed, or killed if their suspected LGBT family member flees the region.
Kaydrov was formally sanctioned by the U.S. State Department last July. In 2017, former VIce-Presiden Joe Biden chastised and condemned the Chechen leadership.
“I am disgusted and appalled by reports from both the Russian media and non-governmental organizations that authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have rounded up, tortured, and even murdered individuals who are believed to be gay,” Biden stated. “When faced with such crimes of hate and inhumanity, it is the responsibility of every person of conscience to speak out — to oppose this campaign of violence before it continues further.”
He concluded, “The United States must lead the way to demand an end to these egregious violations of human rights.”
Kadyrov was soon banned from entering the United States, and the Treasury Department confiscated Chechnya's assets.
Rusa LGBT, a Russian-speaking LGBT association fighting for LGBT rights across many former Soviet states; had started a petition urging the Biden administration to take action in support of these two men.