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Amid Rumors of Anti-Gay Concentration Camps, Amnesty International Demands Chechnya Stop Anti-Gay Arrests

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Amnesty International, the international non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on human rights, has started a petition asking government officials in Chechnya to stop abducting and killing gay men after reports last week that up to 100 gay men in Chechnya had been arrested and at least three murdered.

The American-founded international NGO Human Rights Watch said last week that “numerous trusted sources” had confirmed reports of the arrests and murders. Their claim came after Chechen official Alvi Karimov dismissed the accusations by denying the existence of gay men in Chechnya. Karimov said, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”

He continued, “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

Karimov’s comment possibly refers to the practice of so-called “honor killings” in which family members murder any relative who brings shame to their family name. Chechnya’s head of human rights, Kheda Saratova, seemed to insinuate the same thing recently by saying, “Even if such a (gay) person is killed by his relatives, [family members] will not disclose it, and law enforcement agencies will react with understanding.”

Chechnya is a war-torn Russian republic located in the country’s southwest corner. Plagued by kidnappings, torture, and murder during its two near-consecutive wars with Russia near the turn of the century, the country now operates as a quasi-independent state led by leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The country has a extremely conservative Muslim ideology. About 20 years ago, the Chechen Criminal Code included Article 148, a section that punishes “anal sexual intercourse between a man and a woman or a man and a man” with caning for the first and second offenses and death by stoning or beheading for the third offense. It’s unclear whether the law has ever been used.

The Amnesty International petition comes amid recent rumors of gay concentration camps in Chechnya, though these claims should be viewed with extreme skepticism as they come from The Daily Mail, a British tabloid known for fabricating sensational stories that later prove to be false. Amnesty International has not received any credible confirmation that these camps exist, although they have heard reports of “detention sites” holding suspected gay men, drug users and Daesh/ISIS sympathizers.

(Featured image by VitaliyPozdeyev via iStock)