Ramzan Kadyrov is the President of the Chechen Republic (or Chechnya, as it’s more commonly known), a small quasi-independent state that has become infamous of late over reports of its government officials arresting and killing gay men. Kadyrov dismissed these reports by stating that no gay men exist in Chechnya, a statement similar to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2007 comment that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” meaning America.
The fact-check site snopes.com recently looked into rumors of Chechnya’s “anti-gay concentration camps” and found that while Amnesty International was unable to verify reports of such camps, they have heard multiple accounts from Chechen men of “detention sites” holding suspected gay men, drug users and Daesh/ISIS sympathizers. They also mentioned that on April 7 the U.S. State Department commented on “numerous credible reports” regarding men in Chechnya being tortured and killed for their sexual orientation. The U.S. State Department added:
We are deeply disturbed by recent public statements by Chechen authorities that condone and incite violence against LGBTI persons. We urge Russian federal authorities to speak out against such practices, take steps to ensure the release of anyone wrongfully detained, conduct an independent and credible investigation into these, reports and hold any perpetrators responsible.
But now that we’ve shared the latest updates on those horrifying reports, we’d like to share something we found on Facebook — five photographs of Chechnya’s homophobic president, Ramzan Kadyrov, being physically affectionate with other men.
To be clear, we’re not saying that these photos mean that Kadyrov is gay (or that he’s not gay) nor are we trying to stigmatize physical affection between men as “gay.” Men in other Islamic countries (Chechnya is 95% Islamic) sometimes hold hands as an “expression of affection” and “a sign of solidarity and kinship,” but they don’t always spoon in photographs, fanboy out on Russian Presidents or whisper secrets into one another’s ears. No, those sorts of physical affection were more common among in male photographs in 19th century America.