Dear 100 Hour Board,
What can an average person do about the LGBT camps opening in Chechnya? Putin's not going to go in and stop the torture; he probably couldn't even if he wanted to. What can the rest of us do?
-normal and American
This is a good question but in some ways a hard question to answer. For those who may not be familiar, gay and bisexual men in Chechnya are suffering severe and horrific anti-LGBT attacks in what is being described as an "anti-gay pogrom." At least 100 gay men have been arrested, locked in rooms, and brutally beaten or shocked by police for days or weeks on end. Those who have escaped have done so barely alive, and at least 20 fatalities have been reported. People have also been told by the police to kill their gay family members to "wash clean their honor," and as recently as yesterday a young gay teenager was pushed from a nine story building after coming out.
Chechnya has always been hostile towards the LGBT community but has recently flared into an LGBT purge from both citizens and police. Russian government initially refused to acknowledge the attacks at all, and Chechen spokesmen Ramzan Kadryov stated, "You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. 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.”
This has sparked other countries and organizations to raise their voices and reach out to Chechen refugees, especially when their own government has done so little. From an American perspective, feeling concerned but ultimately helpless in the face of the brutality is common. But there are some things that we can do:
- Donate to fundraisers which can help LGBT people remaining in Chechnya escape and help them once they've left the country. Two particularly popular ones are "Help Gay Men Flee Chechnya" and "Crisis in Russia: Gay Concentration Camps." Together, they have raised over $100,000 dollars. All profits go to American Friends of Rainbow Railroad, which delivers help and aid to LGBT refugees. They are working directly with LGBT networks in Russia to get LGBT Chechens away.
- Spread awareness and encourage politicians to take action. Out Magazine suggests that readers contact US Ambassador to the UN (Nikki Haley) and encourage her to publically condemn the attacks and call for action to help gay Chechens. The Human Rights Campaign has called for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to condemn the attacks, too, and you can share their call here.
- In addition, this petition calls for popular LGBT dating apps to warn their Russian users of Chechen policemen who may pose as romantic interests on the app and lure them into the camps. This could provide significant warning to LGBT Russians and help keep them safe.
- Moscow has opened up a refugee center for LGBT Chechens. US citizens can donate money or contact them to find out/send what supplies are needed. You can also email the Russian LGBT Network to ask what help is still needed.