For weeks now, human rights workers have watched in horror as Chechen violence against gays has unfolded. Security forces have abducted, tortured, and killed gay men.
The region’s isolation has made it difficult to intervene, not to menti0n the political instability. But the rest of the world has expressed an increasing desire to help in any way that they can. And the good news is that there are, in fact, ways to help from thousands of miles away.
International Pressure Is Vital
One of the easiest ways to make a difference in the Chechen crisis is simply to sign Amnesty International’s petition. It may not seem like much, but if Amnesty can indicate a groundswell of public support for intervention, it will help them galvanize action in the United States.
What form could that action take? Currently, Amnesty (and its allies) are attempting to meet with the U.S. State Department, which has the power to impose economic sanctions, send diplomats to negotiate reforms, and provide relief on the ground.
Under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department made tremendous strides in the area of human rights, establishing a Global Equality Fund to support the work of LGBTQ human rights workers around the world. Clinton also worked with the White House to make aid contingent on respect for LGBTQ equality. Countries that criminalized homosexuality or failed to protect queer citizens could lose financial support.
But Donald Trump’s administration is packed with officials who oppose equality, and new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said nothing so far on the issue. He had a meeting with Vladimir Putin in early April, but there’s no indication they even discussed the Chechen situation.
Publicize Information About Human Rights Groups
Another helpful measure: Publicly post information about the groups working to address the violence. The primary point of contact is The Russian LGBT Network, which has been securely evacuating people from hostile areas around Russia for over a decade. Anyone needing help can reach them at +7 (812) 454-64-52.
Don’t directly contact any individuals who might be affected, because their communications could be intercepted. Instead, just help make the information as widely disseminated as possible.
Separate Facts from Rumors
It doesn’t help to have untrue news floating around about what’s actually happening on the ground. One common misconception is that there are concentration camps — in fact, there’s no indication that’s the case. Chechen forces do appear to have established illegal prison buildings, but this is not the same thing; a concentration camp is intended to hold a specific group indefinitely, and that’s not the case here. The illegal prisons in Chechnya are occupied by a wide variety of persecuted people.
Another misconception: This is something new. Chechnya has long been hostile to LGBTQ people, with a spokesman for the head of state telling reporters recently that there simply weren’t any in the region. And similar abductions, abuses, and killings have been happening for years for a wide variety of minorities.
It’s possible that the situation could be peacefully resolved if international groups are able to apply pressure to diplomats, which the diplomats would then apply to Russian authorities. Because Chechnya is part of Russia, it’s ultimately Vladimir Putin who could intervene.
But will that happen? Given Putin’s hostility to LGBTQ people, getting him to act will likely be a tremendous challenge. And that’s why every person has a responsibility to contribute what they can to ending the crisis.
(Featured image by Istimages via iStock Photography)