Chechnya’s President Wants to Step Down, But LGBTQ People Are in Peril Nonetheless
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Chechnya who has overseen the region’s year-long campaign of kidnapping, detaining, torturing and killing LGBTQ people, announced that he dreams of resigning soon, leaving open the possibility that Russia’s anti-gay President Vladimir Putin may pick his successor. But an anonymous member of the Russian LGBT Network says that Chechnya after Ramzan Kadyrov will still be dangerous for LGBTQ people will continue to suffer unless Putin himself directly intervenes.
As we reported yesterday, when asked by the Russian national TV channel Rossiya 1 if he was ready to resign, Kadyrov replied, “It is possible to say that it is my dream. Once there was a need for people like me to fight, to put things in order. Now we have order and prosperity … and time has come for changes in the Chechen Republic.”
When asked who might replace him, he said, “This is the prerogative of the state leadership (meaning Putin). If I am asked … there are several people who are 100% capable of carrying out these duties at the highest level.”
Kadyrov is a brutal dictator with his own private security force that brutally kidnaps, tortures and kills queer people and critics. If he’s replaced, there’s a slim chance that the region’s anti-LGBTQ purge will stop, depending on how much his replacement shares his violently anti-gay worldview. Although Kadyrov has served as the Chechen leader since 2007, previous to 2016 Chechnya had no active program specifically targeting anti-LGBTQ people.
Why Chechnya after Ramzan Kadyrov won’t necessarily be safer for LGBTQ people
An August 2017 report issued by the Russia LGBT Network directly blamed the purge on the “consistent and substantial financial support [and] … vast political autonomy and legal immunity” offered to Chechnya by the Russian federal government. That is, the Russian federal government, overseen by Putin in Moscow, has helped fund and cover up the purge.
An anonymous member of the Russian LGBT Network tells Hornet:
We have already mentioned in our report devoted to the current persecutions of LGBT people in Chechnya that we believe that the local authorities including Ramzan Kadyrov are involved in those persecutions. It is possible that the departure of Kadyrov might stop the organized persecutions, however, we do not believe that it will happen shortly. All together, we strongly believe that it is Federal authorities that must stop the persecutions and conduct an effective direct investigation. It is their direct responsibility to make sure that the kidnappings, tortures and killings are stopped and all responsible parties are punished accordingly. Right now persecutions are still continuing and there is no adequate reaction from the authorities.
Kadyrov (a man who has multiple videos of himself working out and who is very affectionate with other men) called reports of Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ purge a “massive information attack” conducted by international organizations. His agents obstructed investigations into the purge and Russian feds followed suit by shrugging off all reports as insubstantial.
Russia may still allow an anti-LGBTQ campaign in Chechnya after Ramzan Kadyrov
Putin is expected to win his fourth term as president in the March 2018 Russian elections. Seeing as he and his government have successfully campaigned by vilifying LGBTQ people as Western decadents threatening traditional Russian culture, there’s no reason to think he or the Chechen government will change their tune anytime soon.
The best we can hope for is that the Chechen government may take their sights off of LGBTQ Chechens for a little while, but such Chechens won’t truly be safe until a few generations of cultural change, when being LGBTQ is no longer seen as a mark of familial shame and state subversion worthy of an “honor killing.”
Featured image via Ramzan Kadyrov’s Instagram