‘Gay Purge’ in Chechnya Rages On Despite EU Sanctions

‘Gay Purge’ in Chechnya Rages On Despite EU Sanctions

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As we approach four years since the world began watching atrocities against LGBTQ people unfold in Chechnya, the “gay purge” taking place in the Russian republic rages on. This is despite efforts from the West acknowledging what is taking place and taking action — efforts which seem to have done little to squelch anti-gay violence in the region. Even ‘Chechnya sanctions’ leveled against officials at the center of this modern-day extermination attempt, of which the European Union has recently imposed, will have little effect outside Russia’s borders and are far from a solution to these human rights horrors.

Updates on the ‘Gay Purge’ in Chechnya

In February Hornet reported that two gay Chechen men who had fled the country, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, were abducted and returned to Chechnya by Russian police. The two men have spent the time since their abduction jailed in Grozny on bogus terrorism charges, for which they face up to 15 years behind bars.

Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev (photo courtesy Russian LGBT Network)

According to the Russian LGBT Network, the two men claim they were forced to sign statements and offer video testimonies incriminating themselves.

The mother of Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov has published a video asking Russia Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova to help free her sons.

It has since been reported that Chechen officials detained 20 of the two men’s relatives. The outlet Meduza cites eyewitnesses who claim the relatives were interrogated about the location of Magamadov’s and Isayev’s parents, who also fled Chechnya. The 20 relatives who were reportedly detained have since been released from custody.

Response From the West, and Chechnya Sanctions

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, who happens to be the department’s first openly gay spokesperson, issued a tweet in February commenting on Magamadov’s and Isayev’s detainment: “We are troubled by reports of two Chechen siblings in the LGBTQI+ community who were detained in Russia and returned to Chechnya on dubious ‘terrorism’ charges. They reported torture during a previous detention, and we worry they may face additional abuse.”

And regarding Magamadov and Isayev, the European Court of Human Rights also stepped into the fray in February, ordering Russia to take action in the two men’s case. The court demanded the two men be examined by independent doctors and given access to lawyers and their family. The Russian LGBT Network has said it took weeks for them to get access to attorneys.

But even more recently, as of March 2021 the European Union has continued to impose Chechnya sanctions against officials involved in the anti-gay persecutions.

On March 22, the Council of the European Union officially levied sanctions against Aiub Vakhaevich and Abuzaid Dzhandarovich. Vakhaevich is the Head of Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in the city of Argun in the Chechen Republic. The EU Council has found he personally supervised and took part in torturing LGBT detainees. Dzhandarovich is the Deputy Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic and unofficial bodyguard of the Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. He was found guilty of the same.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (photo: Oleg Nikishin/Pressphotos/Getty Images)

Under these new Chechnya sanctions by the EU, Vakhaevich and Dzhandarovich will have their assets and bank accounts frozen, and they will not be allowed to travel anywhere within the European Union. Individuals and organizations inside the EU are also banned from making funds available to the two men. Vakhaevich and Dzhandarovich are already under U.S. sanctions, along with Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov.

But will these new Chechnya sanctions have a substantial effect on ending the gay purge? It’s difficult to say, but most likely no. The EU Council’s decision has no judicial effect inside Russia, where the two men are unlikely to face any real consequences. And while Vakhaevich and Dzhandarovich are no longer able to travel to Europe, do we really think they had plans to do so? And how likely is it that these two men had assets or bank accounts tied up with EU entities?

Sadly, for the time being we may be far from seeing the end of Chechnya’s “gay purge.” It’s unclear how the West can effect real change inside Russian borders.

What are your thoughts on the EU’s Chechnya sanctions? Will we ever see peace for LGBTQ people in Chechnya?

Featured image at top: Russian riot police detain an LGBT rights activist during an unauthorized gay rights rally in central Moscow. (ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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