Lithuania is the First Country to Grant Visas to Gay and Bi Men Fleeing Chechnya
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After reports alleging the U.S. State Department of denying visas to gay and bi Chechen men fleeing persecution in the semi-autonomous Russian state, the Baltic News Service has reported that the eastern European nation of Lithuania has granted visas to at least two such men.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told the Baltic News Service:
“[Lithuania has] issued visas to two people from Chechnya who were persecuted because of their sexual orientation. We have consistently raised these issues both within the EU and in the parliamentary structures of the Council of Europe – regarding the possibility of helping and, if necessary, granting asylum.”
Linkevičius announced his country’s issuance of visas on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). It’s unclear whether Lithuania will issue more.
Homosexuality is legal in Lithuania, LGBTQ people can serve in the military and enjoy anti-discrimination protections countrywide. However, the country does not have legalized same-sex marriage nor any parental or adoption rights for LGBTQ parents.
On the same day, 100 LGBTQ rights activists held a demonstration in the Russian city of St. Petersburg to draw attention to the atrocities in Chechnya. The protest ended peacefully with no arrests or major disturbances even though such non-permitted demonstrations are illegal in Russia. Such demonstrations also run afoul of the nation’s law banning so-called “gay propaganda.”
Lithuania’s issuance of visas follows months of silence and inaction by other national governments, including no mention from U.S. President Donald Trump. The only two world leaders to speak against Chechnya’s months-long campaign of kidnapping, detainment and torture have been German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Three French LGBTQ organizations have filed a complaint against Chechnya with the International Criminal Court. But activists with the Russia LGBT Network say the only way to stop the violence is with direct intervention by Russia.
However, such intervention seems unlikely as Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson dodged questions about Chechnya on U.S. television earlier this month. Russia later conducted a brief investigation that dismissed initial news reports while ignoring new testimonies of persecution from gay and bi Chechen refugees.
(Featured image by RossHelen via iStock Photography)