Because the semi-autonomous Russia region of Chechnya is now onto its second year of kidnapping, torturing and murdering its LGBTQ citizens, the New York City-based activist group Voices4 held a rally this last Saturday to raise awareness and demand humanitarian visas for queer Chechens fleeing persecution. Gay YouTube celeb Tyler Oakley and Milk from RuPaul’s Drag Race were among the people who attended the New York City Chechnya rally.
The protest marked the one-year anniversary of the time that the Russian-language newspaper Novaya Gazeta first published reports of Chechnya’s violent purge. The protest itself occurred from noon to 1 p.m. at Columbus Circle in Manhattan and featured speaker from Voices4 and RUSA LGBT, a group which provides support for Russian asylum seekers.
The protest also featured protestors brandishing signs and a stark visual reminder of Chechnya’s purge: people wearing pinks hoods over their faces, their hands bound together with a rainbow flag in a chain surrounding the Columbus Circle column. Milk and Oakley also attended the protest, speaking to cameras and posing for pictures after the rally in a show of solidarity.
— tyler oakley (@tyleroakley) April 28, 2018
The protest was coordinated by Voices4, a non-violent advocacy group committed to using direct action to achieve global queer liberation. Though the group focuses on intersecting oppressions facing the global queer community, it has been especially focused on helping people in Chechnya.
On their site, Voices4 states:
Our main demand is issuing humanitarian parole visas for Chechen LGBTQ+ people from the U.S. Government. Humanitarian parole visas are essential because, currently, tourist visas are no longer an option. These individuals are hiding from their relatives, the Chechen and Russian governments, making applying for tourist visas virtually impossible. It is crucial to recognize these people as victims of genocide, and the humanitarian catastrophe currently taking place in Chechnya.
Earlier this month, Belgium revealed that it gave five humanitarian visas to gay men fleeing the violent anti-gay Chechnya purge. Last year, Lithuania, France and Germany started issuing similar special visas to LGBTQ people fleeing Chechnya. Canada did as well (and the Russian government wasn’t happy about it). However, the United States has reportedly refused to issue such visas.