EILE’s Founder & Editor-at-Large, Scott De Buitléir, comments on the latest crisis to hit the LGBT community, about which everyone should be vocally protesting.
By now, the single report that featured in Novaya Gazeta has spread around into the world’s media, including the New York Times, the Independent, and the Guardian. As I write this from a small British airport en route to Dublin, protests are taking place outside the Russian Embassy in London. Amnesty International, both at home in Ireland, and elsewhere, has set up pages where citizens can sign petitions to national authorities, demanding that the world makes a vocal condemnation of these Chechen concentration camps.
For all this effort, however, we must ask what will be enough to put serious pressure on the Chechen authorities to bring this to an end. The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is known as a key ally of Vladimir Putin, and therefore can boast an arguable level of Kremlin support and protection: Putin’s alleged denial of any knowledge merely adds credibility to this, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lazrov is far from a friend to LGBT Russians. Unlike the social golden era of Obama, we – as LGBT people – no longer have an ally in the White House. Neither Angela Merkel nor Theresa May have spoken out (at the time of writing, at least) about the Russian newspaper’s reports, despite BBC News having reported on the situation recently. Neither the UK, nor the US, will use their military to liberate any victims of extremist violence in Chechnya, because the region is under the shield of the Russian Federation. The ‘Chechen 100’, as LGBT advocacy group Allout have coined the reported detainees, are arguably on their own.
That is the truly horrific part of this story. Just as people walked around the streets of London, New York, or anywhere else in the world in the early 1940s, there were people then who thought little of the atrocities against Jews, LGBT people, Roma, and many others in Nazi Germany – a comparison that should only be used when appropriate, as it is now. Today, in the early 21st Century, there are people walking around those same cities, who care very little for the number of Chechen men who have been killed in Grozny because they were gay or bisexual.
As an openly gay man, living in Western Europe, I truly never thought I would see the days where the words “concentration camp” were in a newspaper report. I never thought I would read about the views of a region’s government, claiming that LGBT people “don’t exist”, or that such people would be effectively ‘dealt with’ by their own families, hinting at honour killings.
This is all happening, though, and although there are fewer ways to influence what is happening from outside of Chechnya, the world cannot stay silent. We have learned in history class in school, that many people remained silent for too long, leaving far too many to die. We cannot allow for future schoolbooks to reveal how the Chechen 100 were only the first of a new wave of terror against another vulnerable minority.
Are we that willing to let history repeat itself? Are we really so naïve in thinking that someone else will complain on our behalf? Or do we find a way of calling upon everyone we can think of to stop Grozny from becoming a 21st Century Auschwitz?
Write to whomever you think could help. Keep an eye out for protests in your local area. Share the information on social media. Some figures within the Chechen regional government have claimed that LGBT people simply don’t exist in Chechnya. They do, just like anywhere else in the world. The only difference is that they are not safe, and not free.
We cannot let these people be forgotten, when they need us most.