April 20 2017
Many people around the world reacted in horror this month as news of gay men being rounded up, tortured, and murdered filtered out of the Russian region of Chechnya. Officials from many countries, including US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, condemned the actions of the Chechen authorities responsible for this atrocity, and pressured the Russian government to intervene. This is not enough. Gay men in Chechnya are in immediate danger, and we call on the Canadian government to immediately take steps to rescue them. We also ask Canadians to support organizations who are working to get these vulnerable men to safety.
Chechnya is a mostly Muslim semi-autonomous republic that is part of the Russian Federation. Since 2007 it has been ruled by President Ramzan Kadyrov, a violent authoritarian who controls a private militia which kidnaps and tortures opponents of the regime. In recent years Kadyrov’s regime has been enacting and enforcing policies intended to impose aspects of Sharia law on the population. Many of these laws target the LGBT community in Chechnya. Since 1997, the Chechen Criminal Code’s Article 148 punishes “anal sexual intercourse between a man and a woman or a man and a man”. For first- and second-time offenders, the punishment is caning. A third conviction is punishable by death, which can be carried out in a number of ways including stoning or beheading. Kadyrov has reportedly stepped up his harassment of gay men in recent months.
The details emerging from Chechnya are disturbing. As reported by Russian journalists, Chechen authorities have detained and physically abused some 200 gay men in concentration camps. Three men have been reportedly murdered. Thirty have managed to escape the country. The Chechen government has threatened to kill the Russian journalists who broke the story.
Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, has urged the Canadian government to put diplomatic pressure on the government of Russia to stop the assault on gay men in Chechnya. He has also pressured the Canadian government to take immediate action to protect LGBT people in Chechnya whose lives are in imminent danger.
Calgary MP Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Party of Canada’s immigration critic, supports Canadian action in Chechnya. She called LGBT Chechens “one of the most persecuted people in the world right now”, and urged the Liberal government to produce a budgeted plan to resettle gay Chechens at risk. She said the Conservatives would support the issuing of emergency visas to these vulnerable people “100 per cent”.
We echo Amnesty International’s call to the Canadian government to take immediate action to rescue gay Chechens who are in danger, and we join Ms Rempel and the CPC in demanding that the Liberal government take steps now to issue emergency visas to LGBT Chechens in danger and to help evacuate and resettle them in Canada. The Canadian government has acted rapidly in the past to help vulnerable populations; this situation also demands immediate action.
For individual Canadians who wish to help, we recommend donating to Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian organization based in Toronto that is working right now to get LGBT Chechens out of the country and bring them to safety in Canada. We also suggest you contact your Member of Parliament (contact info here) to indicate your support for immediate government action.
These LGBT people need our help desperately, and the time for action is now.