As reported by the independent “Novaya Gazeta” and human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in Chechnya detained about a hundred people for homosexuality, and then tortured them and sent to secret prisons outside of Grozny. According to the expert on the North Caucasus Aude Merlin (Merlin Aude) from the Center for the study of political life the free University of Brussels, all this is not surprising given the “total political control on the part of the head of Republic Ramzan Kadyrov”, which makes it impossible to dissent and any expression of minority.
Le Monde: What can you say about the material of “the New newspaper”?
Aude Merlin: Homosexuality as such in Russia is not prohibited. Officially, the law 2012 provides for liability for propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors. Whatever it was inherited from the Soviet era judicial, police and political practice is repressive in nature and pushes many homosexuals to leave the country.
In Chechnya, this repression did not seem like I’m amazing. Total political control by the head of the Republic Ramzan Kadyrov for many years makes it impossible to dissent and any expression of minority. This is perfectly demonstrated torture, beatings and violence by the state in 2016.
All this is combined with calls for the return of Chechen society to the traditions (the permission of polygamy, the rules of dress and behavior for women, tolerance for blood vengeance, forced marriages and domestic violence) against the use of the authority of official Islam, which is entirely under her control.
Given that Ramzan Kadyrov calls himself a faithful disciple of Vladimir Putin, the relationship between the internal practices of the Chechen and Russian political rhetoric (criticism of the moral decline of Europe and the West, especially after legalizing same-sex marriages) does not seem surprising.
The surprise, rather, is that the victims of repression decided to talk about them, despite the atmosphere of fear and the possibility of new repression against remaining in Chechnya, relatives. It’s surprising that the journalists of “Novaya Gazeta” managed to produce this report in spite of the ban, separating the Chechen question.
— What, in your opinion, could push Chechen authorities to such repression?
Sometimes a motive policy processes can be difficult. In any case, in 2016, in Chechnya there was a significant increase in repression, as evidenced by the number of reports by international NGOs. The message of the Chechen authorities, which had long noted the hypertrophy of the security structures and a strong militarization, is another warning. Terrorize the society with the desire to show him what is allowed and what is not, is one of the conditions of the current political agreement in Chechnya.
Chechnya is a “state within a state” where there are Russian laws. In exchange for increased loyalty of the Russian Federation, where re-entered the once separatist Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov received from Moscow carte Blanche for coercion and violence in the name of combating terrorism, as well as a huge economic infusion for the restoration of the Republic.
With regard to homosexuality, these measures resonate with most companies. It is built on the basis of the Chechen customs, which for one man has been responsible his whole clan, espousing traditionalist views on the matter. And all this happens in a climate of fear and condescending attitude of the authorities to honour killing.
— Are there in Russia and Chechnya structured movement to protect the rights of homosexuals?
In Russia banned the propaganda among minors. Juvenile homosexuals themselves extremely vulnerable in connection with the law, police practices and attitudes. Presented in 2015 at the festival One World in Brussels the documentary “Children 404” by Askold Kurova and Paul lopareva perfectly demonstrates the combined impact of the law and public censure. Many homosexuals are victims of aggression.
At the same time, the LGBT movement is beginning to be formed. Association “Children-404” provides psychological, legal and moral support for underage homosexuals. Held in St.-Petersburg the international gay festival “side by Side” repeatedly faced with pressure and challenges, but on 20 April he will be held for the sixth time.
In Chechnya, as far as I know, no LGBT movement, especially in situations of repression. It simply could not exist. Civil society in Chechnya under control.
— The Russians know about these attacks on fundamental human rights in Chechnya?
— It all depends on whether we are talking about the elite or separate layers of a society. The power is definitely in the loop. Everything in society is ambiguous: on the situation of human rights defenders know, the audience is small media like “Novaya Gazeta” and a part of the Russian gay community.
Anyway, there is another point: the majority of Russian companies preserved colonial prejudices about the North Caucasus in General and Chechnya in particular. This will not inspire sympathy, especially after the second war in Chechnya 1999 — 2009 and negative image of the Chechens by the majority of media controlled by the authorities.