Gay men detained in Chechen prison camps have spoken about the violence inflicted upon them, from beatings to electrocution.
CNN conducted interviews with various men who had been detained in these prison camps. The men spoke anonymously to protect their identity.
Horrifying accounts of brutality and killings have been emerging from the Russia republic over the last two weeks, after Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta reported that over 100 gay and bisexual men aged 16-50 had been detained by authorities over the last few months.
At least three men are known to have been killed, though the paper estimates the real figure to be higher, with witnesses and survivors reporting that detainees have been imprisoned together in large groups or ‘camps’, where they have been beaten and tortured – sometimes to death – by officials.
One man, referred to as ‘Ahmed’ said: “My car got stopped at a Chechen police checkpoint, and they asked me for my documents. They looked at them then said ‘We are taking you.’”
Another man detailed the abuse he suffered: “They started beating me with their fists and feet. They wanted to get names of my gay friends from me.
He revealed that one of the methods used to torture the men is electrocution. “They tired wires to my hands and put metal clippers on my ears to electrocute me,” he said. “They’ve got special equipment which is very powerful. When they shock you, you jump high above the ground.
“If my family finds out that I’m gay then no authorities, no troops are needed. They will kill me themselves.”
Despite the growing evidence of mass targeting of gay men in the region, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s Russian-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied the reports, insisting that gay people do “not exist” in the republic.
The spokesperson added: “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
This is a position that appears to be shared among Chechnyan people. The Guardian reports that Thursday saw a protest of up to 15,000 people outside a mosque in Chechnya’s capital city, Grozny. The crowd gathered to protest the supposed “lies and libel” of Novaya Gazeta for suggesting that there are gay men in Chechnya.
They called on the government to pass a resolution “The centuries-old traditions of Chechen society, the dignity of Chechen men, and our faith have all been insulted, and we promise that those behind it will face reprisals, whoever they are and wherever they are.”
Journalists with Novaya Gazeta have admitted that they fear for their safety as there have been threats of reprisals.
Elena Milashina, the journalist who first broke the story, said: “My sources tell me there’s a serious danger, for me personally and for every employee of Novaya Gazeta.”
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International petition calling on Russian’s prosecutor general, Aleksandr Ivanovich Bastrykin, to investigate the reports had reached over 207,000 signatures by Wednesday evening (April 19).