The Ignored Chechnyan Humanitarian Crisis

The+practice+of+detaining+gays+in+concentration+camps+is+appalling+and+the+U.S.+should+aid+the+LGBTQ%2B+in+the+fight+%28Courtesy+of+Flickr%29.
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The Ignored Chechnyan Humanitarian Crisis

The practice of detaining gays in concentration camps is appalling and the U.S. should aid the LGBTQ+ in the fight (Courtesy of Flickr).

The practice of detaining gays in concentration camps is appalling and the U.S. should aid the LGBTQ+ in the fight (Courtesy of Flickr).

The practice of detaining gays in concentration camps is appalling and the U.S. should aid the LGBTQ+ in the fight (Courtesy of Flickr).

The practice of detaining gays in concentration camps is appalling and the U.S. should aid the LGBTQ+ in the fight (Courtesy of Flickr).

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The practice of detaining gay men in concentration camps is appalling and the U.S. should aid the LGBTQ+ in the fight (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Briana Scalia

The term “concentration camp” refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined under harsh conditions that are considered unacceptable in a constitutional democracy. When concentration camps are mentioned, one’s immediate thought is of the prisons used to detain enemies of Nazi Germany during World War II. German authorities established camps all over Germany on an ad hoc basis to contain anyone deemed antagonistic to the Germans, usually people of the Jewish faith. It is also common knowledge that the Nazi wardens put their prisoners through forced labor and cruel punishments for reasons people today would find extremely prejudiced. The American public is typically vehement in its hatred of the genocidal acts of the Nazis, especially their use of concentration camps. Yet, something eerily similar is happening in present day, and not many people have much to say about it.

Earlier this month, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that “…men in the Republic of Chechnya accused of being gay had been illegally detained, beaten, tortured with electric shocks and held for ransom in ‘secret prisons.’ Some of the detainees were even believed to have died at the hands of security forces.” These detainments, though increasing in intensity and quantity, are theorized to have started to combat the gay rights movement in Russia, specifically the gay rights march in the capital of Grozny.
Russia has recently been having an issue with its LGBTQ+ community, especially after President Putin’s suppression of gay rights in 2013. Gay men have never had an easy life in Chechnya. But last month, under the pro-Kremlin leadership of Ramzen A. Kadyrov, targeting and collectively punishing gay men was added to the region’s long history of rights abuses.
Charles White of the Metro states that “a young man from Grozny came forward to say his friend was forced to confess to being a homosexual,” and that “the detained were forced to share the contacts of other gay men.” To the few who would doubt this kind of behavior could resurface in the twenty first century, ponder the similarities between the treatment of these homosexual men to the treatment of the Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. The likeness is unsettling and beyond horrific.
Razman Kadyrov had his colleague Ali Karimov make the following statement to the press: “It is impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic. 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 frightening for a number of reasons, the main two being his references to the nonexistence of gay men in Chechnya and his implication that being gay is a criminal offense. According to the Novaya Gazete, Kremlin has denied any knowledge of these amoral and criminal acts and maintains significant autonomy.
Unfortunately, in a climate such as Chechnya’s, where “honor killings” are commonly overlooked, it is not surprising to understand the hostility towards homosexual men. “Honor killing” in Chechnya is “seen as the preservation of the honor of the family” by murdering the member of the family that violated the principles of the community or religion. According to The Metro, the usual victims of honor killings are women accused of infidelity, refusing arranged marriages, becoming a victim of rape, dressing in ways deemed inappropriate, engaging in non-heterosexual relations, etc. The men committing the crime often see it as their duty to protect their families by protecting their honor. There is an immediate need to restore the family’s honor and avoid losing face in the community. These killings allow the guilty party to assume responsibility for its crime and are deemed justifiable and condoned. Factoring in these controversial honor killings, gay men find themselves in an increasingly dire situation.
Though there are most likely a large mass of Americans aware of these events, there is not enough outrage at the crimes being enacted towards the Chechnyan members of the LGBTQ+ community. No nation’s religious beliefs and/or references to “traditions” can justify the atrocious and escalating human rights situations. Some may argue that it is not our job to save Russian citizens from their own government. One has to wonder how many people thought that same excuse amidst the innocent suffering of World War II. Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the LGBTQ+ rights group, GLAAD, describes this brutality as a humanitarian crisis. “As the leader of the free world, America can’t watch the world slip back to an era we should never go back to,” states Ellis.
I have faith that America will continue to be on the right side of history.

Briana Scalia, FCRH ’20, is a journalism major from Long Island, New York.