We all like someone who can make us laugh. But it seems: ‘April fools, no genocide here’. Just hasn’t hit comedy gold with the international press.
Following reports of at least 100 men being detained, Chechnya President Ramzan Kadyrov, called internal coverage of Chechnya’s alleged death camps for homosexuals, an ‘April fool’s joke’.
The allegations were made when Elena Milashina’s article was published in Chechnya’s, The Novaya Gazeta, describing a survivor’s abuse. A story which later leaked out of the mountains of Chechnya to mainland Russia.
Here is why this dismissal of the claimant mass genocide, as an April fool’s joke won’t work.
Since the publication, Elena Milashina has gone into hiding after Muslim clerics in Chechnya announced, “Jihads against all the staff of Novaya Gazeta”, over the report.
At least 250,000 Chechens have sought asylum in the west since 2000, and around 200,000 Chechens live in Russia, outside Chechnya. Coincidence?
Knowing your audience: Chechnya as a nation do not find homosexuality funny. Whilst homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, Chechyna’s has been operating under the rule of President Ramzan Kadyrov, since it gained independence in 1992.
A joke of that calibre would never have been made. Although it is not formalized as illegal, Chechyna has been notorious for citing extremist religious beliefs such as ‘honour killings’, which have been documented to not only have been performed on women but relatives of a gay individual.
In Chechnya, the kidnapping and rape of women by fellow Chechnyans is common and tolerated by the women’s family according to a report by Bullough in 2010. If this type of crime is accepted by family’s in that nation then it isn’t inconceivable for families to turn over their gay relatives.
Historical links: This report has so much social and historical context that the very concept of a concentration camp for any individual, would not be made light of in the 21st century. The international press are naming it ‘The first concentration camp for gays since Hitler’s times’. Not exactly Live at the Apollo material.
Others have supported the report: The Russian LGBT Network has also been contacted by LGBT people from Chechyna fearing for their lives. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Russia’s gay “propaganda” ban, claiming it serves “no legitimate public service”: claiming it was a joke when you’re still in charge of the nation’s homophobic propaganda is a grey area to say the least.
Kadyrov even made a policy in Checyna, stating that the houses of anyone whose relatives fight against the government, will be destroyed and then exiled.
Even Putin thinks the President’s actions have been ‘abit emotional’ lately: as he stated in a interview in December. That’s coming from one of the most notorious world leaders, If Putin thinks it’s too much, imagine the severity of the situation.
The Chechnya government know about it.
Unfortunately, the Chechnya government won’t intervene. Which was proven when minister of state for the Foreign Office Sir Alan Duncan said he had been informed of alleged plans to “eliminate” the country’s gay community in the lead up to Ramadan, which commenced on 26 May: just following the April report, in The Novaya Gazeta.
The issue with that statement is, that these ‘concentration camps’ are false. The reality is far more sinister. They cannot be classified as concentration camps because it’s victims don’t exist. In an interview with The New Yorker, Russian Journalist, Elena Milashina stated: ‘They are not camps, but secret prisons’.
She claimed that Chechnya has an abundance of abandoned prisons that are not concealed to the public. This makes the alleged imprisonment of homosexuals all the more sinister as a nation is not attempting to conceal the parameters to which the allegations are taking place.
The existence of these facilities is so widely known they have been documented by the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Yet the issue remains, that the detention of these individuals is never formalised or declared, making them, the ghosts of the men they once were, and missing from Chechnya forever.
The newspaper’s latest report claims that ‘at least six detention centres are being used to house men’. Two of which stated in the report are from Argun and Zozin-Jurt.
The report by Human Rights Watch has even put forward a large amount of evidence that indicates President Kadyrov knows of the incidents taking place. According to the report, Magomed Daudov (Speaker of the Chechen Parliament) has not only supported the capture of homosexuals throughout Chechnya but has given approval to authorities to execute the ‘purging,’ a allegation which has been supported by survivors sightings of Daudov on location of the prisons.
So why has no intervention taken place?
What seems like a very clear-cut answer to the rest of the world, is a highly complex diplomatic affair. Whilst Chechyna is located in the mountains of Russia, the Kadyrov family was used by Putin to crush Chechen separatism, meaning that Putin will not challenge Kadyrov for fear of another war.
Even Russia agrees. Politician, Ilya Yashin, stated that “Kadyrov stands above Russian law”. “Any attempt to remove him from his job, or to prosecute him, could provoke a new Chechen war. Putin is undoubtedly scared of such a development, which is why he can’t solve the Kadyrov problem.” A problem that he created when he instated Kadyrov to power.
The United Nations of Human Rights Council have condemned these actions but in an attempt to cover these allegations the Chechyna government have given strict guided tours to the western press such as VICE, in attempts to prove the governments innocence.
A tour that consisted of, vacant buildings, empty rooms, and no prisoners.
For now, the men of Chechyna remain missing.