At least 100 gay men in Chechnya, Russia have been captured, tortured, or killed because of their sexuality, according to reports by the Novaya Gazeta news source and Vox.
ABC News reported on the detainment of gay men and said they were tortured to reveal who their potentially gay acquaintances were. The report states, “Police also went through their phones to identify new victims, luring them to fake meetings.”
Novaya Gazeta interviewed an anonymous victim who said, “As soon as someone is brought onto the territory, the torture starts. Electric shocks, beating with plastic pipes. They told us we were ‘dogs who don’t have a right to live.’ The whole time you sit there and listen to the screams of people who are being tortured.”
Sarah Precourt, a senior from Massachusetts studying international cultural studies, said, “I think it is absolutely horrendous! With the end of World War II, the world completely condemned the concentration camps in Europe, so why are we going back to them?
“Homosexuality is not something that can be ‘taught away’ or forced out of someone. Concentration camps are never the answer! We need to love and accept everyone. Christ ate with the publicans and sinners in addition to the Israelites and gentiles, so why can't we?”
Katie Bak, a senior from Minnesota studying ICS, said, “From my experience living in and working in Eastern Europe, I would be shocked if this were true. I’ve had no inclination in the past that the LGBTQ community has been facing such brutal force. I've even seen a gay rights parade in Poland, which is a predominantly Catholic and conservative country.”
Adam (name has been changed), a man who reported his story to The Guardian, said he was tortured after officials learned he was homosexual. He was exposed to electric shocks, beatings, verbal abuse, and was locked in cells.
“They woke us up at 5 a.m. and let us sleep at 1 a.m., and different people would come in and take turns to beat us. Sometimes they brought in other prisoners who were told we were gay, and [they] were also ordered to beat us,” he said.
Dixie Johnson, a junior from Idaho studying ICS, said, “I think the treatment is on par with how homosexuals were treated by Hitler’s Nazi regime. It’s disgusting and inexcusable.
I personally have Russian friends with whom I used to be close with. Before this even came to light, they applauded the discrimination and violence directed at homosexuals in Russia and surrounding countries. I can only imagine that other people who share their views on homosexuality will approve and be inspired to personally act upon their hate.”
Elena Milashina, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta who covered the story of the gay purge, said the news source team and herself have received threats and death wishes and said she will be moving out of the country for her own safety, according to the Washington Post.
Johnson said good people need to speak out. “It isn't the oppressors who create hostility, it’s good people remaining quiet and allowing the oppression to happen. That’s why it’s especially important as Mormons to stand by our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and protect them from hate and violence. The love of Christ should be given to all.”
When questioned, authorities in Chechnya denied this treatment was happening because they refused to believe gay people exist, according to the Washington Post.
Bak said, “There needs to be extensive investigation, because if this is true [it] is a horrific violation of human rights. Words cannot even express the disgust I feel that this could be going on in a country that I work so closely with.”
When asked what people can do to help the LGBTQ community, Precourt said, “Just love everyone! Sexuality doesn't affect my friendships with anyone, [and] it shouldn't for other people! Don't let something like that come between friendships.”
Johnson added, “Use any position of power you have to be an advocate for the oppressed. The world needs more people who are brave and loving.”