40 Detained, 2 Dead As LGBTQ Persecution Continues In Chechnya

A year and a half after over 100 gay men were detained and tortured, some killed, by a secret police force in Chechnya, a new wave of LGBTQ violence has occurred, reports the Russian LGBT Network.

“We know that around 40 people were detained, both men and women,” Igor Kochetkov, program director for Russian LGBT Network, said in a statement. “At least two people died as a result of tortures. We also know that the detentions are conducted by the law enforcement officers, and the victims are detained in Argun.”

“Persecution of men and women suspected of being gay never stopped,” added the LGBT activist. “It’s only that its scale has been changing.”

According to a social media post on January 10th, activists are urging LGBTQ Chechens to flee immediately. “We ask anyone still free to take this message seriously and leave the republic as soon as is possible,” the statement read.

Since 2017, Russian LGBT Network has helped to evacuate approximately 150 gay men out of Chechnya.

Reports of the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya first came in December 2016.

Chechen authorities, most of whom are former military members who serve as Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s secret police force, reportedly detain suspected gay men under the pretense of drug charges. 

Once detained, police search the men’s phones contacts for other suspects, using torture to get as much info as possible.

In the past, Kadyrov has vowed to kill all gay men.

Russian LGBT Network has reported that the torturers use “electrocution, beatings, starvation, dehydration, isolation, forced nudity, homophobic insults and misgendering” to punish detainees, confiscating their personal belongings and only allowing them to sleep three hours a day on cold concrete floors. The men are not allowed to bathe or use toilets and they receive no medical care.

The victims have no where to turn as filing a complaint could make them a target for future harassment and violence.

Women have been caught in the crackdown too, though they’re often left to their families be abused, imprisoned or killed. 

The Russia LGBT Network has helped approximately 119 gay and bi men escape the purge and flee to Moscow, Canada Lithuania, France and Germany.

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports least 27 people are believed to have died in the first wave of the crackdown. 

And as with the first reports of the gay purge, Chechen officials deny any and all allegations.

Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, released the following statement regarding the resurgence in detainments:

"Nearly two years after reports first surfaced of anti-LGBTQ violence and killings in Chechnya, we are once again hearing disturbing accounts of state-sanctioned detentions and abuse. We have repeatedly called on the Trump-Pence White House to speak out and help bring an end to this persecution, but instead the White House has largely ignored the actions of the Russian-backed regime in Chechnya. Human rights violators in Chechnya must be held accountable and be brought to justice. Lives are hanging in the balance."

(h/t Russian LGBT Network, HRC)

Activists Worry As Reports Of Chechnya's Gay Purge Resurfacing Emerge

Is Chechnya’s Gay Purge picking up steam again?

While the horrific murdering and torturing of LGBTQ people, and specifically gay men, in the Russian territory never stopped, the reporting of it quieted down for a year and a half. But according to NBC News and locals from the area, the horrible system is starting up again.

Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that broke the story of the Gay Purge in 2017, also reported on this story.

Apparently, several people have been recently detained in Chechnya on suspicion of being gay.

Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT Network, which rescued many victims of the Chechen Purge, talked to the Associated Press and shares that late December saw a spike in detentions of men and women. These people were captured under the suspicion that they were gay.

While exact numbers of how many men and women are detained have not been shared yet, a short report is allegedly on the way. That report will supposedly be released on Monday.

In response to the latest news, the Human Rights Campaign released the following statement:

"Nearly two years after reports first surfaced of anti-LGBTQ violence and killings in Chechnya, we are once again hearing disturbing accounts of state-sanctioned detentions and abuse," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. "We have repeatedly called on the Trump-Pence White House to speak out and help bring an end to this persecution, but instead the White House has largely ignored the actions of the Russian-backed regime in Chechnya. Human rights violators in Chechnya must be held accountable and be brought to justice. Lives are hanging in the balance."

And as with the first reports of the Gay Purge, Chechen officials refuse to comment on rumors of a second wind.

h/t: NBC News, Novaya Gazeta, Miami Herald & The Associated Press

Russian Activist Says Homophobic YouTube Employees Banned A Pro-Gay Video In Russia

A YouTube video all about gay men kissing has been blocked in Russia, but are we really surprised?

Gay Star News broke the story surrounding the social justice channel Bashinsky Time or BT. Roman Bashinsky, the owner and creator of the YouTube channel, says that he was sad when he found out that a video of his had been banned in the European country.

The video shows several blindfolded people having to kiss six strangers of varying ages and genders. The different blindfolded people then had to describe the kisses.

“(I made the video) to cultivate tolerance in our country,” Bashinsky told Gay Star News.

“For Russia, kissing a man a man is not normal. We want to fix it. Russia must be a civilized and tolerant country.”

Unfortunately, the video, which was uploaded on Russian social media site VK along with YouTube, was later taken down from all Russian affiliated social media platforms.

Despite the video remaining, with an age restriction, in other country versions of YouTube, the video was completely removed in Russia’s. Bashinsky believes the homophobic employees at YouTube were involved.

As for how Bashinsky found out that his video was deleted in one section of YouTube and not the others, he says that “YouTube sends video restrictions alerts”

“The video does not violate the rules of YouTube. Kissing in the video does not carry sexual connotations, which means video is allowed to be shown to a wide audience.”

Keep in mind that Russia currently has a “gay propaganda law” that was signed in by President Vladimir Putin in 2013. The law is supposedly meant to protect youth from seeing LGBTQ content, despite later targeting a Russian youth, online, in television, social media, or even in-person. Anyone who violates the law will face a fine of 5,000 rubles (approximately $72).

Unfortunately, Bashinsky’s video is the latest victim in the homophobic mentality behind such as law.

h/t: Gay Star News

European Citizens Campaigned To Ban A BTS Film From Playing Because They're Too Pro-LGBTQ

In the latest news of petty anti-gay haters, citizens in a Russian territory are taking a swing at allies of LGBTQ people.

The Moscow Times reports that the residents in Dagestan have caused the cancelation of a screening for the BTS concert film BTS World Toru: Love Yourself in Seoul.

BTS is a Korean boy band that’s currently taking the world by storm. The seven-member music group has performed at New Years celebrations, music awards shows, and at concert venues around the world. On top of that, they have expressed their support of LGBTQ and human rights through subtle tweets and impactful speeches.

Unfortunately, it seems that support for LGBTQ and humans rights has made BTS a no go for some Russian citizens.

The group’s concert movie/documentary was scheduled to play in the city of Makhachkala after local fans created a social campaign to have it screen in their city. But, Cinema Hall, the scheduled location for the viewing, canceled ticket sales a day before opening.

It seems an equally popular boycott campaign arose stating that the group promoted “over-the-top immoral behavior” and used an anti-gay slur to describe the boys.

That said, the film hasn’t been canceled in all of Russia. Several other screenings will happen across the country and it's controlled regions, including Chechnya where the gay purge is still ongoing.

For fans of BTS, these films will start airing in Russia starting January 26. Unfortunately, fans in Makhachkala will have to travel.

h/t: Moscow Times

The European Court Of Human Rights Ruled Against Russia's Gay Events Ban

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s ban on LGBTQ rallies violates the human rights of protestors.

The Strasbourg, France based court made the decision earlier today that Russia is violating the citizen’s freedom of assembly rights and rights to “not be discriminated against.” According to AP, this is primarily by Russia’s rejection of any LGBTQ themed events.

As the court said at the ruling, “the ban on holding LGBT public assemblies imposed by the domestic authorities did not correspond to a pressing social need and was thus not necessary in a democratic society.”

This ruling came after 51 applications were filed by seven activists earlier this year to have the European Court of Human Rights look into the matter.

But according to the Moscow Times, theses activists weren’t into submitting those applications just for the good of the people. In their applications, they asked to be compensated a range of pay between 5,000 euros ($5,600) to 500,000 euros ($566,000). Thankfully, the ECHR did not give into this greediness and instead said the ruling itself constituted “sufficient just satisfaction.”

The court also sees that Russia is violating the European Convention of Human Rights, of which Russia is a participant.

The European Court of Human Rights says that Russia cannot excuse the outright rejection and banning of LGBTQ themed public events as a precaution against public disorder.

This would also affect the Gay Propaganda law that Vladimir Putin signed into law in 2013, which is the main excuse used to ban gay events.

Despite the law being created to prevent the spreading of LGBTQ themed content to youth both online and in public, the law has already targeted one Russian youth.

We'll see how, or if, Russia responds to the ruling.

h/t: AP, Moscow Times

Conviction Overturned in Russian Gay Propaganda Case

Recently a Russian teen was persecuted under the anti-gay "gay propaganda" law for posting pictures online. However, while he was found guilty initially, his conviction has been overturned, according to Pink News.

Russia's "gay propaganda" law basically bans anyone from promoting "propaganda" of any sexuality other than heterosexual, according to Mic. After the 2013 bill became law, multiple bans on pride parades have been instated as well as a surge in violence against LGBTQ people, among other things. This is a step backwards for equality in Russia and a slap in the face for LGBTQ Russians. 

Maxim Neverov, the teen who was charged with "propaganda of homosexuality among minors" for posting pictures online that could be construed as pictures of people in same-sex relationships, filed an appeal with his lawyer, Artem Lapov, to contest his conviction. Part of his conviction included him paying a fine of approximately $760.000 for posting the pictures online, but Lapov was firm in saying that Neverov was not paying the fine or accepting the conviction.

Neverov participated in a public protest called "Gays for Putin" as well as submitted twelve applications for the performance (all rejected) attempted to organize a pride parade, which led the Russian LGBT Network to believe that Maxim was targeted. 

Investigators reviewed Neverov's case materials and interviewed witnesses under the assumption of Maxim's innocence. They found no in incriminating evidence and decided to reverse their initial decision and Neverov does not have to pay the fine. 

While Neverov's conviction was overturned, things in Russia for LGBT people are still unequal. Since the law was passed, crimes against LGBT Russians have increased, many LGBT activists have been detained by the police, and a great deal of requests for pride events were shut down. Yes, the conviction being reversed is definitely a step forward, but the fact that the gay propaganda law was put in place initially speaks to a nefarious view of non-heterosexual people. 

h/t: Pink NewsMic

Apple Blocked The Apple Watch’s Gay Pride Feature In Russia

Come Pride month, Apple is constantly promoting its commitment to celebrating equality and diversity in all ways, but it looks like Apple has its exceptions.

For instance, Apple announced the Pride Apple Watch face back in June. The design is reminiscent of the Pride flag and is meant to boldly announce Apple, and Apple users’, support for LGBTQ people.

Unfortunately, iOS developer Guilherme Rambo discovered yesterday that the Apple Watch face has been “hardcoded to not show up if the paired iPhone is using the Russian locale.”

After Rambo made this announcement, Verge reporter Tom Warren tested out the device and found that the Watch face disappears as soon as the connected iPhone switches to a Russian location.

Plus, the Mirror reports that the optional Apple’s Watch Pride strap also doesn’t sell in the country of Russia.

Again, this development is confusing as Apple has openly supported LGBTQ rights before, but it seems like it all comes down to money and the law.

In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed in a “gay propaganda” law. The law is supposedly designed to protect Russian citizens, specifically the youth, from being subjected to viewing LGBTQ content.

It seems that by banning the Apple Watch Pride face, Apple preemptively blocked the design from appearing in Russian quarters. As such, there’s no risk of being fined by the government.

That said, that’s only an assumption made by those who have discovered this hardcoding. In addition, Apple hasn’t made a comment on this development since Rambo initially pointed it out yesterday.

h/t: The Verge, The Mirror, Fast Company

The First Official Russian Pride Parade Was Banned Before it Occured

A tiny village known as Yablonevy in Russia was set to hold the nation's first officially approved LGBTQ+ Pride parade but the permission was denied by local authorities. The government of Novoulyanovsk holds jurisdiction over the village so its mayor approved the Pride parade which activists originally wanted to hold in that city's center but then decided against. In order to avoid conflict, they decided to move the parade to Yablonevy, a small town in Russia with 7 residents. However, the city manager overrode the decision to have the parade and claimed their permit was invalid because he had not been consulted before the city change had been made.

The city manager, Gennady Denikayev, said:

"I made a decision, there will be no gay parade. We intend to protect traditional family values and, foremost, our children from the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations."

That type of "propaganda" was explcitly banned by 2013 Russian law when they stated that any positive mention of LGBTQ+ rights or identity is prohibited. All attempts to hold Pride events in major Russian cities have been banned by the government. However, there was a "rogue" Pride rally held in St. Petersburg in 2017 that was not approved by authorities. Since the city of Moscow issued a ban in 2012, gay Pride parades have been banned for the next hundred years.

h/t: Advocate, ProudOut.com

This Viral Russian Election Ad Has A Very Gay Twist

Oh Russia, sending us mixed signals again?

It’s nearing close to election time in the Country of Russia with votes set to start in September, and a new interesting video has popped up ahead of that time.

According to GayStarNews, no one knows where the now viral election video came from for sure, but several people have guessed that it’s the work of the local government.

The video itself, which you can watch below, shows two men discussing the upcoming election. The video shows them in deep conversation as they sit at a park bench, ride a public bus, and walk down the sidewalk.

While a translated version has not been found yet, the Moscow Times reports that the two men comment that elections are an “an illusion of democracy.” They then state that they won't vote.

The last scene then shows the two men entering an apartment bedroom and taking their clothes off.

As they do this, one man is overheard saying, “Let the others go and vote. We have more important things to do."

The video ends with one man lying face down on the bed, in just his underwear, and another man closing the door as he unzips his pants.

While this video seems VERY GAY at a first glance, it actually presents a pretty messed up message.

The message the advertisement is trying to present is that if citizens don’t vote, they’re gay. Basically, this is a homophobic scare tactic to get people voting and present this image of LGBT people being lazy/irresponsible citizens. And this isn’t the first time an ad like this has shown up.

When even teenagers are being charged for Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda law, it’s amazing that whoever’s behind this video, government or not, has gotten away with zero fines.

Just another day in Russia.

h/t: Gay Star News, The Moscow Times

Russian Teen Found Guilty Of "Gay Propaganda" After Posting Pictures On Social Media

A Russian teen has been charged a 50,000 rubles ($762.50) fine for posting gay propaganda online.

16-year-old Maxim Neverov has been charged with “propaganda of homosexuality among minors,” according to LGBTQ advocacy group the Russian LGBT Network.

What caused this “offense” was the uploading of images onto the social media site “VKontakte.” An office report on the case overseen by the Commission on Minors and the Protection of Minors’ Rights says that Neverov shared “some pictures (photos) of young men whose appearance (partly nude body parts) had the characteristics of propaganda of homosexual relations according to the expert opinion.”

The Russian LGBT Network provided a lawyer, named Artem Lapov, for Neverov, but they unfortunately lost the case. Lapov is now trying to appeal the decision and says it violates Neverov’s freedom of expression.

To add to that point, Lapov shares that the commission never proved that Neverov posted the pictures himself. Plus, they wanted Neverov to give his testimony to the police officer filing the report without the consult of his lawyer. Neverov refused and thus never got his testimony on the record.

The Russian LGBT Network also pointed out the convenience of Neverov, a minor, being the target of this charge made to protect minors.

Earlier this year, Maxim Neverov was one of the organizers for a performance titled “Gay or Putin.” The performance was so infamously shared by new sources that even the federal legislative assembly, called the Duma, allegedly discussed it. In addition, Neverov’s case materials mention a pride parade that he tried to organize.

Again, Maxim Neverov’s lawyer, Artem Lapov, is trying appeal the court case, but the Commission will provide the reasoning for its judgment before that happens.

h/t: The Russian LGBT Network