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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 26, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 21
'First Trans Chechen' speaks on Russian TV

Chechens demolish Gay concentration camp, fate of prisoners unknown
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'First Trans Chechen' speaks on Russian TV

Chechens demolish Gay concentration camp, fate of prisoners unknown

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A woman who calls herself the 'first Transgender person' in Chechnya says she was the target of a murder attempt in 2015, after she'd fled Chechnya for a safer residence Moscow.

The woman, who was identified only as 'Leila,' subsequently came to the United States.

Before she left Chechnya, she told the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd that local authorities urged her family to kill her.

'Either you remove this man who offends all Chechen society by their very presence,' they told her parents, 'or we'll find you and bring the body.'

After she fled to Moscow, she received death threats and was finally stabbed by unidentified assailants.

'When will you stop disgracing your family?' the would-be killers asked her.

She reported the attempted murder to Moscow police but got no assistance, she said. Police told her, 'Either screw off to Europe, or we'll escort you back to Chechnya ourselves.'

Leila left Russia in 2016, intending to travel to Argentina, but she changed her mind after getting a text message telling her that Chechen authorities knew where she was headed. She then entered the US without a visa - the US State Department has granted no visas to Chechen refugees - and is now living in this country without documents.

The Russian LGBT Network, which has helped at least 40 people flee Chechnya, confirmed her identity for Dozhd. The group says that at least nine of the 40 refugees have left Russia entirely but added that Western countries - especially the US and EU - have been too slow to issue visas to the refugees.

Meanwhile, the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which first broke the story of the Chechen pogrom against LGBT people, found that the largest concentration camp in the country has been demolished.

There is no word on the fate of the inmates, the newspaper added.

According to Novaya Gazeta, the Russian commission charged with investigating reports of anti-Gay crimes arrived at the camp to observe conditions but found only a pile of debris in place of the military barracks that had once held Gay prisoners.

Members of the commission were told the prisoners had been moved to a police center some 90 kilometers away, but they were not allowed to visit that facility.

The newspaper says Chechen authorities are visiting the families of Gay detainees and 'demanding they sign a statement with the standard text stating 'their son (or brother) [FULL NAME] left the republic to work in Moscow in late February. There is no connection to the Chechen police.'

The most recent Novaya Gazeta report says that 26 men have been killed by Chechen security forces, including one member of the Russian National Guard. Russian authorities have denied that report.

As of April 25, Chechnya was reported to have set up six concentration camps for Gays, with as many as 200 people being held.

The LGBT Network has been trying to evacuate LGBT Chechens to safe locations, preferably outside Russia.

'We are in the process of figuring out which countries are willing to accept the Chechen queer refugees,' the group said in a statement.

'We negotiate these possibilities with the foreign authorities and NGOs. This has to be done in order to ensure the victims' maximum safety and security. We have strong evidence that families of those who fled Chechnya [have] already started looking for them.'

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