Survivors of Chechnya’s homophobic purge reveal what happened to them | Photo: Dave Frankel
A bisexual man was tortured after trying to get evidence of the anti-LGBTI purge in Chechnya.
Elbrus, a 32-year-old from Russia, fled after being kidnapped, tortured, threatened and blackmailed.
He is one of the survivors of the ongoing persecution of LGBTI people in Chechnya.
LGBTI people are being rounded up, detained, tortured and executed in Chechnya. The ‘gay purge’ has been happening periodically since the end of 2016.
Chechen authorities have targeted human rights defenders, their critics and LGBTI people. Since 2016 hundreds of people have been detained, with many of those executed. The authorities even tortured several LGBTI detainees to death.
‘There was and is a great threat to my life,’ Elbrus told Gay Star News. He is from the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, in the Caucasus mountains.
‘My friends were looking for as much evidence as possible of the genocide of gays and lesbians in the Chechen Republic.
‘I did not take much part in this activity, because I had a farm and I was very busy with my business.’
Finding evidence of anti-gay purge in Chechnya
But then friends showed Elbrus videos and documents related to the case, and they wanted to go to Chechnya to expose the ‘purge’.
Elbrus, taking them to the autonomous republic in his car, agreed to go with them.
‘We found terrible burials, graves, filmed it all on video,’ he said, and then returned home.
In May 2018, his friend Marat asked to use Elbrus’ car. He said he would go on business to the city of Karachaevsk, also in the Karachay-Cherkessia republic.
‘Since then, Marat has gone missing,’ he said. ‘The next day I found my car without Marat.’
On 28 May, officers found Elbrus and kidnapped him. It was there he was tortured, threatened and blackmailed – demanding he delete all evidence he discovered in Chechnya.
In October, after being set free, he flew from Moscow to Belgrade. From there, he went to Amsterdam. At the airport, he asked for refugee status.
He spent six months living in an open refugee camp. But, in May, his asylum claim was rejected.
Fleeing for his life
Officials said they believed Elbrus ‘cannot prove he belongs to the LGBT community’. Asylum rights expert moreover say bisexual people face the worst chances of winning asylum. Many are also wrongly deported back to their home countries, often to their deaths.
On 12 July, he was ordered to leave the Netherlands. But instead of going on a plane back to Russia, he fled to Barcelona, Spain.
Elbrus says he has spent several nights living on the streets, but has since found accommodation.
He hopes that he will be free from persecution but fears the ongoing threat of deportation.
‘I will be kidnapped and possibly killed,’ Elbrus told GSN.
‘The security forces subjected me to torture and humiliation, beaten, blackmailed. The reason is my orientation and what I did. They promise to kill me if I return to my homeland.’
Acathi, a LGBTI asylum charity in Barcelona, has said they are willing to assist in Elbrus’ case.
A spokesperson told Gay Star News: ‘The current Asylum Act covers persecution for gender identity or sexual orientation as grounds for asylum.
‘We have had several positive cases of granting asylum people coming from Russia, for reasons of sexual orientation.’
But, for Elbrus, he just hopes to survive.
‘[If I win asylum], I will start my life from scratch,’ he said. ‘I want to learn a language and work. And I will strive to be happy.’