A Canadian charity is helping gay men in the Russian region of Chechnya escape reported persecution and horrific violence.
According to multiple reports by independent Russian media and human rights groups, at least 100 men have been detained and violently tortured “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such” in at least one secret prison in Chechnya, with three men reportedly dead.
Toronto-based charity Rainbow Railroad is working to provide legal assistance, visas, transportation and other necessities to the Chechen men who’ve contacted local human rights activists for help.
“Since we first received initial reports of gay concentration camps being established in Chechnya, Rainbow Railroad immediately re-classified Eastern Europe as a priority region,” executive director Kimahli Powell said in a statement.
“This means we’re expanding our on-the-ground contacts as well as increasing our capacity to identify and assess new or alternative safe routes out of Chechnya.”
The Rainbow Railroad is a registered Canadian charity who say they’ve helped more than 300 LGBTI people reach safety since 2006. The charity’s name is inspired by the “Underground Railroad,” a network of secret routes and safe houses used in the 1800s by African Americans to escape slavery.
Meanwhile, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly denied the reports of the persecution of the men amid international outrage.
A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Associated Press Putin has “no reason to doubt the denials” because a Russian investigation found no evidence to confirm the reports of the violence.
But survivors who have fled the region have spoken out about their horrific treatment while detained.
The Rainbow Railroad charity is working closely with the Moscow-based Russian LGBT Network, who say they’ve provided assistance to 30 Chechens in danger and have been in contact with 60 more, some of whom “are in need of urgent evacuation.”
The Russian LGBT Network said they’d sadly “lost contact” with two victims who had come to them for help.
“We know that people and organisations all over the world are collecting money in order to support our work in evacuating people from the region, and we are greatly appreciative,” the Russian LGBT Network said earlier this week.
“This money will go towards transportation, accommodation, basic goods, medical and psychological support as well as the preparation of necessary documents.
“It is dangerous for most of the survivors to stay in Russia; therefore, we are preparing for their evacuation from the country.”
(Photo via Kremlin.ru)