05 May 2017

Outrage at Chechen gay purge

The CWU has sent the strongest possible message of support to victims of brutal homophobic persecution in Chechnya amid rising international concern that a human rights catastrophe is unfolding in the ultra-conservative Russian republic.

Delegates at last week’s CWU Annual Conference unanimously supported an emergency motion condemning a state-orchestrated round-up of gay men amid grim evidence of torture in concentration camps and even executions.

Despite official Chechen Government denials of the existence of such camps - or, incredulously, even the existence of LGBT people in Chechnya - the republic’s president, Ramzan Kadyrov, is on public record as having sworn to eliminate the country’s gay community by the start of Ramadan, which began on May 26.

Evidence is now mounting of police leveraging the social stigma under which having a relative who might be gay is widely regarded as a ‘stain’ on family reputation, by releasing detainees to their families, outing them and encouraging relatives to “restore family honour”.

As terrifying evidence of the unfolding horror continues to emerge- with survivors sharing accounts of savage beatings and being tortured in homemade electric chairs to force them to give up names - the CWU is writing to the Home Secretary asking that gay men from Chechnya fleeing this persecution be given asylum.

Proposing the emergency motion at CWU Conference, Laurie Smith of Greater London Combined hit out at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to question the Chechen Government’s denial of a purge that was initially brought to the world’s attention by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

That newspaper is now being subjected to Chechen Government demands for it to apologise to the republic for suggesting there are gay people in Chechnya, with the President’s spokesperson chillingly  adding: “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

As such, the CWU Conference motion has also committed the union to add its name to the list of organisations that are campaigning to defend the freedom of the press to expose homophobic persecution in Russia and elsewhere - and also to support Amnesty International’s work against such human rights abuses.

“The CWU has a proud record of supporting LGBT members and campaigning for progressive legislation in this country - but we sometimes forget those advances simply don’t exist in large swathes of the world,” said Dave Daniels of Grampian & Shetland Amal, seconding the motion.

John Monk of North West London branch added: “We’ve got to do something about what’s happening in Chechnya - the world’s got to wake up.”

National equalities officer Linda Roy concluded: “I could never have imagined when I took up this job that I’d be seeing reports of concentration camps being used to imprison gay men in Chechnya in this the 21st Century.

“It’s truly shocking - and we cannot stand by and do nothing.”

  • General Conference delegates also committed the union to work with affiliated organisations to highlight the rising tide of discrimination and physical violence suffered by LGBT people in Turkey - a country which has the highest transgender murder rate and a legal system which frequently ‘under-punishes’ hate crime against LGBT individuals.

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