Vice News has given us a first look inside one of Chechnya’s gay concentration camps.
Over 100 gay and bisexual men are said to have been imprisoned, tortured and in some cases even murdered in these camps. We first heard of their existence back in April, but now footage of the inside of one of these camps is finally available.
Investigators went to the abandoned military headquarters in Argun, which is said to have been one of the detention sites. It had been buried in debris, but Vice obtained permission to film inside.
Journalist Hind Hassan also spoke with local officials and an alleged victim of the camps.
Hassan explains in the segment that her crew was met by police and closely escorted. A prison warden, Ayub Kataev, described the abandoned site as a “warehouse” and seemed committed to showing how it could not have possibly housed prisoners.
Some victims report being beaten with a hose and strapped to a homemade “electric chair,” forced to divulge the names of other gay men. Some say they were forced to fight fellow prisoners.
“Imagine if there are gays. Would we, the Chechens, communicate with them at all?” he asked. “My officers would not even want to touch such people—if they exist—let alone beating or torturing them.”
Kataev’s denial echoes similar denials made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who denied the existence of homosexuals in the country while also promising to eradicate any gays.
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” a spokesman for president Ramzan Kadyrov told Russian news agency Interfax in April.
“In our Chechen society, any person who respects our traditions and culture will hunt down this kind of person without any help from authorities,” she added. “They will do everything to make sure that this kind of person does not exist in our society.”
The Russian LGBT Network has also been contacted by a number of LGBT Chechens fearing for their lives.
“They call us and say they’re scared, or their friends are missing, or they’ve managed to escape and they need help,” said Svetlana Zaharava of The Russian LGBT Network.
“Chechnya is a specific region and human rights don’t exist there,” said Zaharava. “It’s almost impossible to be an open LGBT person in Chechnya, that is why people are so stigmatized, and why the gay victims’ parents wouldn’t cooperate with law enforcement [in investigating the disappearances]. It’s because they’re ashamed.”
Watch the segment below.