High Assembly at the main mosque in Grozny, Chechnya, called for retribution against journalists who reported on mass arrests of suspected gays in Chechnya. (Photo courtesy of Grozny TV and Novaya Gazeta)

LGBT people aren’t the only ones who are at risk of official violence in Chechnya. Chechen leaders have issued threats against journalists who reported the mass arrests and torture of men in Chechnya who were suspected of being gay.

Dmitry Muratov, chief editor of Novaya Gazeta

Russia’s opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported Thursday that Chechen religious and government leaders held a meeting on April 3 at which they threatened journalists who revealed the mass arrests of more than 100 Chechens suspected of being gay.  The meeting adopted a resolution stating about the journalists that “retribution will come to them wherever they are without time limitation.”

People at the meeting, including Chechen Muslim clerics, said that the Novaya Gazeta article had insulted their faith and the dignity of Chechen men. The newspaper denied that accusation and called for a dialogue.

“We did not insult — nor had we the slightest intention to insult — the Chechen people,” wrote Novaya Gazeta’s chief editor, Dmitry Muratov.

Muratov said the newspaper would continue investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya.

The newspaper stated this week:

“We know the names of three people who were killed, and we also know that far more people were killed. Extrajudicial retribution, so-called ‘honor killings,’ also were carried out by relatives of the victims. …

“The reaction that followed the publication on the persecution of Chechen homosexuals has caused our editorial office to have serious fears for the safety not only of specific journalists, but of all the employees of Novaya Gazeta without exception.”

In a speech during the High Assembly at the Grozny mosque, Chechen presidential advisor Adam Shahidov called journalists “enemies of our faith and fatherland.” (Photo courtesy of Grozny TV and Novaya Gazeta)

On April 1, Novaya Gazeta published the first reports of the mass arrests and later reported that Chechnya had established secret prisons, described as “concentration camps” for those who were arrested. Three or more men have been reported killed after their arrest.

The April 3 meeting, held at the main mosque in Grozny, the Chechen capital, was a described as a High Assembly of “Islamic theologians and leaders of public opinion in Chechnya.

In a speech to the gathering, Adam Shahidov, an advisor to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, characterized the journalists as “enemies of our faith and fatherland.”

Salah Mezhiev, the Islamic supreme mufti for Chechnya, told Russian broadcaster RBC that the journalists will pay the price “for sure.” He added, “I don’t even want to call them humans.”
The seriousness of the threat can be gauged by the fact that prominent Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed two years ago after similar statements about him from Chechen authorities.
The BBC reported:

Chechens have been linked to two murders of Novaya Gazeta reporters who investigated crimes in Chechnya — Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova.

But much remains unclear about those contract killings, and that of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician who was shot dead in Moscow in 2015 and also exposed corruption and organised crime in Chechnya.

In addition to making statements that sound like threats, a resolution passed by the High Assembly at the Grozny mosque declared that the journalists’ “baseness and provocation” should be fought “in all possible (legal) ways.” It stated:

The publication in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta is an absolute lie and slander, discrediting the honor and dignity of

The High Assembly at the Grozny mosque on April 3, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Grozny TV and Novaya Gazeta)

Muslims, residents of Chechnya, citizens of the Russian Federation.

In view of the insult to the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men, as well as to our faith, we promise that retribution will overtake true instigators, wherever they are, without time limitation.
Also, we, the High Assembly, urge residents of Chechnya and all decent people not to spread defamatory and provocative information. This is a terrible sin in Islam and other religions, and also brings suffering and pain to many people.
We call on every sensible person to fight the spread of such baseness and provocation in all possible (legal) ways.
We urge federal and regional media to use reliable sources and opinions of competent specialists when preparing materials.
 May Allah grant peace, peace and justice to all of us! ”

The Russian LGBT Network is helping people flee from Chechnya to avoid persecution in Chechnya. It also accuses Russian officials of ignoring the ongoing human rights abuses. The network said that if no one is prosecuted for the mass arrests and the killings, it will turn for help to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Novoya Gazeta stated:

“It is obvious to us: this resolution [by the High Assembly] prompts religious fanatics to take revenge on our journalists.

For Novaya Gazeta it is completely obvious that the current wave of repressions is not a unique phenomenon for today’s Chechnya. The level of violence in the republic in the past three years has risen sharply and this is directly connected to the lack of a fully-fledged investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov, which, in essence, has played into the hands of those who ordered this crime. The impunity specifically for this crime has brought about their full confidence in their own invulnerability.

Silence and inaction in this situation makes all those who are capable of doing anything at all into accomplices. That is why Novaya Gazeta continues to work in Chechnya. But we understand very well what a high price we may have to pay. The unsolved murder of our colleagues, Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova, are obvious proof.

We insist: the reaction to our journalistic work that was articulated at the meeting in the central mosque is unacceptable in a civilised society and must be assessed from the point of view of Russian law.

We urge the Russian government to do everything possible to stop any actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists who are doing their professional duty.”


In cooperation with Erasing 76 Crimes