LGBT stars including Troye Sivan and Ellen DeGeneres have urged the world to speak up and take action over reports that gay men in Chechnya are being systematically persecuted by official authorities.
Horrifying accounts of brutality and killings have been emerging from the predominantly Islamic Russia republic over the last two weeks, after Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that over 100 gay and bisexual men aged 16-50 had been detained by authorities over the last few months.
At least three men are known to have been killed, though the paper estimates the real figure to be higher, with witnesses and survivors reporting that detainees have been imprisoned together in large groups or ‘camps’, where they have been beaten and tortured – sometimes to death – by officials.
As the picture of the horror currently facing gay and bisexual men in Chechnya becomes clearer, the likes of Troye Sivan, Ellen DeGeneres and Billy Eichner have called on the international community to spread the news far and wide to help draw attention to the plight of those on the ground.
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday (April 12), 59-year-old comedian and presenter Ellen wrote: “Things happen these days & it’s hard to believe they’re real. And yet they are.
“If this is happening in Chechnya, the world needs to rise up”.
Things happen these days & it’s hard to believe they’re real. And yet they are. If this is happening in Chechnya, the world needs to rise up https://t.co/dPnmWEvvuM
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 12, 2017
Australian pop star Troye Sivan was even more succinct, urging fans to continues to shed light on the plight of Chechen gay men with two simple words: “SILENCE = DEATH”.
SILENCE = DEATH https://t.co/FPYItqE6G5
— troye sivan (@troyesivan) April 11, 2017
Meanwhile US comedian and actor Billy Eichner took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of allowing human rights abuses in the Chechnya, which, while having a degree of autonomy, remains a federal subject of Russia.
THIS IS NOT A JOKE, PEOPLE,” Eichner wrote. “THIS IS HAPPENING UNDER PUTIN’S WATCH IN 2017.”
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) April 12, 2017
The stars’ public calls to arms come pressure begins to mount on the Russian government to end the Chechen authorities’ violent assault on the human rights of LGBT people.
Hundreds attended a peaceful protest outside the Russian embassy in London on Wednesday night (April 12) to show solidarity with LGBT+ people in Chechnya.
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International petition calling on Russian’s prosecutor general, Aleksandr Ivanovich Bastrykin, to investigate the reports had reached over 95,000 signatures by Thursday morning (April 13).
Despite the growing evidence of mass targeting of gay men in the region, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s Russian-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied the reports, insisting that gay people do “not exist” in the republic.
The spokesperson added: “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
The legal status of homosexuality in the predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya is unclear, but authorities have historically turned a blind eye to anti-gay violence and murder, while Ramzan Kadyrov has previously said he approves of honour killings.
You can help sign the Amnesty petition and lend your voice to the campaign to end the dire situation currently facing gay men in Chechnya here.
This article was originally published on Attitude. Read the original article.