Disturbing Reports of "Gay Purge" in Chechnya

Two Serbian human rights activists hold banners reading, left: "No to homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia" and right "Thank you brave journalists", during a protest against reported persecution of gay men in Chechnya outside the Russian embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper has recently reported alleged police persecution of presumed gay groups. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Two Serbian human rights activists hold banners reading, left: "No to homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia" and right "Thank you brave journalists", during a protest against reported persecution of gay men in Chechnya outside the Russian embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper has recently reported alleged police persecution of presumed gay groups. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

LGBTQ rights undeniably are a hot-button political issue in the U.S. From religious freedom to bathroom bills, pronoun usage to gay adoption, few topics elicit as much passion when discussed. But while debates surrounding these issues rage on here, reports are emerging from Chechnya which paint a horrific picture.

In early April, ABCNews reported on the alleged roundup and detention of as many as 100 people suspected of being gay:

Authorities in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya have reportedly kidnapped dozens of gay men in the past month and killed at least three as part of an roundup ordered against LGBT people there.

Novaya Gazeta, a respected Russian opposition newspaper, as well as a number of human rights activists, said it has information suggesting that over 100 people accused of being gay have been arrested in recent weeks in a “prophylactic purge,” citing multiple sources in Chechnya’s security services and in the republic’s LGBT community.

Now, Australia’s news.com.au has a story from a survivor, alleged to have escaped from a homosexual torture camp. Per the story, authorities are admonishing parents and family members of homosexuals to “sort it out or we’ll do it ourselves,” essentially exhorting them to participate in honor killings of their gay children or siblings.

“They tell the parents to kill their child. They say, ‘Either you do it, or we will,’” the man said.

“They call it: ‘Cleaning your honour with blood.’”

While Russian authorities deny the persecution is taking place in the troubled republic, it is a Russian paper — the above-referenced Noyava Gazeta — reporting on the kidnappings and even killings.

The stories have drawn fire from several quarters, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has raised concerns with Vladimir Putin, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has called for an investigation, issuing the following statement:

“We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association.”

While it is uncertain whether such investigations will materialize, or what they will ultimately reveal, these reports emanating from Chechnya are disturbing, to say the least. And they tend to put some of the debates we have here regarding gay and transgender rights into a rather sobering perspective.