Metro Weekly

Activists demand oil companies denounce anti-gay persecution in Chechnya

Petition asks oil companies to apply financial pressure on Russia to end anti-gay killings and internments

De Kastri Exxon Mobil terminal – Photo: Russian.dissident, via Wikimedia.

Human rights activists are calling on BP, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell to demand an end to the kidnapping, detention, torture, and murder of men suspected to be gay in Chechnya.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported earlier this month that police in Chechnya have rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality, killing at least three of them. Chechen authorities have denied the reports, dismissing them as an “April Fool’s joke,” according to CNN.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied knowledge of an anti-gay purge.

“We are unaware of any reports to the police or complaints filed to them from the representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation regarding this,” Peskov told reporters. “Maybe I’m mistaken and maybe some reports took place, but at at least I haven’t read anything about it. This information has to get verified.”

The United Nations has called upon Russia to “investigate thoroughly” the reports of anti-gay detainments and killings. 

In response, human rights advocacy organization OutRight Action International is focusing on financial pressure to spur Russia to action, mainly through oil companies that do a significant amount of business with the country. That’s why the organization launched a petition calling on BP, Exxon Mobil, and Shell — all of which purport to be LGBTQ-friendly — to speak out against and fully investigate the atrocities.

“The detention, torture and killings of gay men (and perceived to be gay) in Chechnya are among the worst the world has heard of,” the petition reads. “In spite of multiple governments and world leaders speaking out, the detentions have not stopped. The Chechen leader seems to listen to no one and Putin and the Kremlin have so far made no indication that they are willing to investigate the crimes.

“If Russia will not listen to other governments or even the United Nations, it is time to see if we can get money to talk in a language that they will listen to.”

Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight Action International, called for an end to the anti-gay campaign, calling it “one of the worst homophobic campaigns the world has ever seen.”

“The capture, detention, and torture of men perceived to be gay in Chechnya is a grotesque human rights violation on a prolific scale,” Stern said in a statement. “Exxon, BP, and Shell should use the leverage they have on Russia and use any means possible to urge Russian authorities to immediately end these horrific persecutions. This goes beyond business interests, it is a matter of life and death.”

This is a developing story. 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com