Metro Weekly

U.S. House introduces resolution condemning anti-gay persecution in Chechnya

Resolution calls on Russian President Vladimir Putin to fully investigate and offer asylum to gay men fleeing Chechnya

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – Photo: U.S. Congress, via Wikimedia.

A bipartisan group of House members have introduced a resolution condemning reports of anti-gay violence and persecution in the Russian Republic of Chechnya.

The resolution, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), condemns the detention and torture of men suspected of being gay, and calls on Russian President Vladimir Putin to intercede, investigate the claims and provide asylum for sexual minorities who are being persecuted within his country.

“For over a month, hundreds of gay or perceived to be gay Chechens have been arrested, many have been tortured, and some even killed,” Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son, said in a statement. “This bipartisan resolution sends a clear message to Chechnya and Russia authorities and any oppressor that the U.S. will not stand idly while these human rights atrocities are being committed.

“The U.S. government needs to continue to speak up to help those who are being indiscriminately targeted, and we must pressure Russia to uphold its international commitment to prevent any further abuses from happening while perpetrators are brought to justice,” she added.

In total, 21 Democrats and 11 Republicans have signed onto Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution, including five of the House’s openly LGBTQ members, Democrats from liberal districts, including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, lawmakers who hail from districts with significant Jewish populations — the U.S. Holocaust Museum has condemned the anti-gay abuses occurring in Chechnya — and Republicans, primarily from the Northeast and California.

In April, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that gay and bisexual men in the Muslim-majority Russian republic were being rounded up, unlawfully detained, and tortured for information on other men suspected of being gay. In response, several Western leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley condemned the reports of anti-gay abuses and called on Putin to investigate the crimes.

But the Russian government has said it has not uncovered any evidence of anti-gay persecution. A spokesman for the Russian government told the Israel newspaper Haaretz that there are “no victims of persecution” in Chechnya, and reports stating otherwise are part of a propaganda campaign against the Russian Federation. Novaya Gazeta has since reported that the death toll among gay men who have been detained has risen to 26, with many being murdered by family members in “honor killings” after their release. 

“We’ve heard chilling reports of authorities in Chechnya detaining, torturing, and even killing men from the LGBT community over the last several weeks,” said U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who represents the historically Jewish neighborhood of Riverdale in the Bronx. “We are witnessing the unfolding of a horrific tragedy and it’s long past time that the Kremlin start protecting its own citizens — all of them — regardless of sexual orientation.”

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