The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has released a statement comparing the ongoing anti-gay persecution in Chechnya to the internment and extermination of gay men during the Holocaust.
In recent weeks, human rights activists and news media outlets have reported that Chechen authorities have been targeting gay and bisexual men for arrest and torture, detaining them in at least six separate concentration camps while grilling them for information about others suspected of homosexuality.
At least one man has been killed in detention, and two others were murdered by relatives in “honor killings” after their release.
“The Holocaust teaches us what can happen when state-sponsored, group-targeted violence is allowed to go unchecked,” Sara Bloomfield, the director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, said in a statement. “The reports about the targeting of LGBT persons in Chechnya combined with statements from Chechen officials seemingly endorsing violence are cause for great concern. Both the Chechen and Russian governments need to investigate these allegations and ensure the safety of LGBT populations within the Russian Federation.”
According to media reports, the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, wishes to have the LGBTQ community in the Russian Republic “eliminated” by the beginning of Ramadan, which begins May 26. The situation has drawn many comparisons to the targeting of gay men under Nazi-occupied Europe prior to and during World War II.
Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested for violating Nazi Germany’s law against homosexuality, and 50,000 were sentenced to prison. An estimated 5,000 to 15,000 men were sent to concentration camps on similar charges, with an unknown number of them being murdered.
The Human Rights Campaign released a statement in response to the Holocaust Museum’s statement.
“The situation in Chechnya is one of the most terrifying I’ve seen in my time at HRC,” said the organization’s global director, Ty Cobb. “Our partners in Russia are reporting that men are being systematically rounded up, detained, and tortured in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation. Some have been killed. This has been going on for months, and shows no sign of stopping. We have been horrified by the reports of those who have escaped. World leaders, including the U.S. president, must speak out.”