How UChicago Students Can Work to End Chechnya’s Gay Concentration Camps

By Rajiv Hurhangee

Two weeks ago, the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta reported mass arrests of gay men in Chechnya. The situation is horrific: more than 100 men have been detained by the police in concentration camps, and as many as 20 are believed to have been killed.  

According to accounts from those who have escaped, up to 30 prisoners are crammed in a single cell in these camps, where they are held without food. They are tortured with electric shocks and cables and forced to give names of other LGBTQ+ persons to the officers. Prisoners are also subjected to beatings, some of which turn out to be fatal. Human rights groups have described the situation in Chechnya as the worst abuse of LGBTQ+ people seen in years. 

Chechen officials have dismissed these allegations as a joke, denying that there are any gay people in Chechnya. In response, Amnesty International has launched a global campaign urging the Chechen government to thoroughly investigate these allegations, ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ persons in the region, and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. 

Hundreds of thousands around the world are protesting the state of LGBTQ+ rights in Chechnya. Amnesty’s UChicago chapter is supporting this global effort by mobilizing the UChicago community to take action. Below are six quick, direct, and effective ways we can help end the persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya.  

Please do not underestimate how impactful you can be. Amnesty International has had tremendous success effecting change by employing exactly these sorts of strategies, which is why it is crucial that we take action. 

1. Sign UChicago – Amnesty International’s Petition (One minute) 

The petition calls on Chechen authorities to investigate and put an end to the horrific abuse of LGBTQ+ persons in Chechnya, ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ people in the region, and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Sign the petition here. (This petition is only open to individuals affiliated with UChicago: students, faculty, staff, and alumni.) 

2. Lobby LGBTQ+ dating apps (One minute) 

According to local activists, LGBTQ+ people in Russia who are the victims of abuse often meet their attackers on dating apps. Activists are calling on Grindr and Hornet, two popular dating apps in the region, to set up automatic alerts to Russian users with tips on how to remain safe. Sign the petition here

3. Write to Russian officials (10–15 minutes) 

Writing saves lives. Write to Russian officials urging them to carry out effective and thorough investigations into the recent reports of LGBTQ+ abuse, take all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of all affected individuals, and hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes.  

Two key officials you can reach by e-mail are Sergei Vasilievich Sokolov, acting head of the Investigation Committee for the Chechen Republic, and Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States. Remind them that international human rights obligations require that they prohibit discrimination, and investigate and prosecute all forms of hate crime.  

If you’re not sure what to include in your e-mail, use Amnesty’s toolkit

4. Contact the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (10–15 minutes) 

Write to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley asking her to pressure Russian diplomats at the U.N. to investigate the recent reports of LGBTQ+ abuse in Chechnya. Like the aforementioned Russian officials, Haley has pressing obligations to prosecute instances of hate crime. 

You can contact the ambassador by using this form. 

5. Donate to the Russian LGBT Network (5–10 minutes) 

The Russian LGBT Network is providing direct, on-the-ground support to LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. They are evacuating people who are under threat of being persecuted and documenting the situation as it unfolds. If you would like to support their work, you can donate to them here

6. Spread the word (5–10 minutes) 

Forward all of this information, or share this article, to your UChicago peers: students, faculty, staff, and alumni. If you are an undergraduate student, make sure you share this with your house during house meeting or in your house’s Facebook group. If you are a member or leader of a student group, forward all of this to your listhost, and urge your peers to take action. Faculty and staff members, please share this information with your departments and offices. 

I hope that you will do everything in your power to end the suffering of LGBTQ+ persons in Chechnya.  

Rajiv Hurhangee is a third-year in the College majoring in philosophy.