Chechen Government Reportedly Abusing Men Having Sex with Men
April 26, 2017
by Andrè Van Mol, MD
An April 10 story in The Daily Mail was headlined, “Chechnya opens world’s first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler’s in the 1930s where campaigners say gay men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death.” The “first…since” is not true about these facilities, as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara ran concentration camps in Cuba for men in homosexual practice starting in the 1960s, to name but one example, but let’s move on. U.K.’s The Guardian reported that possibly hundreds of gay-identified men in Ramzan Kadyrov’s Russian Republic of Chechnya have been imprisoned in concentration camps, with many tortured and most forced to confess associates. Plus, witnesses claim at least three have died, although there are likely more.
The Daily Mail story explained, “Filing an official complaint against local security officials is extremely dangerous, as retaliation by local authorities is practically inevitable,” and, “It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya . . . [they] are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to ‘honour killings’ by their own relatives.” NBC News added, “The situation in Chechnya is made worse by a conservative majority-Muslim society . . . The targeting of LGBTQ people by their own families, and honor killings, are common in the region.” The Guardian article continued, “In Chechnya’s ultra-traditional society, based on strong codes of family and clan allegiance as well as Islamic faith, having a gay relative is seen as a stain on the entire extended family.” They quote one gay-identifying man who fled to another country, “I have not the slightest doubt that my own relatives planned to kill me.”
Two of the articles cited throw around the terms homophobia and conservative like confetti at a parade. Homophobia is a political-ideological smear phrase that fails to meet the basic requirements of a phobia. Conservative can mean a number of things, but journalists and activists not infrequently wish it to be understood negatively, whatever the application. Let’s overlook both for the greater imperative here.
We Christians are obliged to protest this abuse. This is a basic human rights issue: no one should be treated in such a manner. The concept of inherent human rights is a Judeo-Christian contribution to the world predicated on Scripture. So say secular European philosophers Luc Ferry and Jurgen Habermas, among many other scholars. Christians should be well familiar with the biblical commands to defend the defenseless and oppressed by acting mercifully in pursuing justice. Isaiah 1:17 and Micah 6:8 provide Scriptures in point, among many others. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 teaches us not to be religious leaders who walk by victimized people left in a heap.
I have made clear in past CMDA publications that homosexual practice has negative health consequences—physically, mentally and spiritually—and is theologically in error. (See resources at the bottom for more information.) Same-sex attraction is neither inborn nor immutable, and help exists to aid in overcoming it that is not harmful. News out of Chechnya seems to indicate help is the furthest thing from both governmental and societal intentions for same-sex-attracted Chechens. Malice and willful harm to our neighbors cannot be left unchallenged. Loving your neighbor as yourself looks like something, and that something is not apathy any more than it is enablement.
So what can we do? As a good start, we can write and/or call our own senators and congresspersons. Ask the U.S. Department of State to open an investigation along with contacting UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Contact the Russian Federation embassies or consulates in the United States. As a general guideline when writing protest letters, particularly to hostile governments or agencies, apply the biblical commands to be respectful, honoring, gentle and compassionate, which is challenging when great wrong is being addressed. Diplomacy is essential to not inadvertently cause further hurt to those who are suffering. Avoid accusatory language. Use phrasing implying that good will and mutual concern exist (even when you doubt it) rather than, “How could you?!” Appeal to better nature. Be encouragingly motivational. Make clear you are a healthcare professional, including whatever position or affiliation you may have with pertinent organizations, as that grants your letter more weight. Make clear you and your group will be following the situation. Finally, be concise. If a paragraph or two will do the job, that is best, but going over one page reduces the chances anyone reads your protest. Brevity is a powerful complement to proper tone.
Both the Chechen government and Russian officials deny the allegations being made, as noted in several articles. Eyewitnesses testify otherwise. Great wrong is being done and we as Christians have this opportunity to intercede in prayer and further action. We should.