Stories of the Islamic State throwing gay men off of rooftops headfirst and of Muslim hate preachers calling for the death of gays have been plentiful. Now comes another story of suffering, this time of the “terror-filled double lives that lesbians are forced to live in mainly Muslim Chechnya, where homosexuality is publicly condemned.”
The Sharia condemns homosexuality and renders it punishable by death.
The young woman was riding in a taxi to the airport when she decided to make the call. She had just left her home in Russia’s southern Chechnya region — for good, she thought, first on a flight to Moscow to pick up emigration documents and then on a plane out of the country.
But the taxi driver was eavesdropping. And when the woman told her friend she had run away, he locked the car doors and drove her back home, fearing potential consequences for his role in her planned escape.
The 22-year-old woman was a lesbian who claimed that her relatives had beaten and threatened her with death after learning of her sexual orientation. Within a week of the fateful taxi ride, she was dead. Her family says she succumbed to kidney failure. Some who knew her believe she was poisoned; but a close friend rejects that claim, telling RFE/RL that she had indeed suffered from kidney problems.
The woman’s case, first made public in a July report by a Russian rights group, highlights the often terror-filled double lives that lesbians are forced to live in mainly Muslim Chechnya, where homosexuality is publicly condemned and rights groups accuse authorities of carrying out a campaign of torture and murder targeting gay men.
There are no indications that such a campaign has been undertaken against lesbians in the region, which Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled for a decade. Instead, lesbian and bisexual women often lead personal lives in complete secrecy — if at all — communicating with girlfriends via pseudonymous social-media accounts and dedicated SIM cards, and limiting their real-life contacts to a tiny circle of verified people.
Hovering over them is the pervasive fear of being outed and ostracized in a society where a woman’s reputation is considered a linchpin of family honor — or of falling victim to an “honor killing” in a putative bid to protect the family’s name.
The young woman who died in July after trying to flee, whom RFE/RL is not identifying due to the stigma and reported abuses lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face in Chechnya, assiduously hid her sexual orientation. But somehow screenshots of her online conversations with her girlfriend and other friends ended up in the hands of her relatives, who became enraged.
The Russian LGBT Network, the St. Petersburg-based group that recounted her story in a recent report, quoted her as saying before her death that her brother had given her a gun and begged her to kill herself to save the family’s honor — and that her relatives would say it was an accident, not suicide.
“Kill me yourself if you want,” the woman recalled telling her brother, according to the report. “I’m not going to kill myself.”
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The plight of LGBT people in Chechnya triggered international condemnation following an April report by the respected Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which alleged that gay men in the region were being detained, tortured, and in some cases killed in a coordinated campaign.
After that report, gay Chechens told RFE/RL and other media outlets of the abuses they had fled. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the Canadian government secretly worked with rights activist to exfiltrate more than 20 LGBT people from Chechnya.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that when police in Chechnya returned most of the gay men allegedly targeted, they outed them to their families and indirectly suggested relatives carry out an honor killing……