It seems that in Chechnya, not only gay men are in danger but so too are their family members.
According to the New York Daily News, the relatives of two brothers who attempted to escape homophobic persecution in Chechnya have also been detained and interrogated by Chechnyan police and government officers.
Last month, 20-year-old Salekh Magamadov and 18-year-old Ismail Isteyev, who are brothers, were forced to return to Chechnya. As the Moscow Times reported at the time, the young men had been charged with terror-related offenses for allegedly aiding an illegal armed gorup. Despite denying those claims, the two men faced up to 15 years in prison.
“Investigators however did not provide any objective proof of Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov’s guilt,” said LGBTQ+ rights group Russian LGBT News Network, the same organization that’s been helping gay men escape the country, in a statement.
“Salekh and Ismail left the Republic, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies,” Veronika Lapina of the Russian LGBT Network, added. “Their abduction and a fabricated criminal case are nothing more than revenge for disobedience.”
“This case is 100% political, there is nothing at all, no evidence,” said their lawyer Alexander Nemov. “And yes, we understand that this is Chechnya and Chechen ‘special’ justice. But let’s be honest — Chechen law enforcement officers have never faced such pressure before.”
The Russian region of Chechnya has been criticized by international media and political organizations for several years now over the homophobic treatment of gay men within the country. First, Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s authoritarian leader, stated that the region’s population did not include gay people. Then, police and government officials started imprisoning, torturing, and sometimes killing gay men. But, again, it now seems that relatives are now in the crosshairs.
‼️Mother of the kidnapped Salekh and Ismail recorded an appeal to the High Comissioner for Human Rights in Russia asking to help her sons.
— Russian LGBT Network (@rulgbtnet) March 18, 2021
According to the Russian LGBT Network, 20 of the men’s relatives were held in the village of Komsomolskoye on Tuesday, March 23. The relatives were interrogated for two hours by police over the whereabouts of the men’s parents.
As independent news source Dohzd reports, Zara Magamadova, the brothers’ mother appealed to Russia’s commissioner for human rights, Tatyana Moskalkova, over the case. On March 17, Isteiev’s 18th birthday, she accused the authorities of “fabricating” the chargest against her two sons.
“I’m asking anyone who can help, please help me see my sons alive and in good health,” she said.
The mother and father later fled Chechnya after police forced the father to waive his right to counsel.
We’ll update you as the story continues.