LGBTQ advocates protested Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin just days after a survivor of Chechnya’s anti-gay purge was kidnapped.
In a message projected on the side of Finland’s presidential palace, the Human Rights Campaign blasted Trump’s silence on attacks against LGBTQ people in the semi-autonomous Russian territory. In the 15 months since strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s government rounded up, arrested, and tortured at least 100 gay and bisexual men, the U.S. president has failed to address the ongoing crisis.
HRC urged Trump to use his position as a world leader to finally call for an end to the ongoing crisis.
“Trump and Putin: Stop the crimes against humanity in Chechnya,” the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group said in the projection. “Investigate LGBTQ persecution in Chechnya. Bring the perpetrators to justice. The whole world is watching. Silence is deadly. #EyesOnChechnya.”
Trump and Putin: Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya
Investigate LGBTQ Persecution in Chechnya.
Bring the Perpetrators to Justice
The Whole World is Watching
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 16, 2018
The action took place just days after Chechen purge survivor Zelimkhan Akhmadov was attacked and detained by a five-man vigilante mob. one of whom included his father.
On Friday the assailants reportedly descended upon Akhmadov while he was taking out the garbage. After escaping capture in April, the Russian LGBTQ Network provided him with shelter in a St. Petersburg safe house. The 20-year-old was placed on a federal wanted list following his escape, and if captured, his family intended to murder Akhmadov in an honor killing.
As he was thrown into a vehicle by his father, Akhmadov reportedly screamed for someone to intervene. However, he was able to text the Russian LGBTQ Network to inform them of his detention. “Help me,” Akhmadov said.
But after the local community organization filed a police report alerting authorities of Akhmadov’s capture, law enforcement located his whereabouts.
Akhmadov is free once more. After being beaten, threatened, extorted, and forced to out other LGBTQ people during multiple arrests by Chechen police, he initially fled to St. Petersburg last year.
Following his release, human rights watchdog groups are calling for a full investigation into the kidnapping.
“The persecution of the Chechen LGBT community is tragically far from over,” said Marc Behrendt of Freedom House in a statement “Given the lack of a credible investigation by the Russian authorities, Freedom House echoes the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution of June 27, urging the international community to press for an independent investigation into these atrocities committed by the Chechen authorities.”
But after at least four other similar kidnappings this year, the Russian LGBTQ Network alleged local police are complacent about attacks on the queer and trans community.
“It means that the Russian authorities cannot or do not want to protect the Russian citizens not only in Chechnya but also outside of Chechnya,” the group said in a statement. “The Russian authorities turn blind eyes on what is happening in Chechnya and refuse to open criminal proceedings for systematic mass detentions, tortures, and killings of people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity in 2017.”
This is unlikely to change given the failure by both Russian leaders and the U.S. to condemn the continued assaults. Kremlin officials have called allegations of anti-LGBTQ abuse as “filthy provocation” and an “April Fools Joke,” while Chechen leader Kadyrov has denied there are queer people in his territory at all.
Trump, though, did not press Putin on the issue Monday. He signaled no intention to change course on Chechnya.
Instead, the two men discussed charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election, which the U.S. president dismissed. Trump claimed he doesn’t “see any reason” why the Kremlin would have attempted to hack the servers of the Democratic Party after he himself called for Russia to hack his opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton.
The president continues to dismiss the investigation as a “witch hunt.”