Chechnya is persecuting its gays: Here's what we can do to rise up against it
'Let’s work on something more constructive, like freeing those who are tangled in the web of deceit in Chechnya.' - Harish Iyer
There is absolute silence in our part of the world about what is happening in Chechnya. Myself included. I have been more bothered about the next call for help I receive, someone is bothered about his girlfriend’s new friend. Some are just busy and worried about catching the train, the bus, the metro on time to reach office at the perfect time. In all of this we seem to have forgotten what’s happening in Chechnya. We have turned so numb to it.
Ten years later, or twenty, or fifty, we will have some little diary that will be discovered from the ruins of Chechnya. We will then call it something painful or something dreadful or maybe, something historic – like “the diary of a little boy” who dared to dream of a life outside the closet… the little boy who had just begun celebrating the new adrenaline rush and testosterone in his late teens, only to be found and massacred slowly and painfully by Chechen authorities. If history didn’t teach us to fight a good fight against the things that are not right, what did we learn from history? Are we waiting for an Oscar Schindler when there is no limiting a tweet or a Facebook live or a blogpost?
We can’t afford this silence. We cannot afford this complacency. We cannot afford this othering on the basis of geographies. We need to stand up. We need to do all that we can with all our might to better their plight. We need to open our hearts and arms and break every wall and fence that is built across borders that divide us.
This article is my way of venting. And we all need podiums like these to vent. However, we need to go beyond venting and undertake some constructive action as well.
We need to relax our immigration norms and give LGBTIQ and perceived LGBTIQ Chechens a warm welcome without any bureaucratic hassles in our nations, which are safer. We need to write to our national heads requesting their intervention.
Let’s stop the religious diversion of the issue. Arguing about the religion of the perpetrators takes you nowhere. Let’s work on something more constructive, like freeing those who are tangled in the web of deceit in Chechnya. We need to rise up.
We need to create a rush of emails and calls to the Russian embassy against the killings of gays in Chechnya. We need to write them letters and demand that the killings stop. They are reachable on email at emb@RusEmbIndia.com and on phone on +91-11-26873799 (courtesy : www.RusEmbIndia.com).
There will be every attempt to tell us that nothing so dastardly is happening in Chechnya. It has already started. It's not like we were expecting them to admit to everything, were we? Reports as fresh as yesterday have emerged stating that the people behind this exposé of concentration camps in Chechnya are running for cover.
In this day of social media, where trolling is a full-time profession for some, it is easy to influence minds by making anything look like a popular opinion. They will allege that this is a conspiracy by the Western media. The fact that people are so afraid that they can't come out and reveal their faces will be used against them, like this video from CNN or this one from BBC.
We need to write to multinational companies, many of which have offices in Chechnya. There is an initiative by a group called Outright to urge oil companies in Chechnya to stop torturing Chechens. Click here to sign the petition.
As an Indian, do what we do best for any foreign affairs issue that requires urgent action – tweet to @SushmaSwaraj.
In fact, if you are reading this from another country, write to your respective governments — write to Justin Trudeau, write to Donald Trump, write to Angela Merkel, write to Teresa May. Don’t assume that India or the US wouldn’t do anything that is diplomatically within their means to save many lives, even if their governments are fundamentally right-wing and members of the ruling party have displayed homophobia.
The best thing to do in this social media-savvy world would be to write to the head of the Chechen republic – Ramzan Kadyrov (@kadyrov_95) He is on Instagram. Tag him. Influence him. Keep the message civil and dignified, even if you know that the actions are not.
We need to write letters and do all that we can. We don’t need to be angry all the time and give up our happy lives. But we should have this running at the back of our minds — that we are not in a happy world and that we, as people from a socially challenged community, should pick each other up. It does not matter which part of the continent our queer friend is. Let’s transcend boundaries and break walls. Let’s be the change. We need to remember that some of us are not free, until all of us are free.
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