Hundreds have protested near the Russian embassy in London over reports that the Chechnyan government has been arresting and torturing gay men.
The event on Thursday was organised by Pride in London and follows an open letter that the organisation sent to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling on the British government to assist the LGBT+ community in Chechnya.
The spirited crowd held up rainbow flags and placards that read, “Love is a human right”, “Defend LGBT+ rights”, and “Concentration camps are not camp”. The demonstrators shouted out “close the camps” and laid out pink flowers on the pavement in honour of the victims as cars hooted while driving past.
Also seen among the protesters were images of Russian President Vladimir Putin in makeup, which were recently banned in Russia.
“Today we are speaking out for our brothers and sisters in Russia and Chechnya… and we are saying, enough is enough! We want action!” Lord Alli, the openly gay media entrepreneur and politician, told the cheering crowd.
Michael Salter-Church, Co-chair of Pride in London, described Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chenyan leader, as a “homophobe and a misogynist”. He said that the British government must “start using its influence, not just with the Kremlin, but also the United Nations, to draw attention to this particular issue.”
According to reports by the Russian media, activists and victims themselves, secret facilities or “concentration camps” have been set up in Chechnya where more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured, with at least three killed.
The semi-autonomous republic is headed by Razman Kadyrov, a key ally of Putin who has been accused of numerous human rights violations.
His government has denied the allegations of the anti-LGBT abuse by stating that there are no gay people in Chechnya to arrest. Officials also appeared to support a policy of families murdering gay relatives as a form of “honour killings”.
It remains unclear how many victims remain in detention and how many have been killed in the brutal crackdown. The Russian LGBT network is assisting gay men in Chechnya to flee, which it described as an “evacuation”.
Amnesty International has set up a petition calling for immediate action to halt the homophobic campaign, punish the perpetrators and ensure the safety of the survivors. Sign it here.
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