After months of torture in the basement of a Grozny police station, a gay Chechen man has finally fled the grip of Russia and his native country’s rabid homophobia, the North Caucasus LGBTQ+ rights group SK SOS reported Wednesday.
Rizvan Dadayev was detained by police in the summer of 2022 after he was outed by a group of local extortionists in the Chechen capital in a video distributed online, SK SOS told The Moscow Times. He hadn’t been heard from since.
The organization said Dadayev had been abused at the hands of law enforcement officials with direct ties to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has long held that “no gays” live in Chechnya. Kadyrov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is the subject of multiple U.S. sanctions for reported human rights abuses.
“Dadayev, who was detained only because of his sexual orientation, was also beaten and tortured,” SK SOS said. He was held in the police station basement from late July to mid-November 2022.
Dadayev identified the local police chief, who had a direct hand in his abuse, as the nephew of Kadyrov’s wife, Deni Aydamirov, who was appointed Chechnya’s Deputy Interior Minister in November.
It’s unclear why Dadayev was finally released from police custody after eight months in detention. While his family credits Kadyrov for intervening personally, Dadayev maintains police wanted to avoid antagonizing LGBTQ+ activists, both unlikely scenarios in a country with zero tolerance for queer people.
From his release in November 2022 up until this month, Dadayev was living “in Europe,” he told SK SOS in January, referring to elsewhere in Russia.
Russia and Chechnya – a republic in the Russian Federation – have been closely allied in their harassment of LGBTQ+ citizens from the one-time breakaway republic. In February last year, a 28-year-old gay Chechen refugee was arrested in Moscow as he tried to return to the Netherlands. He was traveling home after attending his father’s funeral.
In 2021, two young gay men who escaped from Chechnya after being tortured were caught by Russian police and returned to Chechen custody, the Russia LGBT Network reported. The pair were forced to make apology videos, among other humiliations.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up the country’s official intolerance of the LGBTQ+ community.
Acting on a request from Putin’s Ministry of Justice in November, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the international gay rights movement an “extremist organization,” paving the way for increased persecution of LGBTQ+ activists throughout Russia and abroad.
The order — which identifies an amorphous “international LGBT social movement” as an extremist threat to the country — took five hours to decide and was made in secret with no opposing arguments.
In February 2022, Moscow shut down Novaya Gazeta, the last major independent Russian newspaper, after it was accused of violating Russia’s new wartime censorship law. The outlet had reported on Chechnya’s notorious gay detention sites in 2017.