Report: Russians Capture, Return Two Gay Chechens to Brutal Anti-LGTBQ Regime

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 5, 2021

Two gay Chechen men that had been smuggled out of the notoriously anti-LGBTQ region reportedly found little safety in the Russian city to which they had been transported. A chilling story in The Moscow Times says that the men were captured by Russian police and handed back to Chechen authorities

Referencing reports from Russian's LGBT Network, the newspaper said that the network "had helped the two men, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, flee from Chechnya and relocate to the city of Nizhny Novgorod some 400 kilometers east of Moscow in June 2020.

"According to their lawyer, Magamadov and Isayev had been arrested and tortured by Chechen special police in April 2020 for running an opposition Telegram channel and were later forced to record a video apology," The Moscow Times added.

But on Feb. 4, according to posts from the LGBT Network, the men were snatched from their apartment in Novgorod.

"Around 3 pm, one of the men called David Isteev, Emergency Assistance Coordinator of the Russian LGBT Network," the Network's post recounted: "Isteev heard screaming in the background."

The Network sent a lawyer named Alexander Nemov to the men's apartment; arriving about half an hour after the call was made, Nemov found the apartment empty but saw indications that a struggle had occurred there.

Neighbors said they had seen police wearing "black uniforms" in the building. The Network theorized that these were OMON members, the Russian equivalent of a SWAT team.

Nemov filed a missing persons report with the police, at which point, the Network post said, "he found out that Magamadov and Isayev were detained by the local law enforcement officers and passed to the Chechen police.

"At the moment, the Chechen law enforcement is driving Magomadov and Isayev to Gudermes, Chechen Republic," the Network added ominously.

"Multiple reports of mass detentions, abductions, torture and human rights abuses against gay men in Chechnya have surfaced in recent years," the Moscow Times noted, going on to add that the region's strongman leader, Ramzan Kadryov, "denies the reports" that gay men are being rounded up, imprisoned, and even murdered.

Furthermore, the Moscow Times recalled, Kadryov denies "the existence of LGBT people altogether in the predominantly Muslim region" of Chechnya.

Last summer, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Chechnya, citing reports of "torture and extrajudicial killings."

The so-called rainbow railroad has helped gay men escape Chechnya, with some of them heading to Europe. Other regions in Russia, while perhaps easier to reach, may not necessarily be safe; Russia's laws and society have become increasingly anti-LGBTQ in recent years.

Chechnya's purported campaign of anti-LGBTQ violence and terror, and the LGBT Network's efforts to usher gay Chechens to safety, has also been reported in last year's acclaimed David France documentary "Welcome to Chechnya."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.