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Chechens who escaped anti-gay purge speak out about the horrors they faced

Victims have told the BBC that some gay people were never found.

By Fabio Crispim

Two gay people who escaped Chechnya’s anti-gay purge have opened up about the dangers they faced because of their sexual orientation. 

A 30-year-old man referred to as Ruslan, and a 20-year-old woman called Marko spoke to BBC Russian about how they managed to escape Chechnya amidst a shocking crackdown on LGBT people allegedly ordered by the region’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Ruslan said that his family found out he was gay when his daughter-in-law discovered texts he had sent to his boyfriend of three years after borrowing his his phone.

He said his family took his passport, personal documents and phone before locking him in his room for a month. 

When he managed to escape the house, he borrowed a phone from a passerby and contacted his boyfriend, who took him to Moscow. 

He said: “In Chechnya there was a big cleansing of gays. People working for Kadyrov would target one person and through blackmail and beating would force him to surrender others. 

“Some were caught, taken to the cellars, beaten violently, others were not found. Relatives sometimes did not even look for them, as they wanted to wash away the shame.”

Those lucky enough to flee persecution from Chechnya are transported to ‘transit zones’, either in Moscow or St. Petersberg, from where they take flights out of the country, Newsweek reports.

Marko revealed that she had struggled with suicidal thoughts since she was a teenager becaus of her sexual orientation. Her family told her she was possed by demons and that she would either be killed or must “accept that she was mentally ill.” 

The 20-year-old was forced to undergo an exorcism and said she pretended to speak in different voices while faking twitches to trick her family. 

She said: “They told me directly, either you do something else, or we kill you. Even if my family does not want to kill me, there are a huge number of relatives who do and they will not stop until it’s done.” 

The news comes after LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on President Donald Trump to speak against the crimes committed against LGBT people in Chechnya.