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“If it becomes known, you are in danger, and so are those close to you.”

In late May the Human Rights Watch reported that over 100 men suspected of being gay or bisexual had been arrested in Chechnya. Many have been tortured and forced to hand over the names of others.

One gay man, who was granted an emergency visa to escape Chechnya and stay in France, has spoken about his experiences.

The man, who goes by the false name Azmad to protect his identity, told AFP:

“Gradually, gay people began to disappear. It was systematic… If it becomes known, you are in danger, and so are those close to you. People are killed over rumours there.”

Although Azmad tried to be discreet, a photo of him was discovered by police on another man’s phone. After being interrogated he decided it was too risky for him to remain in Chechnya. With the help of SOS Homophobia and Chechnya Emergency he managed to escape and he is now seeking asylum in France.

He said:

“At home, I didn’t know calm and tranquility. I am going to try to forget … become a normal man, that is, begin to live a normal life, a life that normal people live.”

Chechen authorities continue to deny that gay and bisexual men are being arrested and tortured. Russia has said it cannot find evidence of any purge. On Friday, people protested outside Russian embassies around the world. Actor Sir Ian McKellen was among those who attended the protests.

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