Tag Archives: Freedom from religion

Chechen lesbians: murdered, abused and assaulted just like the gay men

This is a translation of an article by Ilya Panin at the Aids Centre Russia. The article is located here and IP for the original article is fully retained by the original writer. A condensed version of the original article is also produced on the original site.

Translation was undertaken by Phil S and we thank her for her generous support.

In Moscow on the 10th February, on the day of human rights, human rights advocates presented “a report on the results of the amount of violence received by lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in the Northern Caucasus in the Russian Federation.” Aids.center is publishing the proceedings, as well as the discussion with a Chechen lesbian about the proceedings with LGBT people in the Russian Caucasus.

The presentation of the report was carried out in complete secrecy: the centre of Moscow, a basement room. Such scenes are more suited to signing secret protocols and journalists have been asked not to name the place where the presentation took place, nor the authors of the study, in their notes, nor their names – the organizers seriously fear for their own lives.  And they have reason to fear – one of the female respondents, whose evidence was used for the document, recently died. In the village, where she lived, they said that she “poisoned herself”. One still hasn’t been in touch.

There still exists a serious stigmatisation of LGBT people in Russian society, especially in the North Caucasus republic, where the situation deepens with traditional and religious aspects.

Queer women of the caucasus 1

Illustration 1 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
The violence suffered from law enforcement officers
Physical: 14%, sexual: 10%, psychological: 38%

 

In 2017 the leading Russian media published material detailing the kidnappings, violence and torturing of gay men in Chechnya, they mentioned practically nothing about LGBT women: “the first wave of treatment was against men. The treatment of women remained invisible,” one authors states.

In total, twenty-one residents from Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia took part in the study. One of them was a transgender woman. Five more, who were contacted by researchers, refused to participate.

Not leaving the accommodation, we speak to Kamilla, not her real name, but she asks to call herself this. A Chechen woman, she was born not far from Grozny. In a village which she has asked us not to publish. She has already lived in Moscow for 2 years.

Queer women of the caucasus 2

Illustration 2 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
33% attempted suicide –
copyright “Queer Women in Northern Caucasus” project 2018 funded by Genrich Bellya (Moscow)

 

Short hair, sports jacket, leggings. She speaks very quietly, her lips tightly pursed. She’s a lesbian and the only member of the study daring to talk to the reporters in person.

“In Grozny, my friends and I had our own small community of ‘non-traditional orientation’. We met in a flat, we hung out together. It’s not like we were drinking, we would simply simple and talk. Talk quietly. Now 70-80% of the guys and girls have left the republic. Only those with children and families have stayed,” she says. “The police came for some of those who stayed, but they were released in exchange for bribes. No one admitted to what they “are”, because if we admitted it, they would simply kill us. So, it’s a miracle that we were saved. People collected money, brought it to the flat, as a ransom. Then they ran.”

 

Queer women of the caucasus 3

Illustration 3 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
The outing and coming out of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in their families in the Northern Caucasus
“My brother came home from work and started to look for me. He found me with a girl. We were walking in the street. He started to brutally beat me, he beat me on the head, on my face…in the street. My cousin (male) took me home. My brother said that he would kill me, take me to the outskirts of the city and simply kill me there. I was a shame to the family and a constant problem” (CH. R)
38% told us of honour killings of their relatives and (female) friends

 

The Guardians of Islam

Kamilla is now around 35 years old. 29% of those surveyed during the study stated that they had suffered from sexual violence. Researchers in these situations shared the sexual violence in their families and with their spouse. Kamilla escaped this. But she did not escape the loneliness and isolation that many homosexual women face upon leaving their familial home.

“I can’t cut ties with my mother, because we are very close,” Kamilla says so quietly, that you can barely make out the words. “During my time here, I have even gone home to see her twice. I miss her. I haven’t come out. But my mum always sees my way of life: that I socialise with girls. She has never insisted that I stop all this, only got upset, that I don’t live like everyone else. My (female) cousins got married long ago, they had several children, even those younger than me. It upsets her. The male half, of course, knows nothing.”

“No one admitted to what they ‘are’, because if we admitted it, they would simply kill us”

Due to the specific way of life and risks associated with it, ‘coming out’ is rarely done in North Caucasus.  More often, there is an ‘outing’ when an acquaintance, former partner, relative or neighbour tells others about the “non-traditional” sexual preferences or gender identity of someone.

Only one women from those who agreed to talk to researchers came out to her family, but her fate is now unknown: she went missing after a while and all contact has been lost.

“When people are outed, they become outcasts. The family tries to influence them, either physically or morally. Life after this in the Republic is not an option. In every case, you need to leave,” Kamilla verifies. We speak right in the corner of the room, in a safe space, where no one can find us, there are only a few people in the room. But even in this setting, distrust and tension can be felt.

“When I came to study and work in Grozny, my brother blamed me for not living with my mum in my hometown, but I was always bored with my classmates. At this point, I started to become friends with girls through the internet and to travel to a friend in the neighbouring republic.”

Queer women of the caucasus 4

Illustration 4 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
24% victims of religious torture
38% witnesses of honour killings of their relatives, friends, acquaintances

 

The more I tried living on my own, the more pressure and threats I received. In Chechnya, it is believed that the male half of the father’s line is responsible for the girl. The same nephews or cousins on the father’s side.

“Now I’m trying to leave the country, I’m waiting for a response. But as far as I know, they can also reach me abroad,” Kamilla continues, carefully choosing her words, “it happened to my friend, they even wrote about him in the paper, he got to know some Chechens online, went on a date, and they turned out to be “Guardians of Islam” and pushed him into a car. Thankfully, he wasn’t a Chechen, but from a neighbouring republic. Otherwise everything could have ended badly, and so he was released.”

 

Undercover marriage

As a rule, underlined by the authors of the report, after relatives learn that a member of the family belongs to the LGBT community, the family is considered to be ‘disgraced’. The purity of the reputation happens through “honour killings”, a practise which is still carried out in Northern Caucasus. 38% of the respondents who participated in the study said that they had not only heard of “honour killings” but personally knew acquaintances or (female) friends who had been killed in this way “due to behaviour that disgraces the family.”

Queer women of the caucasus 5

Illustration 5 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
The outing and coming out of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in their families in the Northern Caucasus
“One of them said that I needed a “purifying of demonic blood” ritual. To do this, my parents pierced the skin of my back with needles, and made small outlines on my arms and legs. They took such a thing…a vacuum, to get the blood. After this I was put in a bath with very salty water and I had to lie there” (CH R)
Undergoing the practice of “chasing out of Djinns” – 24%

 

Forced marriage is an alternative form of “purifying the reputation”. Of the respondents, nine admitted that they were or had been in forced marriages. Seven of the eight women who had gone through a forced marriage, said that their marriage took place after their outing. That is, after relatives received confirmation of their sexual orientation from third parties: for example, through correspondence or personal photographs.

However, events do not always take such a serious turn. Needles to say, open marriage between LGBT people in the Caucasus is forbidden. But family-imposed marriages with the “right” husband can be both a form of punishment and salvation, often being the only way a woman can live relatively normally, without arousing suspicion.

“I still have a tense relationship with my relatives, they believe that I need to come home and get married. I was proposed to not once but twice. They gave out my number, sent grooms,” Kamilla recounts her personal life.

“In the event of an outing, the person becomes an outcast. The family tries to influence them, either physically or morally. Living in the Republic after this is not an option. You need to leave in any situation.”

“To those who are sent, I can’t respond sharply or rudely, as I don’t want to arouse suspicion. There’s technology. We need to break contact slowly with these young men. It’s stressful, of course. But it could be worse. There are families where a father and brother have ordered it, and the girl cannot get out, because a girl must submit to an adult. That’s not happened to me,” she explains.

“Undercover marriage” is a fictitious marriage which often takes place between a homosexual man and woman, so that they can appear to their parents as a “fully-fledged” traditional family.

“I attempted this,” Kamilla says, “we met through the internet. He knew everything about me, I wasn’t against it. In time we became friends. Fictitious marriage is a saviour for women. She can’t go anywhere alone, she can’t travel alone, and she can’t live alone. Men, if they’re not suspected of being gay, have more possibilities to move. But if there are suspicions that the guy isn’t like everyone else, that he isn’t interested in the opposite sex, that there are no dates, it’s not so easy…rumours spread quickly. That’s why they try to marry, to reassure the family. My marriage didn’t happen because at the very last moment the guy got HIV.”

Such legalised forms of relationships give a feeling of security, the authors of the report say, however, patriarchal foundations often hit and this is a fact in a fictitious marriage. Not only heterosexual men but also gay and bisexual men continue to try to completely control their wives, using violent practises, despite the forced and feigned nature of the partnership itself.

Queer women of the caucasus 6

Illustration 6 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
Psychological condition of LGBT women, having lived through violence and hate speech
29% self-harm
43% suicidal thoughts
33% attempt suicide

 

Fear of Djinns

It may seem strange that in traditional Caucasus society the practise of “chasing out the Djinns” is still carried out, it is customary to ‘correct’ or ‘heal’ LGBT people through rites of exorcism.

Researchers explain that even parents with a higher education often converse with “specialists on chasing out Djinns.” Moreover, women themselves often believe in the diabolical essence of their desires: a “male djinn” living inside them and the like. The process of expelling the Djinns, after their sexual orientation had been discovered by relatives, had been suffered by 5 out of 21 respondents.

In general, the authors of the report underline that the stigma, the general atmosphere of fear in which homosexual in the Caucasus live, often doesn’t allow them to seek help in time, even in situations of mortal danger. 100% of the respondents in this study claimed to have experienced both physical and psychological violence.

Queer women of the caucasus 7

Illustration 7 from “the report on violence against queer women of the Caucasus”

Illustration translation:
The outing and coming out of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in their families in the Northern Caucasus
“My brother sat next to me on his knees, he gave me a pistol…he was crying, I swear, he was crying and he was saying, “I gave father my word that I would not kill you. I beg you, shoot yourself, and just shoot yourself!” and…like a zombie, I went up to him and I gave the pistol to him and I said “you want it, so kill me yourself. I’m not going to shoot myself.” And he said, “If you kill yourself, all this will end, we will tell people that it was an accident” (Ch.P) 

14% survived a direct order to commit suicide.

 

“Even if this report doesn’t change anything and nothing else happens, it’s important that we share it, it’s important that you hear us,” Kamilla concludes towards the end of our conversation, “it’s important that there are people with whom we can just share this with. Someone we can trust. In our region, we know about violence, we have nowhere to turn to, there are Russian laws, but nobody complains about the fact that they’re not complied to. It’s a completely different world there. In traditional families, the person must either live with their relatives or have their own family. Otherwise you will be alone, an outcast, and most of us simply do not have the freedom of choice. What we can wear, who we can talk to, how we can live and in which city, with a male or female partner. Women must be women, men must be men, and everyone has their responsibility. But, nevertheless, I dream of having the freedom to choose”

For the first few days after the presentation, the authors didn’t publish the report online, fearing for their own safety. Today, it went out on an overseas site. Unfortunately, to date, those who are at risk of being exposed are not only those who do not fit into the “traditional” ideas according to local customs, but also human rights activists, researchers and journalists covering “uncomfortable topics”, often beyond the law, discussing the lives of the people there.
The Caucasus.
Where human rights do not exist.

Original Russian article: https://spid.center/ru/articles/2223 (Source)

 

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National police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and President Joko Widodo at Karnavian’s inauguration in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 13, 2016.
 
© 2016 Reuters

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chechnya_ramzan_kadyrov

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A Room of Our Own
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Victoria Brownworth
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