Chechen gay man arrested in Moscow, ‘must go to the front’

LGBTQ organizations are very concerned about the arrest of a Chechen gay man, who has been living in the Netherlands since 2018. Idris Arsamikov, 28, had returned to the Russian republic of Chechnya to attend his father’s funeral, where he was repeatedly detained. On Wednesday, he was arrested again in Moscow as he tried to leave the country.

Since then, there has been no contact with Arsamikov, says Lyusi Shtein of the Russian LGBTI organization SK SOS. According to Arsamikov’s lawyer, he will be transferred to Chechnya. His fate is uncertain due to the harsh repression of LGBTI people in Chechnya, a Russian republic in the Caucasus, where the local leader Ramzan Kadyrov rules with an iron fist as Moscow’s boss.

A ‘regret video’ of Arsamikov was released tonight, in which he says his rights are respected and denies that he is gay. He also says he will soon go to the front in Ukraine. The video was clearly shot under duress, says Shtein based on his choice of words and way of speaking. “Such videos are a common practice of the Chechen authorities.”

No residence status

Arsamikov was arrested in 2017, during a targeted manhunt for gay men in Chechnya. He was tortured and eventually ‘confessed’ that he is gay. After his release, Arsamikov fled to the Netherlands, where he was given political asylum. But last year he lost his temporary residence status because of his return to Chechnya: Dutch asylum rules prescribe that someone loses his residence status when he returns to his country of origin.

According to aid organization SK SOS, Chechen refugees regularly return for funerals of close relatives. They emphasize that it is risky, but that family is very important for people in the North Caucasus.

“It is an exceptionally difficult choice that Arsamikov had to make: miss your father’s funeral or face the risk of being tortured,” says a spokesman for COC Netherlands, one of the interest groups committed to Arsamikov’s fate. Amnesty International and LGBT Asylum Support have also sounded the alarm.

Arsamikov has been detained and tortured three times since his return to Chechnya. According to his lawyer and SK SOS, it is certain that he was arrested because of his sexual orientation, although the police would have formally arrested him for a fraud case that was allegedly committed while he was not even in the country.

Witch hunt

In recent years, hundreds of LGBTI people have been arrested and tortured in Chechnya. Many die in captivity or go missing. Perpetrators of assault or killing LGBTI people often go unpunished. According to autocrat Kadyrov, homosexuality does not exist in Chechnya. Anyone who does come out of the closet should, in his eyes, be killed by his own family. Detained LGBTs are forced to reveal their circle of acquaintances by means of torture. In this way, the witch hunt can continue and more LGBT people can be arrested. This leads to strong feelings of fear among other Chechen LGBTI refugees in the Netherlands, those involved say.