Toronto charity helping persecuted LGBTQ community in Chechnya

Toronto charity helping persecuted LGBTQ community in Chechnya
WATCH ABOVE: Rainbow Railroad is calling on the Canadian government to facilitate emergency visas for people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation. Lama Nicolas reports.

A human rights crisis is unfolding in Chechnya with numerous reports of alleged raids targeting the LGBTQ community.

“We have reports of about 200 people have been detained in multiple camps. There are reports of people being beaten, tortured and even murdered,” Kimahli Powell, executive director of Rainbow Railroad told Global News.

A few Chechen men shared their stories in a Facebook video by Human Rights First entitled #EyesOnChechnya.

“They stripped me naked, one filmed me on his cell phone… Three of them beat me up.. They kicked me, broke my jaw,” a man said.

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“They attached the wires of the stun gun to me,” said another.

“It’s either hide like rats and or be killed, it’s not a life anyone would want,” Bassel McLeash, who recently immigrated here from Syria and was helped by Rainbow Railroad, told Global News. He said he can relate to men in Chechnya because he said his life in Syria was censored.

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McLeash said he couldn’t be openly gay and would have to meet others underground, after hours and away from the heavy hand of the law.

“If you’re a homosexual, you will be sentenced to one to three years to jail,” he said.

“Here I’m able to clearly say, ‘Yes I’m gay, yes I am what I am.'”

READ MORE: Canada should offer emergency visas to gay men from Chechnya: LGBT group

According to Rainbow Railroad, there are 73 countries with anti-gay laws on the books.

The Canadian charity is helping those who are being persecuted in Chechnya.

“At the moment, people are fleeing Chechnya to a safer place but not an ideal place,” Powell said.

“Let us be clear, this is happening to people all the time and we shouldn’t just act when we hear media reports that capture our attention. This is an ongoing struggle for people all over the world.”

READ MORE: Leaving home a choice between life or death for some LGBT refugees

There are about 30 people who escaped Chechnya into Russia.

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“Through as many diplomatic means possible, the Canadian government has a unique to show the world it’s a leader on LGBTQ rights and helping people at risk by facilitiating emergency visas,” Powell said.

During a stop in Toronto, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen was asked about the situation in Chechnya.

“In terms of what we can do to assist those individuals we’re examining a number of options and we are not able to go into detail,” he said.

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The Foreign Affairs minister previously issued this statement:

“We call on the Russian authorities to thoroughly investigate these reports and to immediately ensure the safety of all persons in Chechnya who may be at risk due to their sexual orientation.”

According to a British foreign minister, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov plans to eliminate the country’s gay community by the start of Ramadan in May.

READ MORE: Gay Syrian refugee relieved to be in Canada after facing dire threats at home

“Statements by the regional government in Chechnya which appear to condone and incite violence against LGBT people are utterly despicable,” Alan Duncan, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the House of Commons in London.

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Kadyrov said these reports are fake and claims that no gay men live in his state, therefore making it impossible to arrest them.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is no reliable information to launch an investigation.