Chechen authorities are torturing women from the country’s LGBT community, with some victims subjected to rape with the electric shock stick, the Russian LGBT Network said Monday. This follows recent reports that gay men in Chechnya were being targeted.
Calling the purge “more violent and cruel” than ever before, the activist group said it was evacuating people from the Russian autonomous region following multiple claims of violence and arrests.
The network said last week that two Chechens had died following torture and a further 40 had been detained since the crackdown began in late December.
In some cases, the victims’ travel documents were reportedly seized and destroyed.
“Not only men but also women are tortured. The detained are raped with the electric shock stick,” the group said in an emailed statement. “All men are closely cropped, they are forced to use women’s wear and called women’s names.”
One survivor told the network: “They did not feed us. Sometimes they gave us some water, dirty water that was left after mopping. They gave us clean water only for prayer.”
The victims are being detained in at least two locations: Argun, where over 100 gay men were detained in 2017, and a police station in the Zavodskoy district of Grozny, according to Igor Kochetkov, program director of the Russian LGBT Network.
“Once again, it proves that all the detentions, tortures and murders are committed by the law enforcement officers,” Kocketkov added.
In 2017, Chechen authorities were widely condemned after they rounded up over 100 men and tortured them reportedly leading to multiple deaths.
One campaigner told The Daily Beast that Chechen authorities “demanded that relatives punish their gay family members by executing them.”
“We have heard dozens of stories from Chechens who we helped about local government officials ordering relatives to execute their family members… these so-called ‘murders of dignity’ are popular in Chechnya,” the campaigner said.
Russian authorities have consistently denied claims of torture and murder of LGBT people in Chechnya, despite leader Ramzan Kadyrov publicly claiming that homosexuals are “not people” and should be removed in order to “purify” the blood of the region.
“Considering the fact that [gay people] have sick imagination to start from, I am not surprised that they can write nonsense like that,” Dzhambulat Umarov, the Chechen Minister of National Policy, told The Daily Beast when asked about authorities asking families to murder their gay relatives.
However, Kadyrov’s administration has previously advocated for just such an approach.
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” Kadyrov spokesman Alvi Karimov told Interfax. “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
Amnesty International has launched a petition calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “investigate these reports and to ensure that anyone found guilty or complicit in these crimes is brought to justice.”
Cover image: Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russias Chechnya region, arrives to attend a session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, June 19, 2015. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.