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US is denying visas for gay Russians who are being tortured and "disappearing"

Over 40 visas have been denied while gay men are forced into hiding across Russia.

By Kate Wagner
Despite shocking reports that more than 100 gay men in Chechnya have been detained in concentration-style camps, the United States has denied visas for roughly 40 gay Chechens currently in hiding.
The individuals are scattered around Russia, forced into hiding after a wave of kidnappings, torture, disappearances and murder of gay people were reported in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous region of southern Russia.
While the US State Department official declined to discuss individual visa requests, a spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Network confirmed the visa denials to Buzzfeed News.
Only two individuals have been granted access to safe countries since Leading Russian opposition newspaper Novoya Gazeta reported authorities have set up several camps in which homosexuals are killed or forced to promise they'll leave the republic.
Many Western countries, including the US, have condemned Chechnya for horrific reports that as many as several hundred men may have been abducted.
"The United States continues to be concerned about the situation in the Republic of Chechnya, where credible reports indicate at least 100 men have been detained on the basis of their sexual orientation," the State Department official said.
"Credible reports further indicate that some of those men have been tortured and even killed. The United States categorically condemns the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or any other basis."
Last month, Novoya Gazeta named three men - two television reporters and a waiter – to be killed in the camps, but said they suspected far more had been murdered.
As reported victims escape, stories of men aged between 15 and 50 tortured while detained in groups of 30 or 40 are emerging.
"They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death," Svetlana Zakharova from The Russian LGBT told MailOnline.
One of those who escaped told Novoya Gazeta the beatings were also inflicted to reveal other members of the gay community – a search reportedly also conducted by officers pretending to be gay men looking for dates on social networking sites.
The men never demonstrated their sexual orientation publicly, for "in the Caucasus, this is equal to a death sentence".
"In Chechnya, the command was given for a 'prophylactic sweep' and it went as far as real murders," Novaya Gazeta reported.
A spokesman for Chechnya's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, dismissed the claims as "absolute lies and disinformation" – but with a chilling justification.
"You cannot arrest or repress people who just don't exist in the republic," the spokesman, Alvi Karimov, said.
"If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return."
In regards to family members killing gay men, Karimov may well be correct.
In 2009, President Kadyrov defended the honour killings of seven young women with "loose morals" in Chechnya.
"If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed," Kadyrov told journalists.
"No national and/or religious traditions and norms can justify kidnapping or killing of a human being. Any references to "traditions" to justify kidnappings and killings are amoral and criminal," The Russian LGBT said.
While the men may hope to escape to more tolerant cities in Russia, the country is hardly known for its acceptance of LGBTIQ individuals.
In 2013, Russia enacted a 'gay propaganda law' which makes it illegal to provide information to children about homosexuality. The law meant lesbian music teacher Alevtina was fired for "immoral behaviour incompatible with pedagogical activities", and saw ILGA-Europe rank Russia the least protective country in Europe for LGBT citizens.
Unlike countries that have slowly become more accepting of homosexual relationships, a 2015 Associated Press poll found that Russians' tolerance of gays had plummeted in recent years.
Of those surveyed, 51 per cent did not want a gay neighbour – a number up from 38 per cent in 2012.
A Pew Research Centre survey across 39 countries in 2013 also found Russia to be staunchly anti-gay, with 74% believing homosexuality should not be accepted by society.
The same survey found only 3% of Indonesians thought society should accept homosexuality.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that two men face up to 100 lashes after they were allegedly caught having sex in Indonesia's Aceh providence, where gay sex is criminalised.
In 2016, 339 people were lashed in the region which has special legal status to insert Sharia bylaws into the criminal code, meaning they can be enforced against Muslims and non-Muslims.
Those lashed last year included people accused of gambling and unmarried men and women alone together.
We can only hope international governments step up and intervene on atrocities committed against an individual for their sexual orientation.
After the atrocities of the Second World War, we promised never again - we can't let this part of history repeat itself.