The sensational report by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta of mass persecution and detainment of homosexuals in Nazi-style concentration camps by the Muslim-majority Chechen government prompted calls by local Islamic theologians for “retribution” against the journalists who did the reporting.
Now, the newspaper is asking the Russian government to defend the Novaya Gazeta journalists.
Some 15,000 Muslims gathered April 3 at the central mosque in the Chechen capital, Grozny, to attend a special meeting in response to the Novaya Gazeta article, according to Meduza, the independent Russian news site, citing the publication Grozny-Inform.
A resolution was adopted declaring the journalists had “insulted the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men,” as well as their faith.
“We promise that the true instigators will be subjected to retribution, wherever and whoever they are, without statute of limitations,” the resolution read.
Novaya Gazeta’s editorial board reacted, saying, “It is obvious to us that this resolution is pushing religious fanatics to massacre journalists.”
Chechen authorities have denied the reports of persecution, and Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Friday the Russian government does “not have any reliable information about any problems in this area,” USA Today reported.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights and prominent international organizations, however, have urged the Russian government to investigate the reported abuse.
‘Secret prisons, torture’
Novaya Gazeta published an appeal Thursday demanding that Russian authorities evaluate the Islamic resolution “from [a legal] point of view” and urged them “to do everything possible to stop any actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists fulfilling their professional duties.”
Soon after the journalists’ appeal was posted, the newspaper’s website went offline temporarily, and the paper later said it possibly was the result of a cyber attack.
The paper’s statement said: “Silence and inaction in this situation make all who are able to do something, accomplices. This is why Novaya Gazeta continues to work in Chechnya. But we are very aware of a high price we can pay.”
The newspaper said the unresolved murders of colleagues Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova “serve as obvious proof” of the cost.
In early April, Novaya Gazeta reported more than 100 people had been detained in recent months in Chechnya, the southern Russian republic, on suspicion of being homosexuals.
According to the publication, detainees were kept in secret prisons, tortured and forced to denounce other homosexuals. Three people have been killed.
The Guardian newspaper of London did its own reporting that it said backed up the Novaya Gazeta report.
St. Petersburg, Russia-based homosexual-rights activists Igor Kochetkov told the London paper: “We are talking about the mass persecution of gay people, with hundreds of people kidnapped by authorities.
“This is unprecedented not only in Russia but in recent world history,” he said. “There is little doubt that we are dealing with crimes against humanity.”
The Guardian said Chechnya’s Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov pledges allegiance to Putin and a love for Russia. In return, the Kremlin turns a blind eye to human rights abuses.
The Daily Mail of London said Chechnyans were “being ordered to murder their gay relatives after they are released from sinister Nazi-style concentration camps.”
Failure to follow through with the so-called “honor killings,” the paper said, would heap “shame” and “disgrace” on the Muslim families in Chechnya.
Photos obtained by the paper showed homosexuals who were reported to have been imprisoned covered in bruises.