Post submitted by former HRC Digital Media Manager Helen Parshall
Today, a gay refugee from Chechnya and the executive director of Rainbow Railroad — a Canadian-based international organization that helps LGBTQ individuals facing persecution due to state-sponsored homophobia escape to safety — joined HRC in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with the White House and State Department to address the ongoing crimes against humanity occurring in Chechnya. At this time, there are confirmed reports of abductions, detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and deaths targeting more than 200 gay and bisexual men in the country.
The Chechen refugee shared his story of escaping persecution after being kidnapped from his place of work, tortured in an abandoned building for several weeks and forced to provide names of other gay men in the country.
Rainbow Railroad has been working closely with the Russian LGBT Network to help numerous individuals with similar stories escape Chechnya. It is one of the only organizations in the world providing this type of direct assistance to LGBTQ refugees. Since news of the atrocities in Chechnya broke more than a year ago, the organization has provided direct travel assistance and negotiated safe travel for 57 individuals affected by the violence. It has also worked with the Canadian government and other countries to help with direct assistance by way of emergency visas. In 2017, Rainbow Railroad helped over 200 people from 14 different countries find safety.
During meetings today, the Chechen refugee, Rainbow Railroad's Executive Director Kimahli Powell and HRC Global Director Ty Cobb made the case the U.S. government must advocate for an investigation into the crimes against humanity that are being committed in Chechnya, hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions and open the U.S. border to survivors
2017 marked the most serious crisis for international human rights and democracy in decades, according to the nonpartisan watchdog Freedom House, due in large part to the Trump-Pence Administration’s failure to maintain the United States’ long held international status “as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy.”
In March, HRC released a letter from HRC President Chad Griffin to Donald Trump calling on him to end his deafening silence on the ongoing anti-LGBTQ crimes against humanity in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
HRC calls on the U.S. government to listen to stories like those of gay and bisexual Chechens, to condemn anti-LGBTQ violence around the world and to support survivors seeking safe haven within its borders.
** For safety concerns, the Chechen refugee is not featured in any of these photos.