Domededove International Airport, Moscow: OliBac
Idris Arsamikov who fled to the Netherlands from Russia´s autonomous republic of Chechnyain 2018 because of his homosexuality was detained at Moscow´s Domodedovo airport on 17 February. He travelled to Chechnya for his father´s funeral, but was detained on his way back to the Netherlands. He was immediately but back on a plane to Chechnya, despite protests from Arsamikov’s lawyer. Human rights activists fear he will be transferred to an interior ministry department in Chechnya’s Shelkovskoy district, where he had previously been tortured for his homosexuality. The human rights organisation SK SOS, who advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in the North Caucasus expressed earlier suspicions that Chechen authorities have a large-scale fraud charge ready against Arsamikov.
Arsamikov fled in 2017 with the help of the organisation SK SOS after he was detained, beaten and tortured with elelectric shocks by Chechen authorities. In the Netherlands he was granted political asylum. According to Arsamikov, he was held in a basement where he was tortured by agents of Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime. Kadyrov, a protegé of President Putin, has cracked down on Chechnya’s LGBTQ+ community for a long time. According to Russian media, an arrest warrant had been filed against Arsamikov in Chechnya for fraud, but it is unclear exactly what he is accused of. SK SOS suspects he was arrested as part of Kadyrov’s hardline campaign against the LGBTQ+ community in Chechnya for years. According to the statement signed by the head of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Shelkovsky Disitrict of Chechnya, the security forces motivate the detention of Arsamikov by a criminal case of fraud on a particularly large scale. The investigation “suddenly appeared today”, although the statement that became the basis for the initiation of the case was written in December 2021, when Arsamikov was in the Netherlands.
After Arsamikov was detained, Arsamikov asked human rights groups to leave him alone in a much-disputed video message. According to SK SOS, everything indicates that Arsamikov made the statement under duress. Such public statements and expressions of regret by arrested LGBTQ+ are, according to the organisation, standard practice in Chechnya. “Why the hell you are interfering with my rights is beyond me. My rights are respected here in Chechnya and I am also respected here as a human being,” he said in the recording allegedly made at his home. He also announced that he wants to go to Ukraine, where his two brothers are also fighting on Russia’s side. ‘I am a patriot and will soon leave for Ukraine as well,’ he said. Arsamikov also demands that LGBTQ+ activists stop ‘insulting’ him. ‘I am a ‘moezhik’ (‘a real guy’) and I am getting married soon’.
Targeted attacks at LGBTQ+
From 2017 to 2020, Chechen security forces arrested, imprisoned and tortured more than 150 people, many of whom were gay or bisexual men. The underlying issue is that, according to the government, these men do not correspond to the heterosexual image of masculinity in Chechnya. As a result, they are systematically persecuted. For many years, the civilian population in the Chechen Autonomous Republic has suffered from severe human rights violations by government forces. In addition to these grave crimes, local organizations also documented cases of family members committing “honor killings” of LGBTQ+ people, pressured to do so by Chechen authorities. The Kremlin leaves the Kadyrov administration to it, as ties between Kadyrov and Putin are very strong.
According to Amnesty International the arrest of Arsamikov is one visualisation of the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov where numerous human rights violations are being committed, with virtually total impunity for their perpetrators, and the suppression of free speech. His human rights are being violated, as his lawyers are not even able to contact him. The European Union has accused the authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya already of ill-treatment and possible murder of the LGBTQ+ community. Arsamikov is one of the examples of the violence against queers in Russia and it is absolutely pivotal that Idris Arsamikov is released immediately, is given freedom of movement and is protected against unlawful violence.
Author: Manouk Bronzwaer