Killed for Being Gay
There are many countries around the world where gay men have to hide who they are — the alternative could be death.
It’s taken a while for the persecution of gay men in Chechnya to be verified — at first it seemed so implausibly barbaric that I think most media outlets assumed it was some sort of hoax. But it seems to now be generally accepted that the government of Chechnya — a semi-autonomous region within the control of Russia — has embarked on some sort of purge of gay men.
Reports indicate that at least 300 men have been detained because they are believed to be gay. There have been allegations of torture — beatings, starvation, electric shocks. It’s reported that at least four men have been killed as a result of this purge. President Ramzan Kadyrov has been reported as saying that he wants all gay men eliminated from Chechnya by the start of Ramadan — 26 May 2017. There’s evidence that at least six designated detention centres — described by some as concentration camps — have been established for the purpose.
Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for President Kadyrov, has been quoted as saying that gay men “simply do not exist” in Chechnya. He’s been quoted as saying that: “If there were such people in Chechnya, their relatives would send them somewhere from whence they could not return.” It’s reported that men who are being detained as part of the current purge are being forced to promise to leave Chechnya and never return, with the threat that they will be killed if they don’t leave.
The threat being faced by gay men in Chechnya is horrific. But it’s not unusual. Every day there are gay men around the world that because of the geography of their birth are being persecuted, blackmailed, assaulted, killed — for being who they are, for being gay.
Remember Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni — two teenagers from Iran. The age of these boys is unclear — some sources suggest that they were aged fourteen and sixteen at the time of their arrests, and that they were executed two years after their arrests . Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were arrested at their homes in the province of Khorasan. They were publicly hanged in Edalat Square in Mashhad — a city in northeast Iran — on 19 July 2005. Prior to their execution, it’s reported that they were each given 228 lashes. There is a lot that is unclear about this case, and a number of key facts that seem to be disputed, but it seems to be accepted that Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were gay.
Remember also Jamal Nassir al-Oujan — a 15-year-old boy who lived in Syria. Jamal Nassir al-Oujan lived in the city of Mayadin in the eastern Deir ez-Zor province — territory that is controlled by the Islamic State. On 22 May 2016 he was arrested by the local police, tried by a Sharia court, and convicted of Sodomy. He was sentenced to be stoned to death. According to the ARA News service, he was executed on the afternoon of 23 May 2016. He was stoned to death in Jaradiq Square in Mayadin.
It’s worth repeating, just to let the horror of this really sink in — a 15-year-old boy was publicly killed by having stones thrown at him. He was killed as his community looked on. He was killed for being gay.
Depending on how you interpret the relevant laws, there are currently about 74 countries around the world where gay sex is illegal. Of those, there are about 13 where the punishment for being found guilty of having gay sex could be death by execution.
It seems extraordinary that we live in a world where the geography of your birth determines whether your sexuality is accepted as just part of what makes you who you are, or seen as something that’s such a threat to the natural order of things that you should be killed.
What we do know is that killing gay men won’t wipe us out. Every day, in every country around the world, a small percentage of the babies being born will grow up to realise that they’re gay. Let’s try and make sure that the world is a safer place for the gays of the future.