Wednesday, January 16, 2019


The reports of the activists: On 14 January, the Russian LGBT Network, a non-governmental LGBT rights organization working for the social acceptance and protection of the LGBT people in Russia, stated that there has been a new crackdown against gay people in Chechnya. Their statement has been reported by several major news broadcasters and newspapers, including the CNN, BBC and The Guardian. The Russian LGBT Network believes that about 40 people have been imprisoned since December 2018 – and that two of them died under torture. Activists affirmed that the people arrested are currently detained in a semi-legal facility near Argun - a town 20km from the city of Grozny. The government spokesman has dismissed their latest report as "complete lies". 

Fig. 1: The LGBT flag

A history of discrimination started in 2013: If confirmed, these events will follow another report about brutal attacks on gay men and women in Chechnya in 2017, when hundreds of men were allegedly held and tortured in detention. The suspicions about the government and its violence led to international outrage and sanctions against the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who denied issuing an order for the crackdown. In late 2017, Kadyrov was targeted by the US Magnitsky Act for supporting “extrajudicial killings” and an “anti-gay purge”. The Act, also known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, authorizes the US government to sanction human rights offenders, freezing their assets, and ban them from entering the American soil. 
The violations in Russia throughout the years are said to have been sparked by a "gay propaganda" measure signed by President Putin in 2013 into federal law. Human Rights Watch said it had "a deeply damaging effect on LGBT children" and "contributed to an intensification of stigma, harassment, and violence against LGBT people in Russia." The discriminations following Putin’s signature led the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to publish, in December 2018, a report documenting wide scale rights violations in Chechnya. Condemning the extrajudicial arrests, torture and killing of LGBT+ people, the report is now opening up the possibility of future prosecutions in the International Criminal Court. 

Giulia Mizzon 


· The Russian LGBT Network is the front line of efforts to protect at-risk Chechens. The group provides psychological support and organises evacuation to safer Russian regions and abroad. 

· Read this article if you are interested and want to know more. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Looking for freedom in Asia

The story: Saudi Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18 years old, was on vacation in Kuwait with her family. Without her parents knowing, she took a plane and tried to flee to Australia. She had renounced Islam, and she was afraid of her family, of her country, and for her life. As soon as she arrived to the airport in Bangkok, Thailand, to take a connection flight, she was held by Saudi embassy officials and had her passport confiscated. She asked for the protection of Thai immigration officials, which escorted her to a transit hotel. She then barricaded herself inside and posted several pictures saying she was seeking refugee status from any country that would protect her from getting harmed or killed due to leaving her religion. Her Twitter account attracted more than 50,000 followers in less than 48 hours and her story grabbed the attention of foreign governments as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which eventually granted her the refugee status. Al-Qunun's case reached the international community thank to a global social media campaign started by her supporters and human rights activists (using the hashtag #saverahaf), who are trying to urge the authorities in Thailand not to deport the teen back. The incident happens as Saudi Arabia faces scrutiny over the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Saudi Arabia and women’s rights: In Saudi Arabia, apostasy laws make it illegal for a Muslim to change his or her religion or to renounce Islam. The country adheres to strict interpretations of Sunni Islam, and has a long history of preventing women from taking on a larger role in society. Male guardians have the power to decide whether they can marry and get divorce, travel or get a job. Moreover, Saudi women who flee their families can face serious harm from relatives, especially if returned against their will. However, there has been encouraging news from Saudi Arabia in the past year, which leaves room for hope. In June 2018, Saudi Arabia issued driving licences to women for the first time in decades, just weeks before a ban on female drivers was lifted. On Sunday 6 January 2019, Saudi courts were enabled by the government to notify women by text message when they get divorced, in a new regulation aiming at ending the many cases of men secretly ending marriages without informing their wives.

Giulia Mizzon