We Spoke to a Gay Man Who Was Tortured in Chechnya: VICE News Tonight (HBO)

When allegations of the systematic abuse of gay men in Chechnya emerged last month, a spokesman for President Ramzan Kadyrov said the stories couldn’t be true, because there were no gay men in Chechnya.

A brutal campaign of homophobia is sweeping the Russian republic, with hundreds of men being detained, disappeared, and in at least three cases, killed.

Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first broke the story, uncovering evidence gay men were being rounded up and tortured. VICE News spoke to ‘David,’ a man in his 30s from Grozny. We’ve agreed not to use his real name because he fears what might happen if he’s identified. David was detained by police after they found messages sent to him from the phone of another man who was also suspected of being gay.

LGBT people in the deeply conservative Muslim society are in constant danger of attacks, including those carried out by relatives to protect the “honor” of a family.

Novaya Gazeta’s reporters have also faced threats and religious leaders called for retaliation against the newspaper during a meeting of 15,000 worshippers at Grozny’s main mosque in early April.

Chechnya is part of Russia, but rights group Human Rights Watch says President Kadyrov has installed a “tyranny” there, while Moscow turns a blind eye. Russian President Vladimir Putin finally ordered an investigation into the allegations after coming under pressure from the international community, and most notably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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