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LGBTQ/The Netherlands

Torture, statements under pressure, disappearance. How Idris Arsamikov from the Netherlands ended up with the Chechen security forces


The story of the kidnapping of a gay man, Idris Arsamikov, who returned to Chechnya from the Netherlands to attend his father's funeral, has shaken the international community.

Media Loft correspondent Katya Kobenok spoke to Aleksandra Miroshnikova, a spokeswoman for the SOS Crisis Group, which is working hard to get Idris out of the hands of Chechen law enforcers.

Arsamikov was detained without reason at Domodedovo airport in mid-February. The young man, who fled Russia several years ago despite the huge risks, came to the country for his father's funeral.

Idris had already been detained and tortured near Grozny in 2018 over his intimate relationship with a man. SC SOS then helped Idris escape from Russia to the Netherlands. Incidentally, the same operative who tortured him last time was the one to apprehend the young man in Domodedovo.

Snapshot of the arrest of Idris Arsamikov

Arsamikov is now with relatives in Chechnya. He recently appeared in a video where he utters the following text: "You, especially the LGBTQ+ people, I very much ask you to leave me alone with your attempts to protect my rights. Why the hell you are meddling in my rights, I don't understand. Here in Chechnya they value my rights and respect me as a human being, but you're making a big deal out of this. I'm a man, I'm going to get married soon.

In the same video Idris declared that he intended to go to war in Ukraine.

Human rights activists in SC SOS believe that Idris made the statements under pressure.

"The rhetoric, choice of words, backstory and similar instances suggest that he was asked to record the video because of public outcry. To reduce the degree of public pressure, the security forces probably let Idris go home with the condition of recording the video. Such public 'repentances' in an attempt to whitewash the authorities are a common practice in Chechnya," reads a statement in the group's Telegram channel.

Arsamikov has not been in touch since then.

SC SOS received an anonymous message through a Telegram bot in which a man who introduced himself as Idris said he had escaped. No further messages have been received.

Human rights activists fear that the message was taken down under the control of security forces, who thus absolved themselves of responsibility for the young man's disappearance in advance.

Wopke Hoekstra, foreign minister of the Netherlands, the country where Arsamikov lived for more than four years, reacted to Idris' abduction:

"I am deeply concerned about the fate of Idris Arsamikov, who was arrested at Domodedovo airport and handed over to the authorities from Grozny. The Netherlands calls on the Russian government to guarantee his safety and human rights."

LGBTQ+ people from Chechnya need support

The problems of sexual minorities from Russia fleeing persecution should receive increased attention from the international community, says Alexandra Miroshnikova.

"Of course, LGBTQ+ people from Chechnya need support, and the critical situation in the North Caucasus needs publicity. The more the international community pays attention to such cases, talks about them and puts all kinds of pressure on the Russian government and the authorities in Chechnya, the more chances for a happy resolution of such situations."

The problem of LGBTQ+ people in Russia "has an institutional character," meaning that the authorities do not prevent or sometimes encourage such persecution, Miroshnikova said.

"We are talking about persecution and murders of LGBTQ+ people at the regional level with the encouragement of the federal authorities. But even in such a deplorable situation, publicity and pressure can make the situation of LGBTQ+ persons a little better," says the human rights activist.

The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBTQ+  Rights recently issued a statement calling for the immediate release of Arsamikov. MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo said the EU should use any diplomatic links to demand Idris' release. His colleague Malin Björk observed that the persecution of LGBTQ+ minorities in Chechnya has been the policy of the republic since at least 2017.

Jean-Marc Burton, France's special representative for LGBTQ+ rights, commented on Idris' situation, saying Paris "calls for respect for the safety and fundamental rights" of Idris Arsamikov.

"Unsolicited advice"

In Russia, international law as a whole has taken on the character of a non-binding recommendation or "even unsolicited advice", Miroshnikova said.

"The authorities treat international jurisdictions this way. This does not mean, however, that international organisations have no leverage left - the Russian authorities want to still be seen as a civilised part of society, so pressure and appeals still affect the situation and especially private cases."

SOS IC and the Committee against Torture sent two separate appeals to the UN about Arsamykov. In them, the human rights activists say that the requests will not oblige the Russian government to do anything, "but they can encourage the Russian authorities to follow up on Arsamikov's fate." Alice Edwards, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, received the first appeal. The second went to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances.

"For people from the North Caucasus, family has a sacred meaning"

Idris was first stopped by the Moscow law enforcers and then handed over to the Chechen law enforcers. This is a violation of the rules of operation of law-enforcement agencies in Russia.

"This situation shows, above all, a violation of normal operating mechanisms, when local law enforcement officers are guided not by their own regulations but by instructions from another region," said Miroshnikova.

However, this is not the first time such a situation has happened, the human rights activist said.

"Unfortunately, officers regularly act not in accordance with the law, but in collusion with Chechen law enforcers," she said.

Arsamikov returned to Moscow for his father's funeral, despite the danger posed by Chechnya.

"For natives of the North Caucasus, family has a sacred meaning, the defendants understand the risks, but they return anyway, for them family ties are the most important thing, sometimes they put them above their safety," Miroshnikova explained.

Human rights activists and the media draw parallels between Arsamikov and Zarema Musayeva's detention. Musayeva, the wife of federal judge Saidi Yangulbayev, was abducted by Chechen law enforcers from her flat in Nizhny Novgorod in early 2022. The authorities have opened a criminal case against her - there was allegedly violence against one of the law enforcers.

"Both cases involve illegal kidnapping, and in both situations local law enforcement officers acted in collusion with Chechen law enforcers," Miroshnikova said.

Back in 2017, Novaya Gazeta reported on the mass persecution of gays in Chechnya. At the same time, people interviewed in the republic claimed that they had long been aware of the massacres of LGBTQ+ people in the region. If the actions of human rights defenders do not succeed, Idris Arsamikov will become one of the many people of non-traditional orientation who have mysteriously disappeared in Chechnya after recording a staged penitential video.

By: Katya Kobenok
Cover photo: SC SOS