The Prowler

We Must Help Gay People in Chechnya

Activists in Saint Petersburg protest human rights violations in Chechnya.

Activists in Saint Petersburg protest human rights violations in Chechnya.

Nevsky Prospect, Saint Petersburg

Nevsky Prospect, Saint Petersburg

Activists in Saint Petersburg protest human rights violations in Chechnya.

Noam Haykeen, Prowler Columnist

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Bullet after bullet, in a bloody nightmare, my grandfather witnessed Jews getting shot because of their faith. He observed the dark, disgusting evil in Nazis’ eyes. Stripped of his dignity, he was forced out of his home. He was placed on a train — without food, water or restrooms. The train had one small hole on its top to supply air for hundreds. Many died before even arriving at the camp.

As a Jew, I am taught to abide by the words “never again.” Since my grandfather suffered through one of the greatest tragedies in human history, the Holocaust, I am obligated to stand up for those facing injustice.

Late last month, the world commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day — honoring the 11 million, including 6 million Jews, who perished in the face of wickedness. Out of respect for those lives lost, it is vital to discuss the atrocity happening in Chechnya, Russia.

In 2017, The New York Times reported that 100 gay men were arrested in Chechnya. They were electrocuted and beaten, and three did not survive.

For the first time since the days of Hitler, there are active concentration camps targeting homosexuals in Eastern Europe. Maxim Lapunov, one of the individuals cruelly taken to one of the camps, has reportedly expressed that he was abused to the extent that he was forced to fight his own partner.

According to the Russian Newspaper Novaya Gazeta people in the camps are ultimately killed or forced to leave the region. Also, men are tortured to reveal others in the community who are gay. And the Russian government is directly involved.

Putting myself in these people’s situation is practically impossible. Imagining being beaten, hit after hit — electrocuted, shock after shock — and even forced to fight the person I love, stripping myself of the dignity still left — is unthinkable. The misery is beyond human cruelty. And so, Russia must be punished for it.

While President Donald Trump is an unlikely figure to act harshly with Russia, given that his administration refused to implement sanctions against the country for meddling in our election, many Congresspeople do have the decency to stand up against injustices.

To begin, Congress needs to pass a law creating the opportunity for asylum for all who are affected by the Russian concentration camps. America, a country that symbolizes safety and equality, must offer an escape for those suffering the horrors Russia is causing.

Moreover, the legislative branch needs to establish a statute that creates a coalition, with the opportunity for foreign countries to join, that sanctions Russia on all fronts. The sort of ordeal that Russia causes gay people cannot be ignored. Justice needs to be served by stopping all forms of trade and business with the country.

My grandfather’s unfathomable experience during the Holocaust will be meaningless if it does not make us act when witnessing savagery. The words “never again” will become an empty slogan if we do not act against these Russian hostilities.

1 Comment

One Response to “We Must Help Gay People in Chechnya”

  1. J.B. Sacks on February 9th, 2018 5:05 pm

    I am using my Shabbat preparation time well–by reading the Prowler, specifically Noam’s article, and responding to it.

    Kol ha-kavod to Noam for speaking truth, and making a very apt analogy to the Holocaust. What is happening in Chechnya is unbelievable. I recently was on a clandestine phone call with someone who witnessed the atrocities. I have no doubt that the reports are accurate. So, are we ready to do the work of “Never again”? It is so easy for us to look the other way, or to nod yes but not follow through on things that matter to us. Most of us have not felt as if our families and communities are being marginalized. We live, thank G!d, fairly comfortably here. I, however, know that the LGBTQ community has always felt marginalized, has always had to fight for dignity and even basic rights, and who continue to be more the butt of jokes or unkind behavior than of an exciting co-equal community which tries to nonetheless contribute fully to our society.

    So, Noam’s article is spot on, and needed. “Never again”? Absolutely. But, nu, where/how to begin?

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We Must Help Gay People in Chechnya