With the headlines we’ve had this week, it can be easy to miss a story.
United Airlines drags a paying customer off a flight to accommodate an employee.
Sean Spicer denies chemical weapons used by Hitler during the Holocaust and then accidentally says that Trump is trying to destabilize the Middle East (Freudian slip or simple mistake, we wonder).
President Trump reports in detail about a dessert during an interview and states that he bombed Iraq, not Syria.
North Carolina is trying to make gay marriage illegal.
And in all of these quite appalling news stories drops the one that we need to be paying the most attention to:
In Chechnya, gay men are being put into concentration camps.
Openly gay men and men suspected of being gay are being rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, interrogated, and returned to their families—or made to disappear completely. There are reports of three deaths, according to the Human Rights Watch.
In Russia, where honor killings of the LGBTQ community persist and are ignored by law enforcement, we cannot expect the Kremlin or Putin to take any action to protect these citizens. In fact, the government actively denies the existence of the LGBTQ community and is unlikely to be responsive to the accusations of inhumane treatment against them.
Reports indicate that at least 100 gay men are currently being held, interrogated, and tortured in a facility near Argun. That’s 100 human beings too many. But it’s not trending on social media, as other news stories have taken precedence.
If we’re going to have any hope of stopping this atrocity, we need to shine the biggest, brightest spotlight on Chechnya from all the corners of the world.
In 1986, Elie Wiesel, a survivor of German concentration camps, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech, he said these words, which ring true today:
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.
There is much to be done, there is much that can be done. One person—a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.
Wiesel eloquently expressed exactly why it’s so important that we bring attention to Chechnya right now. Human rights are being violated, and while it’s easy to be distracted by all of the other news stories, we need to make sure that protecting human rights is our first priority. We can still be outraged at what is going on in our own country, but humanity has no country and no borders.
This is why we must act now.
So how can we help?
>> Sign a petition. Amnesty International is circulating a petition to bring attention to the issue in hopes that the court of public opinion will urge the Chechen government to stop persecuting the LGBT population.
>> Bring awareness to these atrocities on social media. Post articles. Share the news. Ask your local representatives to speak out against concentration camps in Chechnya.
>> Join local protests to bring awareness to these camps.
>> Tweet using hashtag #GayConcentrationCamp #Chechnya.
>> Write, email, or call Russian officials to protest the treatment of the LGBTQ community, and then let Amnesty International know that you’ve participated so that they can monitor actions being taken.
>> Email the Russian embassy in your country to protest the persecution of the LGBTQ community.
>> Email a United Nations representative to urge him/her to take action.
>> Donate to a human rights organization.
We can make sure we use our own civic power to vote for representatives who support human rights and vote out representatives whose beliefs are not representative of our own.
It may not seem like much, but every voice counts. Every donation. Every single post and hashtag and email. We cannot allow this atrocity to simply be another story that we move on from while our fellow human beings suffer and are persecuted.
Chechnya needs us now.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Callie Rushton