This Chechen Gay Refugee Was Forced to Apologize for ‘Disgracing Chechnya’ by Talking About the Gay Purge
In September, Time magazine ran a profile on Movsar Eskarkhanov, a gay refugee from Chechnya who fled to Germany. In the article, Eskarkhanov talked about the gay purge in his home country. But when his asylum bid was denied, Eskarkhanov disappeared. He resurfaced in November, appearing on State television — which ran a gay refugee forced apology, where Eskarkhanov had to claim Time made him make up his story to “disgrace Chechnya.”
In the Time piece, Eskarkhanov spoke of being kidnapped, blackmailed and sexually assaulted by Chechen police. He also spoke about his fears and fears his family would poison him once he was released by the police. Prior to his Time interview, Eskarkhanov had travelled from Chechnya to Russia to Germany — though he was still harassed and attacked by immigrants from his home country. Describing his life in Berlin, he told Time, his fellow Chechens kept sending him a link to an interview where Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied that Chechnya had gay people at all: “They tell me that a demon lives inside me. It’s getting worse here. Before somebody kills me, I want to tell my story to the world.”
The article ends with Eskarkhanov finding out his final asylum appeal in Germany had been turned down. He was forced to leave the country — and sadly, disappeared.
However, this November, he turned up on Grozny TV, the state-run television station. Grozny TV ran its own profile on Eskarkhanov, depicting him as mentally ill who “invented” his story, which was later “sensationalized” by the Western media.
However, this month, it came out that Eskarkhanov’s apology was forced. He said that the Chechen government threatened his family if he didn’t appear on TV to make the forced apology. Forced apologies and other forms of public humiliation are one of Kadyrov’s standard methods of controlling his citizens.
Unfortunately, Eskarkhanov’s safety and location are unknown. We hope he hasn’t been killed, like the Russian pop singer Zelimkhan Bakaev. In Bakaev’s case, an impersonator was sent on Grozny TV to claim he had moved to Germany, though all evidence points to the video being shot in Russia or Chechnya. Activists say the real Bakaev was long dead by the time the video aired.