Welcome to Chechnya: the harrowing film about the regime’s gay purge

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06/22/2020

Two terrified boys are forced out of a car by members of a gang who taunt them with the question: “Were you kissing?” A paving stone is dropped on to the head of a lesbian by one of her relatives. A man’s screaming is captured as he is raped. These “trophy videos” are the hardest thing to watch in Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge, a harrowing documentary about the persecution of LGBT people in the Russian republic. The videos were made by people who hunt down and terrorize gay Chechens, with the backing of the government and security forces. “The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, is waging a ‘blood-cleansing operation’ to eliminate all LGBT people,” says the director, David France, speaking by Zoom from his home in New York. Thanks to nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and Vladimir Putin’s “gay propaganda” law, LGBT people have become scapegoats. As one of the gang members tells the boys in the car: “All our problems are because of people like you.”

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