The alleged human rights abuses against gay men in Chechnya have taken a disturbing turn: According to one British official, the Chechen president has a deadline by which he plans to "eliminate" the country's LGBTQ population.
Sir Alan Duncan, a British member of Parliament and the U.K.'s minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, addressed parliament on Thursday and spoke about the situation in Chechnya and said that at least four gay men have been killed and as more than 100 have been detained are "of deep concern to the U.K."
And, according to Duncan, the deadline for the violent campaign, set by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, is the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Ramadam — which starts May 26.
The actions in these reports are utterly barbaric. One of the most disgusting things I have seen is a Chechen security source stating that these arrests are part of what he called a preventative clean-up ... Human rights groups report that these anti-gay campaigns and killings are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. He has carried out other violent campaigns in the past, and this time he is directing his efforts at the LGBT community. Sources have said that he wants the community eliminated by the start of Ramadan.
A spokesperson for the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed in an email on Tuesday that those reports were coming from local Russian media.
Duncan is not the first to suggest that Kadyrov, the leader of the largely Muslim republic, is behind the country's violent persecution of LGBTQ people, specifically gay men.
Kadyrov has called homosexuality a "poison," CNN reported, and LGBTQ people in Chechnya reportedly live in fear of being discovered either by Chechen security forces or by their own families. One Moscow-based expert told CNN that "Chechen society is extremely homophobic" and that gay men may face violence from their own relatives if discovered.
Some estimates put the number of gay men killed during the current anti-gay campaign as high as 20, NBC News reported, and many men have reportedly been detained and tortured.
Kadyrov is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has pushed anti-gay policies in Russia, including a 2013 law that banned the discussion of gay relationships near children, CNN reported.
Many public figures have condemned reports of the Chechen government's anti-gay campaign, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. Earlier this month former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against the treatment of gay men in Chechnya and criticized the Trump administration for its apparent inaction in the face of the reports.
The Chechen government not only denied reports of government violence against gay men, it denied that gay men even exist in Chechnya. Alvi Karimov, a Chechen government spokesperson, told Russia's Interfax that, "You can't detain and harass someone who doesn't exist in the republic," CNN reported, adding, "If there were such people in the Chechen republic, law enforcement wouldn't have a problem with them because their relatives would send them to a place of no return."
April 25, 2017, 9:10 a.m.: This story has been updated