Dimitri from Chechnya was thrown in a pit for being gay

We helped Dimitri build a new life

London, UK – 24 June 2024


The Chechen Republic is a republic of the Russian Federation that enjoys wide autonomy under the warlord Ramzan Kadyrov.  Since 2017, there has been a violent crackdown on the LGBT+ community.  Ramzan Kadyrov has even launched a ‘virtue campaign’ to encourage ‘traditional values’ and encourage so-called ‘honour’ killing.  Local authorities in Chechnya are even pressuring families to undertake such so-called ‘honour’ killing.  Law enforcement across Chechnya began rounding up, imprisoning and torturing gay men and women too.  Entrapment of gay people is common, often leading to torture, imprisonment and even death.

Dimitri* story in his own words:

I am Dimitri*, a Chechen living in one of the post-soviet countries. For a few years, I have been struggling with my sexuality, and I was being harassed.  But things got even worse when, on one fateful day, my relatives found out that I was gay when they eavesdropped on me.  I thought I was being careful, but that was not enough.  I was so afraid of what they would do to me that I ran away.  I thought I could find my way and hopefully live peacefully.  But I was terribly wrong; they searched for me and even reported that I was missing to the police.  I was caught up by the police, who handed me over to my relatives.

I was told that I brought terrible shame to the family and that I needed correction.  They started to beat me and said that only my blood would wash away the shame and sin that I brought to the family.  I was beaten with a stick and punched so hard that I lost my teeth in the process.  Yet, they were not satisfied.  I implored them to stop, but it was pointless.  There was no one to go to for help, and I felt utterly powerless.

I did not know what would be done to me, and every day, I was terrified that they would kill me since so-called ‘honour’ killing is rife here.  My relatives chose what was to be an even worse option.  They reached out to my older brothers in Chechnya, who worked under Kadyrov and transferred me back to them in Chechnya.  They took my mother as well with me and warned me that she would be harmed and even killed if I ever dared to escape.  They said they were doing me a favour and that I should be thankful that they were ‘caring’ for me and the family’s honour.

I was totally broken, losing hope day by day.  What could I do?  Who could I speak to?  I felt life was no longer worth living.  I was their prisoner, and I did not know what to expect.

What came next was so traumatic that I still shiver while thinking of it.  My brothers wanted to correct me.  It has been horrible already.  Could it get even worse?  I dread to think of it.  Soon, I was subjected to the most brutal torture.  They experimented on me so they could replicate these gruesome techniques on others.

First, I was put in a pit in a village without food for many days.  I can still remember how hard these days were in that small space where I was a prisoner.  After some days, someone just appeared and threw a few scraps of bread at me.  It fell on the ground, and I still remember devouring these crumbs.  I was treated like a wild animal, and I remember how cold and hungry I felt during those days.  It was horrible, and I just wanted the ordeal to end.

I was totally confused when they finally took me out of the pit.  Sadly, this was not the end of my ordeal.  I was forced to take several pills; I still don’t know what they were, and then the torture started.  They beat me up with hoses repeatedly, up to the point that my skin was broken and I was bleeding; even my screams imploring them to stop did nothing.  There was no pity nor an end in sight for my torture.

At this point, I was physically and mentally broken, and I just wanted the pain to stop.  I would have done anything to stop this pain.  But they were not satisfied and took me later to watch others being tortured. They warned me that this would happen to me if I did not correct myself.  To be honest, by now, I had lost all hope.  I was living in hell.  Every day was an agony.

Around the same time, my mother’s mental health began to deteriorate.  She was becoming increasingly erratic.  It was as if she was here, but her mind was gone.  It all happened in a very odd way.  I can only suspect they were responsible for her situation as she has never been like that.  But to this date, I don’t know what they did to her.

All of this abject treatment continued until I started saying I did not know who I was.  I began to agree that the torture and treatment was working.  They decided to force me into a marriage and warn me that they will know for sure if I am cured after the marriage.  They said if I did not sleep with my wife, I would disappear.  No one would be looking for me, and my mother would disappear.  They asserted that if this were to happen, our family would be totally cleansed.

I pretended hard to be heterosexual. It was the only way to survive.  I was allowed a little bit more freedom, and at least the torture stopped.  I realised this would be only a temporary respite and reached out to the Peter Tatchell Foundation with little hope for my case.  I was too afraid to reach out to anyone in Russia.  You see, so many people have been trapped by others pretending to help.  I was terrified to ask for help; I thought my brothers would find out, and it would be my end.  It took time to agree to take the risk.  Luckily for me, I was able to escape Chechnya and Russia with the help of the North Caucasus Crisis Group. Today, I am free and trying hard to rebuild my life, and I wanted to share my story with people about the terrible situation that gay men like me faced in Chechnya.

*We used a pseudonym to protect his identity.