Our president may proclaim that he is pro-LGBT when the moment is right, but the reality is that gay men are arriving on our shores desperate for safety right now, and we are turning them away.
According to Buzzfeed, approximately 40 gay men have fled Chechnya under fear of torture and death, and those seeking visas to other nations are having no luck reaching out to either the EU or the United States.
The 40 or so Chechens are now hiding in different parts of Russia, hoping desperately to secure documentation to allow them to flee for their lives. Some, so desperate that they fled without proper documents.
The ongoing atrocities committed in Chechnya have been in the public eye for months now, and have been ongoing since February. Though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for an investigation of the allegations, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the allegations troubling, the U.S. appears committed to doing nothing to help.
Haley said that the troubling reports coming from Chechnya “cannot be ignored,” and yet that is exactly what we are doing by turning them away.
A US State Department spokesperson said in a statement provided on background that the department could not comment on the visa denials: “As visa records are confidential under U.S. law, we are unable to discuss individual cases.”
Left with no way to get out, the gay men seeking visas continue to fear for their lives in Russia. The strongman who rules Chechnya with near impunity, Ramzan Kadyrov, is accused of having his critics hunted down both in other parts of Russia and outside Russia’s borders.
For now, the U.S. is content to leave the fate of this persecuted group to the Russians at-large, an especially hostile nation to the LGBT community. Chechnya continues to deny the atrocities they are committing, arguing that there cannot be any attacks on gay men in the nation because there are no gay men in the nation.
Our refusal to process these visas and provide asylum to this relatively small group of individuals makes us complicit in the subjugation, torture, and murder of a minority group that we pretend to respect.