Since Chechnya began its anti-LGBT purge in April, more than 100 gay men have been arrested and detained. At least three have died as a result of torture.
And some, like singer Zelimkhan Bakaev, have vanished into thin air.
Bakaev was last seen on August 8 in Grozny, where he had come from Moscow for his sister’s wedding. Numerous activists, including LGBT Network founder Igor Kochetkov, say Bakaev was swept up in the anti-gay purge.
Multiple sources have told NewNowNext the 26-year-old was tortured to death by Chechen authorities.
“Over the past two months, the international community hoped that rumors of Zelim’s death were only that,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First in a statement. “We are now forced to conclude that he was tragically swept up in this anti-gay purge and lost his life because of it.”
Authorities have denied knowing anything about Bakaev’s whereabouts, claiming he simply left the country. Russian television reported he contacted his mother on WhatsApp in September, writing that he was alive and well and living abroad, before turning off his phone.
The activist group Voices4 Chechnya staged a demonstration on November 7 outside the Russian Consulate in New York, demanding action on Bakaev’s disappearance.
“We had two goals for this protest,” says Voices 4 founder Adam Eli, who led the protest.
“Aside from demanding an investigation, we wanted to send the world the message that ’Queers fight back.’ We are watching and that we won’t stand for it.”
It’s the second such action Voices4 Chechnya has conducted: On October 15, hundreds of New Yorkers marched from Stonewall to Trump Tower.
Below, view more images from the November 7 action.