LGBTQIA+ The World

Chechnya is torturing LGBT people in concentration camps, and no one is saying anything

It’s been over a year since Chechnya began placing gay men in concentration camps, systematically exterminating them just as Hitler did over 70 years ago. However, the worldwide community has been mostly silent.

In April 2017, Russian newspapers broke the story that over 100 men had been rounded up and placed in 12 detention centers throughout Chechnya. At the time, there were three confirmed dead. A year later, the information coming out of Chechnya has been limited,  and the true death toll as a result of the purges has been hidden.

The purges started in an effort to purify the Chechen state from gay men and women. Ramzan Kadyrov, the current head of the Chechen Republic, has publically remarked that Chechnya has no LGBTQ+ people.

[bctt tweet=”It’s been over a year since Chechnya began placing gay men in concentration camps.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In an interview with HBO, Kadyrov said, “if there are any [LGTBQ+ people], take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ+ behavior is majorly supported by the homophobic support of its primary ally, Russia. Russia has been under fire in recent years due to its strict gay propaganda laws. These laws allow the state to detain anyone who is seen supporting an LGBTQ+ lifestyle.

Under Russia’s gaze, Chechnya has found the freedom to continue arresting and torturing men for their sexual orientation. Men are subject to beatings, electrocution, and having food and water withheld during their detention. While they are tortured – the victims are coerced into providing names of other gay men so the government may continue its systematic deletion of an entire population.

[bctt tweet=”In the year and a half since the purges started, only one survivor has come forth and called for an investigation by the Russian government.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In the year and a half since the purges started, only one survivor has come forth and called for an investigation by the Russian government. Survivors are often afraid to report because they fear retaliation from their families.

Few western countries have spoken out publically against Chechnya. The ones that have, such as Germany and Canada have offered asylum to Chechen LGBTQ+ people.

Despite wanting to be a member at the table of the western world, Russia has not sought to extend protections to these people. Many western countries have condemned Russia for its homophobic policies as well as it’s support for Kadyrov’s despicable extermination of gay people.

In April of 2018, Amnesty International called attention to the lack of action taken against the Chechen government. “A year ago,” Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International said. “This shocking news from Chechnya was ridiculed and dismissed by the Russian government. Since then we have witnessed a shocking display of denial, evasion, and inaction by the authorities, who have repeatedly refused to launch an official investigation into the reported heinous crimes and ignored credible evidence provided by Novaya Gazeta and others.”

Since acknowledging the events in 2017, the only statement the United States has made about the atrocities continuing in Chechnya today appeared in a small section about Russia in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017. Neither President Donald Trump or former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have condemned the actions of the Chechen government or the support from the Kremlin. This is despite repeated criticism from other western leaders, such as Angela Merkel or France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

[bctt tweet=”In order for LGBTQ+ people to be safe across the globe, all western nations need to speak out against the atrocities of our neighbors.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In order for LGBTQ+ people to be safe across the globe, all western nations need to speak out against the atrocities of our neighbors. The leaders of the United States have never publicly condemned Vladimir Putin for his homophobic policies, or his support of Kadyrov. It is instrumental that human rights investigations be done, and Chechnya held accountable for its crimes.

Without our governments ensuring others are safe, it means that everyone is at risk.

USA Politics The World

The United States proves once again that it doesn’t care about immigrant women

Recently, Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, announced new restrictions on the ability of persons who have suffered from gang violence and domestic violence to have their applications for asylum in the United States approved. This new action from the Trump administration is going to make it so much more difficult for people who have been victims of violence to resettle safely, and may impact thousands of people who have already applied for their asylum on those grounds.

Although the right to asylum has been determined under international law, both US and international law have defined certain categories that persons applying for asylum must prove their circumstances fit into. Those categories involved persecution on the grounds of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a certain “social group”.  Since the meaning of “social group” is so vague, victims of gang and domestic violence have been able to use that category to successfully gain asylum in the US. For example, immigrants from Central and Latin American have used their statuses as “married women unable to legally leave their spouses” as a “social group” category, or men and women not involved with gangs have claimed their status as a “non-gang member” makes them targeted for violence and therefore eligible to resettle in the States.

Now, asylum applicants “must establish membership in a particular and socially distinct group that exists independently of the alleged underlying harm, demonstrate that their persecutors harmed them on account of their membership in that group rather than for personal reasons, and establish that the government protection from such harm in their home country is so lacking that their persecutors’ actions can be attributed to the government,” Sessions wrote.

This is going to make it more difficult on asylum seekers because it places the burden of proof on them. Although Vox notes that certain governments have been known to do little, if nothing at all, against gang violence and domestic violence, asylum seekers will have to prove that this is a large-scale pattern and that the government was ultimately responsible for failing to protect them. Sessions noted that even though local police might not have acted on reports of a crime that “does not necessarily mean that the government is unwilling or unable to control crime.” Now, asylum seekers are going to have a harden burden to prove that their claim follows Sessions new rules.

Sessions new decisions regarding asylum are going to have a devastating impact on women in particular. Women are often targeted by gang members for sexual violence and denying those women asylum is going to place them in more danger. If governments are doing little to prevent gang violence, women face long-term risks by remaining in their home countries. Without asylum, women are left to continue to fall victim to physical and sexual harassment by gang members.

Victims of domestic violence are also left without many asylum protections under Sessions’ new rules. Most victims of domestic violence, who are primarily women, no longer qualify for asylum protections. Although governments might, again, do very little to protect the long-term safety of women against their abusive partners and husbands, they no longer qualify to leave and seek permanent refuge in the United States. The new decision from Sessions strips away an avenue of safety. Even now, immigrant women who had been granted asylum on the grounds of being victims of abuse may face deportation back to their home countries, where they could be in serious danger of facing more intimate partner violence or even be killed as a result.

More protection, certainly not less, is needed for victims of gang and domestic violence. Asylum could be the difference between life and death for thousands, and the new regulations are incredibly dangerous.

World News Immigration Politics The World

The dangerous double standard hiding behind American NGOs helping Syrians

NuDay Syria is a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to providing relief to displaced Syrian people. 

Too often, organizations with a faith-based mandate say so specifically within their mission statements – sometimes, even in the organization name. For example – organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International are pretty straightforward about their religious affiliation.

However, when it comes to organizations that don’t center around a faith-based mandate – but still have a Muslim founder or board members – there’s an entirely new issue. Regardless of the mandate, there’s an inherent assumption by the general public and various sectors that we are somehow a faith-based organization – even when our mandate and mission clearly state something else.

I can’t remember whether NuDay has ever been called a Muslim NGO – formally or otherwise. It’s a notion that begs being investigated now, more than ever, in our current humanitarian climate.

I find myself asking the question of how an NGO based in the West – founded and/or staffed by American Muslims – goes about being defined. Should it work in a conflict zone where the majority identifies as Muslim? Who makes the final call, especially when it comes to folks within government, researchers, the public, and donors? Are we in need of redefining or creating an entirely new relief sector?

In the case of NuDay, we focus on inculcating empowerment and aid with dignity to the mothers and children inside Syria. Even without mention of faith, because I am visibly Muslim, the assumption is laid upon the organization – a double standard that begs discussion.

When I first formed NuDay in 2013, I did so carefully and conscientiously.

Furthermore, it’s time to start examining why the assumption is made that civilians in Muslim majority countries want anything other than what we want here in the West: peace, freedom, safe shelter, education, and food.

The Syrian humanitarian crisis is a result of the nation’s citizens standing up for their basic rights of freedom and democracy. Somehow, though, that doesn’t matter to those on the outside. They’ve deemed the relief initiatives of NGOs like NuDay to be solely faith-based. That, in turn, leads to the destructive assumption that the impetus behind the NGO’s work isn’t because there’s an actual humanitarian crisis taking place.  Couple that with the fact that our work primarily takes place in a Muslim-majority nation, and the stigma becomes almost impossible to shake off.

I could go ahead and flipped this assumption on its head: should I, as a Muslim, assume that other NGOs in the West always have some nefarious, secret faith-based mission? That they are, in fact, out to proselytize the Muslims they’re meant to serve – even if the organization name isn’t religious?

It’s past time to continue pretending that our fear of others does not exist.

When I first formed NuDay in 2013, I did so carefully and conscientiously. I recognized that despite good intentions, careful evaluations, strict documentation and distribution requirements, our material support and program development would always be under a different, more strenuous kind of scrutiny.

And we have been.

Day after day, there remains little to no talk around why there remains a raging conflict in Syria, no discussion around how Syrians are resisting daily, if not hourly, the onslaught of violence from both extremists and dictators.

Instead, there remains an almost petulant, disgraceful focus on labeling and devaluing the NGOs working day and night – risking everything we have – to ensure that Syrian civilians receive support and relief. Regardless of our work, we are identified as merely Muslim-focused NGOs, which comes with the assumption that we lack consciousness of where our aid is headed or who is benefiting.

To sum it up: it’s assumed that we share different goals from NGOs without Muslim founders.

It’s more than just on the level of organizations – this double standard is personal. As a Syrian, it was recently brought to my attention that my name is on several lists within Syria – despite my having never lived there – preventing my ever entering the country under the current government.

My crime? The years of work providing aid and relief to Syrians of all backgrounds.

As an American, my organization – and others focused on serving Syrians – is treated with suspicion within the United States. With no rationale, our work – given its geographic location – is associated with extremists – harming our impact and efforts.

It’s past time to continue pretending that our fear of others does not exist. Such a detrimental attitude holds back constructive efforts to bring this nation together to support purposeful humanitarian relief efforts within Muslim-majority conflict zones.

It’s a fear that can only be eradicated with frank education, outreach, and conversations – as well as engagement on a community level – that supports diverse aid efforts led by Americans of all faith backgrounds working together to help those affected by a major crisis – even if that crisis is taking place within a Muslim-majority country.

Ultimately, fear holds our world’s future back – no matter where we live. To reach peace, we must break down irrational feelings of distrust and fear – it is only then that we can begin to heal.

Check out The Tempest’s ongoing coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis


Senior News & Society Editor Asma Elgamal launches Policy channel to face the new political era

2016 was a tough year. In looking at the global political landscape, 2016 presented us with events like Brexit and the Trump administration, propelling hate groups into mainstream platforms and frankly terrifying the hell out of some of us.

[bctt tweet=”In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Social activism hit a new high, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – all became tools to resist and to make our voices heard. But even that sometimes, isn’t enough. As horrific as it is, a lot of the awful things that have been happening are completely legal. It’s like Hydra has infiltrated the highest levels and we are playing a very tricky game of dismantling policies while pretending that evil isn’t currently reigning over us.

“In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge,” Elgamal noted.

Like most things governmental, policies are shrouded in technical language, used to make things complex and drawn out. Some policies and legislation are incredibly long and honestly, that kind of information is not appealing to read. Although it’s super important to know what laws govern us, who really has the time to go through all these new documents to ascertain what is going on?

It’s hard to speak out against something that we don’t really understand.

So to help us deal with the aftermath, Asma Elgamal, our Senior News & Society Editor at The Tempest decided to approach things in a different way, launching the Policy channel at The Tempest.

Elgamal said, “The sole purpose of this vertical is to target and help decipher laws and policies so that everyone knows exactly what is going on. The aim of this is so that it is easier to understand which policies affect you and what they set out to do. In turn, preparing us for doing whatever is necessary to combat these policies.” Read more about The Tempest’s Policy vertical here.