Two online fundraisers have collected over $100,000 for the LGBTQ humanitarian crisis in Chechnya. One called “Helping Gay Men Flee Chechnya,” raised $93,499 in just six days, another “Fundraiser for American Friends of Rainbow Railroad” over $20,000.
The charity drives were launched on Facebook‘s new Fundraisers feature, and all proceeds will go to American Friends of Rainbow Railroad — the American non-profit arm of the Canadian organization that works to help LGBTQ refugees in crisis. Rainbow Railroad’s executive director, Kimahli Powell, told NBC News his group is working directly with the Russian LGBT Network,
“to help bring people who have fled Chechnya to Russia out of safety.“
Svetlana Zakharova, communications manager at the Russian LGBT Network, confirmed the two organizations are working together.
“We also do this work all year round supporting LGBTQ people at risk. Monies raised will go towards direct travel assistance getting people to safety.“
In early April, Russian President Vladimir Putin met publicly with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to discuss, among other things, the accusations of anti-LGBTQ persecution. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, announced the next day there was “no evidence” of the crisis, despite reports from gay Chechen men fleeing the region.
In an April 18 statement, Powell announced that Rainbow Railroad would begin to expand its contacts in Eastern Europe in order to assist with the Chechnya crisis. He also pledged to help cover the costs of travel for refugees fleeing the area in search of safety.
“This includes fundraising to support the organization while allocating resources to increase the number of people we can support in the region. In addition, we are formally requesting the Canadian government provide direct assistance to those in need by way of emergency visas.“
In a video segment that aired on NBC Nightly News, a gay Chechen man using the pseudonym Ilya described being lured into a forest, then attacked by authorities.
“They dragged me out of the car, started to beat me, humiliate me. They were saying that I was a faggot, a gay person and that such people shouldn’t exist in Chechnya.“
(via NBC News)