Kathmandu (Pahichan) April 19 – Journalist Elena Milashina, whose investigative reporting first unearthed claims of the detainment, torture and murder of over 100 gay men in concentration camp-like facilities in Russia’s federal republic of Chechnya, has fled her home in Moscow following threats of retaliation. Next, she will flee Russia altogether.
Milashina writes for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which describes itself as “well known in the country for its critical and investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs.” In 2009, she won the “Alison Des Forges Award” for “individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others” from the Human Rights Watch.
In 2013, the veteran journalist discussed press freedom in Russia at the Front Line Defenders Dublin Platform in Ireland. “In one kind of way,” she said, video below, “I am quite an unusual Russian journalist, because I can write exactly what I see.”
In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Milashina discussed the Chechan human rights violations, her article’s international attention and her decision to flee Russia.
“The reaction was very panicked and hysterical, but at the same time very threatening,” Milashina said. “We’ve covered Chechnya for many years at Novaya Gazeta – many years, decades. This was the first time in our history, however, that they used religion. 15,000 people got together in the main mosque of Chechnya and announced a jihad against the staff of Novaya Gazeta.”
She further discussed the danger she was faced with following publication, a danger shared by all of the newspaper’s staff. “This was a clear jihad message. We will persecute you for tarnishing the honor of the Chechen nation… There are gays among Chechen people? We will persecute you until the last person at Novaya Gazeta dies.”
(A spokesperson for Chechen authoritarian leader Dmitry Kadyrov echoed these extreme sentiments, denying the existence of the concentration camps as gay men “do not exist in Chechnya.”)
“It doesn’t matter that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Kadyrov announced clearly that journalists are under the Kremlin’s protection and that no one can kill them for their professional duty,” Milashina said. “The threat still exists.”
“I will just live for a while in another country,” she continued, “still working on Chechnya.”
“The situation reminds the Western world of the same situation that was in Nazi Germany,” Milashina said of the international attention her story had received. “At first, people are scared of the information. They can’t believe it… But it’s clearly real, and I think that’s why people are raising their voices now.”
“The Russian government should be pushed more,” Milashina insisted. “They haven’t done anything.”
GLAAD’s president Sarah Kate Ellis has called for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to take action, something you can join her in by clicking here. You can also sign Amnesty International’s petition here, or donate to the Russian LGBT Network, which is dedicated to promoting equal rights and respect in the region.
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