Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge, a harrowing documentary about the persecution of LGBT people in the Russian republic. The videos were made by people who hunt down and and terrorise gay Chechens, with the backing of the government and security forces.
“The leader of Chechnya, a New Yorker article that described the heroic young activists of Russia’s LGBT network, who smuggle gay Chechens out of the state and into safe houses in Moscow or St Petersburg, then supervise their journeys out of Russia to claim asylum. The documentary contains dramatic footage, captured on iPhones and GoPro cameras, of gay Chechens known to the ities making it past border guards and police to a fragile kind of safety.
“I was posing as a ridiculous American tourist,” France says. “I had two phones. One for tourist things, another for shooting the extractions. When they asked for my phone, I was able to show the one meant for their eyes, and convince them I was just a thrill-seeker.” Coming out in the UK weeks after the video of George Floyd’s murder includes queer and trans people.
Sylvia Rivera, who crashed the 1973 New York gay pride parade to excoriate its middle-class whiteness and desire to marginalise trans people – loudly expressed the belief that liberation would only be possible when all LGBT people around the world were free. “It’s still illegal to be gay in 70 countries,” says France. “And in eight or more, it’s punishable by death. What’s going on in Chechnya is a campaign to root out and murder anybody they think is LGBTQ.” And while that’s the case, the fight must go on.
Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge is on BBC Four on 1 July.