Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has confirmed reports that at least three gay Chechens have been killed and more than 100 arrested in a crackdown tacitly approved by the Kremlin. The “prophylactic sweep” was made in response to an initiative to hold gay pride parades across the Russian Federation.
Yet so far, the matter has gone unremarked by the US Department of State, which used to be in the business of upholding American values regarding human rights. Instead, American diplomacy has become an exclusive activity of the Trump family business.
“In the restive Muslim regions,” the New York Times explains, “Mr. Putin has empowered local leaders to press agendas of traditional Muslim values, to co-opt an Islamist underground. The gay pride parade applications became a galvanizing issue.”
[T]he authorities set to finding and arresting closeted gay men, partly by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites.
“Of course, none of these people in any way demonstrated their sexual orientation publicly — in the Caucasus, this is equal to a death sentence,” the newspaper wrote of those detained in the sweep.
“I got numerous, numerous signals,” about the sweep of gay men, said Ekaterina L. Sokiryanskaya,, Russia project coordinator for the International Crisis Group, and an authority on the North Caucasus. “It came from too many sources not to be true.”
Chillingly, a spokesman for Chechnya’s brutal leader Ramzan Kadyrov called the story “an absolute lie and disinformation” because gay people “do not exist” in the war-torn state.
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he said. “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
Chechen human rights activist Kheda Saratova, a member of the presidential human rights council, told Russian state radio that the police and “entire judicial system” in Chechnya treat the murders of homosexuals by their relatives “with understanding.”
She said that she herself would “not even bother considering” a claim regarding such a crime.
At the time of this writing, none of the State Department’s Twitter accounts have said anything about this wave of violence and oppression. There are no press releases related to these developments on the State Department website. If history is any guide, the silence will continue.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who reportedly had his diplomats instructed to avoid eye contact with him and refuses to meet with staff on his travels, is not resisting deep cuts the Trump administration has proposed for his department. If Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to diminish America’s global diplomatic standing and leadership in human rights, he has certainly happy with the results of his election interference.
In the new, transactional diplomacy of the Donald Trump era, the way to get America’s attention is by getting to know his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Just ask the government of China, which recently waved a sweetheart real estate deal under Jared’s nose. While Kushner was forced to abandon the negotiation under a white-hot spotlight of media attention, the Chinese got what they wanted: a meeting with the president at Mar a Lago.
“Since Kissinger, the Chinese have been infatuated with gaining and maintaining access to the White House,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a senior director for Asia in the Obama administration. “Having access to the president’s family and somebody they see as a princeling is even better.”
The meeting is unlikely to make America great, but it will certainly be spun as a victory for Donald Trump, whatever the result for human rights in China. He did promise to run government like his business, after all, and there’s no profit in standing up for the oppressed.
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