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In Chechnya — and in Russia more widely — anti-LGBTQ violence is part of something bigger and even more insidious: state-sponsored efforts to legitimize authoritarian rule by creating, and then punishing, the image of a suspicious, “Western” other.It’s also tempting to let Kadyrov’s words shape Western discourse about Chechnya: that it (or Islam) is intrinsically homophobic, that violence, or honor killings, are simply part of Chechen life.Kadyrov responded to initial reports by telling Interfax News Agency, “If there were such [LGBTQ] people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement …wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them.” That’s because, he suggested, their families would subject them to an honor killing.

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“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he told Interfax news agency.

It would be all too easy to dismiss this homophobic violence as a cultural or religious phenomenon.

But the report sheds much-needed light on the violence’s political dimensions.

“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.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has backed the Chechen government’s denials that men suspected of being gay are being detained, tortured and killed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is scathing about the Russian government treatment of LGBT citizens.

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