Kimahli Powell didn’t think about the danger he might face in Russia when he traveled there in May. The LGBTQ advocate knew homophobia is considered to be widespread in the country, but he needed to be there to help refugees who had escaped Chechnya’s “gay purge.”
“In hindsight, people will tell me that me being a black gay male going to Russia might be a bit of an alarmist kind of thing, but the stakes were incredibly high at the moment,” Powell told NBC News. “This was a life and death situation.”
Powell is the executive director of Rainbow Railroad, an organization that helps evacuate LGBTQ refugees from countries where they face persecution. The organization has teamed with the Russian LGBT Network, which is helping relocate Chechen refugees to safehouses in Russia. The refugees say they were kidnapped and tortured by the Chechen government and live in secrecy with nowhere to go.
“It was really painful and devastating to hear their stories,” recalled Powell, who personally visited the safehouses. “I think about it, and they haunt me now months later. But at the time it was a necessity to kind of understand what these individuals were going through for the sole purpose of getting them out.” Read more via NBC Out