Amin Dzhabrailov shivered as the cold air hit his sweat-drenched body. It had been two weeks since he began sleeping on the floor of the tiny, windowless room, but he still wasn’t used to the rush of breeze whenever the door opened at four or five in the morning each day. It was the only chance to freshen the room that reeked of sweat, body odour and tears. He shared the cramped space with 16 — maybe 20 — other men. Their legs were bound together, but they kept their eyes averted; there seemed to be a shared understanding not to look at each other or utter a single word.
On his first day, he was beaten by his captor. Dzhabrailov begged him to stop, even calling to God for help, but the man told him not to use the Lord’s name: he wouldn’t help him anyway, because he wasn’t worthy of mercy. The other men in the room had the same bruises as Dzhabrailov. He knew they all expected to die in this place because he thought he would die, too.
But he didn’t. Two years and more than 8,000 kilometres away from Chechnya, in his new home in Toronto, Dzhabrailov recalls those two weeks in captivity. He is one of the few who have come forward to tell their story of being detained by authorities in the Russian republic — in his case, in an isolated building just outside of Grozny, the capital city. His arrest was part of an ongoing campaign by Chechen authorities in which people who are known or suspected to be members of the LGBTQ community are taken captive and beaten.
“They make sure we’re hurt,” Dzhabrailov says. “They try to kill everything about us, even our soul.”
Dzhabrailov is one of hundreds of gay and bisexual men who were taken during Chechnya’s crackdown on LGBTQ people in 2017. These people were plucked from their workplaces and homes. They were brought to isolated areas where they were interrogated, tortured and, in some cases, killed. They were forced to disclose the names and information of other gay men they knew. Read more via Daily Xtra