Nightline’s James Longman spent a year talking to several victims of the anti-LGBT campaigns before going to the southern Russian republic of Chechnya to meet the police authorities accused of the so-called “gay purge” and go inside Chechen prisons.
Amin Dzhabrailov, a gay Chechen man who was captured and tortured and beaten for days, described his experience, telling Longman that his captors staged his execution: “They tell me that they know that I’m gay, and [to] tell [them] about more gay guys… The sense was [they would] probably just torture them also. … I didn’t give any name[s]. … They took off my shoes… and they put me on the wall, put [a] bag on my head…. That guy charged his gun, and put [it] right here on my head. And I started painting the wall with my blood. And he said that it’s my last seconds.”
For Longman, who is gay, the trip to Chechnya turned personal and very stressful when he made the decision to come out to General Apti Alaudinov, the head of the Chechen police force.
Wrote Longman in an account of the trip: “And so, at close to 11 p.m., we were bundled out of the restaurant and into his car. We were heading to a police station. Because Chechen officials totally deny the accounts of police brutality toward gay people, we did not expect to see something incriminating or necessarily much at all. But as we swept into the parade ground and we were met by 50 or so armed commandos, all standing to attention. … I’ve definitely had some awkward coming out moments in my life. But I don’t think any can compare to telling a man who is the head of a police force accused of torturing hundreds of LGBTQ people that I’m gay.”
“We made our way to the prison block, and by this time, we had amassed a small following of armed guards and other officials: a bigger audience for the general’s one-man show,” added Longman. “As we walked, I gradually got the sense that it might be ok to tell him I’m gay. I asked the others quietly. ‘I think I’m going to tell him guys, are you OK with that?’ They were. And so, as we stood in the cell, I said, ‘Do you remember earlier when you asked if one of us was gay? What if I told you I was gay?'”
“I could feel the guards shifting behind the camera. John later told me he heard them all whispering to each other,” continued Longman. “Alaudinov was doing his best to make it seem like it didn’t matter to him.”
Replied Alaudinov: “There is no problem. Nobody has any issues with you. You are a guest. Come here as a guest and leave from here as a guest. You don’t understand something: You can say anything about us — any horror stories — but I, as [the] head of Chechen Police, I don’t have a goal to see who you are and what your sexual orientation is. I am not interested to know it. It’s your life and you should live however you want. But at the same time, don’t teach us how we have to live.”
Watch the entire segment below, following a teaser segment from ABC News.
The full segments. Part One: