On Monday, France welcomed a gay refugee from Chechnya, believed to be the first since reports emerged that the Russian territory was persecuting gay men.
The news was announced by Joel Deumier, president of SOS Homophobie, a gay rights group. And took place as French president Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Versaille.
“The first gay Chechen refugee has arrived on French land. So France has started to welcome Chechen refugees. This is going to continue,” Joel Duemier said on French radio station FranceInfo, according to LGBT Nation.
SOS Homophobie helped with the refugee’s application and that the man, whose identity is being protected, claimed to be oppressed for his sexuality, Duemier said.
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Two months ago, reports came out that hundreds of gay and bisexual men were being imprisoned, tortured with electric shocks, and humiliated. Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that three men had been executed.
In early May, France24 shared a video of one survivor saying that guards at a concentration camp where the men were being held forced families of the prisoners to choose between killing their own family member or having the prison execute their son.
The government denied accounts of the reports, stating that there are no gay men in Chechnya. But human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are seeking an investigation into the existence and activities at the camps, as well as for justice for persecuted gay men living the Russian federal republic.
Macron shared support for an investigation into the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya during a public appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Versaille on Monday.
Nous avons évoqué le cas des personnes LGBT en Tchétchénie. J'ai très précisément indiqué au président Poutine les attentes de la France. pic.twitter.com/aWosf3Nw4t— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 29, 2017
“We spoke about the cases of LGBT people in Chechnya... I told President Putin what France is expecting regarding this issue, and we agreed to regularly check on this subject,” Macron said.
Macron also said during the press conference that he told Putin “how important it is for France to respect all people, all minorities.”
A peaceful protest against Putin and his policies took place outside the Eiffel Tower in Paris during the meeting.
There, two gay men proudly kissed while holding a flag that read, “Stop Homophobia in Chechnya.”
Putin told Macron that he intends to investigate the activities of Chechen authorities and would start by talking to a prosecutor general and interior minister, Macron said at the press conference, according to CNN.
But LGBT activist Deumier has doubts about Putin’s promise for an investigation.
“We hear Mr. Putin say that he has launched an investigation, that it is not true, and that there are no crimes against homosexuals, which is totally false," he told the Local.
Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have spoken with Putin asking him to secure the rights of minorities in Chechnya, according to CNN.
Activists are helping victims to escape and humanitarian groups continue to push for a Russian investigation into human rights violations in Chechnya.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch is urging all countries to do everything possible to provide refuge for victims of LGBT persecution in Chechnya. While France is stepping up, others can help too.