+
upworthy
More

Chechnya is still killing gay men. Now a prominent Russian singer may be dead.

Why aren't more people talking about this?

In August, Russian singer Zelimkhan Bakayev traveled from Moscow to Chechnya to celebrate his sister's wedding. Then, he vanished. His online activity came to a halt; his Instagram account was deactivated. With few options and even fewer answers, his mother called on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov last month to provide clarity, desperate to know what had happened to her son.

How does a high-profile Russian singer simply ... disappear?

It's likely, officials believe, Bakayev was swept up in Chechnya's horrifying and ongoing anti-gay purge targeting queer men like him.


This past spring, Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported Chechen officials were arresting, torturing, and even murdering men believed to be gay or bisexual.

In undisclosed state prisons, officials were (and are likely continuing to) torture detainees, often pushing victims to provide information on other gay men in the region so other arrests could be made. Kadyrov reportedly set a deadline to "eliminate" Chechnya's gay and bisexual population by the start of Ramadan: May 26, 2017.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Photo by Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images.

Tragically, Bakayev may be among those killed.

While Chechen officials have denied the broad accusations about the purge, multiple human rights groups operating in or around the region — notably, the Russian LGBT Network and Amnesty International — claim the arrests and murders are happening and haven't stopped in the months following initial reports.

At a press conference on Oct. 16, Russian LGBT Network founder Igor Kochetkov told reporters his organization learned Bakayev's disappearance was linked to the anti-gay purge: "At the end of August, we received confirmation of our earlier presumption that Bakayev was detained by Chechen authorities due to suspicion of homosexuality."

YouTube videos uploaded after Bakayev's arrest make his disappearance particularly odd and alarming.

Following the singer's arrest in Chechnya's capital city of Grozny, bizarre YouTube videos — linked to a suspicious account that hasn't published any other content — were shared showing Bakayev alone in a room (aside from  a person filming), listening to music and drinking energy drinks, Newsweek reported. The curtains on the windows had been pulled.

[rebelmouse-image 19532651 dam="1" original_size="931x472" caption="An image lifted from a suspicious YouTube video of Bakayev published on Sept. 24, 2017." expand=1]An image lifted from a suspicious YouTube video of Bakayev published on Sept. 24, 2017.

In the video, Bakayev tells viewers he's spending time enjoying himself in Germany. But viewers have pointed out the drinks in the video aren't available in Germany and the furniture spotted in the room is made by a Russian company. Had the videos been made to give false hope to the public of Bakayev's safety?

Now, friends are fearing the worst. NewNowNext reported on Oct. 20 that Bakayev has been murdered, pointing to an anonymous tip as its source. As Chechnya has no free press and victims are understandably fearful to go on record, information concerning the singer has been difficult to verify. (Upworthy has reached out to the Russian LGBT Network to learn more about the status of Bakayev's situation; this article may be updated.)

The world isn't paying enough attention to Chechnya's relentless anti-gay purge. But you can help change that.

Share this article with family and friends. Contact your representatives and demand that they speak up on the matter. Sign this petition by Amnesty International calling on authorities to investigate the situation and bring those accountable to justice. Call on President Donald Trump — who has yet to speak up on the matter — to do more in pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kadyrov to halt Chechnya's crackdown on queer men in the region.

We can't let this injustice continue.

Update (10/25/17): The Russian LGBT Network confirmed via email that Bakayev remains missing: "We know only that Zelim disappeared, and that the law enforcement agencies did not do anything to find him," a communications manager from the network explains. "We cannot confirm that he is dead."

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less

Tia Savva has an invested father.

Sadly, a lot of men go out of their way to avoid learning anything about a woman's period.

(That could be why throughout most of the United States — where the majority of lawmakers are men — feminine hygiene products are subject to sales tax.)

So we should give some love to the guys who make an effort to learn a bit about the menstrual cycle so they can help their family members when they're in desperate need of feminine hygiene products.

Personally, as a guy, the feminine hygiene aisle can be a little intimidating. There are multiple brands, styles of products, scents, absorbency levels, and they are all color-coded.

What do the colors mean?

Keep ReadingShow less

Howie Hua shares helpful math tips and tricks on social media.

Math is weird.

On the one hand, it's consistent—the solutions to basic math problems are the same in every country in the world. On the other hand, there are multiple strategies to get to those solutions, and it seems like people are still coming up with new ones (much to the chagrin of parents whose kids need help with homework using methods they've never learned).

Math professor Howie Hua shares math strategies that make math easier on social media, and his videos are fascinating. Hua, who teaches math to future elementary school teachers at Fresno State, demonstrates all kinds of mental math tricks that feel like magic when you try them.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

A letter to my mother-in-law who spoiled my sons

"It's pointless to dwell on regrets, but I often think about how I had it all wrong. I was so wrong in how I perceived your generosity."

Tina Platamura


You always stole my thunder. You gave them everything they wanted. You never said no when they asked for anything.

Tina Platamura

A second helping of dessert. Candy before dinner. A few more minutes in the bath. Money for the ice cream truck.

I struggled to show you respect and appreciation while trying to make sure you didn't spoil my children. I thought you would turn them into “selfish brats" by giving them everything they wanted. I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

A woman with a disability gets real about dating and sex. She's funny and honest.

Her candor is delightful, her message is important, and her jokes are great

Photo courtesy of Danielle Sheypuk.

Models can be different and still amazing.


"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Keep ReadingShow less


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less