Congress just slammed the 'gay purge' in Chechnya. What's Trump's breaking point?

It's been seven months to the day since The New York Times published an alarming report about state-sanctioned violence targeting queer men in Chechnya.

The Times, citing Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, had reported men believed to be gay or bisexual were being arrested and killed en masse by Chechen officials. At least 100 people — but likely many, many more — have been swept up in the region's "gay purge."

Russia police arrest an LGBTQ activist in 2015. Photo by Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images.


The situation, it seems, hasn't improved.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied any wrongdoing, claiming, incredulously, the region doesn't even have any LGBTQ people. Human rights groups in and around Chechnya have said the arrests, torturing, and killings have continued throughout the summer and early fall. Last week, reports surfaced that Russian singer Zelimkhan Bakayev — who'd visited Chechnya for a wedding in August — went missing; some have speculated he may be dead.

Finally, Congress is speaking up.

On Oct. 30, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution slamming Chechnya for allowing its gay purge to continue.

The measure follows a nearly identical and unanimously approved resolution passed in the House in June, calling on Chechen officials to stop targeting queer men and bring those accountable to justice. Admittedly, these measures are largely symbolic, but they're important nonetheless: They help keep the issue on the world's radar and legitimize the claims that the violence is actually happening — despite Chechen and Russian officials deflecting responsibility.

Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts (foreground), who, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, introduced the resolution on Chechnya to his colleagues. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Calling for officials to end the purge immediately, the Senate's resolution puts pressure on Russia (which oversees semi-independent Chechnya) to protect the rights of all of its citizens, while also demanding the U.S. continues to condemn the abuses until justice is served.

It's that last part that's particularly noteworthy.

While both chambers of Congress have spoken out on Chechnya, Trump has remained silent.

Many other world leaders — including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — have strongly condemned Chechnya's gay purge and taken concrete steps to help Chechens in need.

So why — seven months after we first learned this abuse is taking place — is Trump still remaining silent?

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

There's no good answer, really.

The president hasn't been an ally to gay Americans, of course, but the Congressional resolutions gained support from even the staunchest anti-LGBTQ legislators in the House and Senate. Some have pointed to the president's cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, speculating that Trump is hesitant to rock the boat with the Russian president by confronting him on Chechnya. Whatever the reason, his indifference on the matter is sending a clear message.

"If Chechnya has indeed begun persecuting gay men, as international reports suggest, it is precisely because the government recognizes that the U.S. won’t organize any opposition," Samar Habib wrote for The Washington Post in May.

Here's how you can help.

Share stories like this with family and friends. Let your reps know you appreciate them taking action and demand that they put pressure on the president to do the same. Support LGBTQ advocacy groups pressuring Trump to speak up. Tweet at Trump. Write and call his White House. Force him to confront this issue.

Trump's silence may be overwhelming, but so are the voices demanding he act.

True

Temwa Mzumara knows firsthand what it feels like to watch helplessly as a loved one fights to stay alive. In fact, experiencing that level of fear and vulnerability is what inspired her to become a nurse anesthetist. She wanted to be involved in the process of not only keeping critically ill people alive, but offering them peace in the midst of the unknown.

"I want to, in the minutes before taking the patient into surgery, develop a trusting and therapeutic relationship and help instill hope," said Mzumara. Especially now, with Covid restrictions, loved ones are unable to be at the side of a patient heading to surgery which makes the ability to understand and quiet her patients' fears such an important part of what she does.

Temwa | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Dedicated to making a difference in the lives of her patients, Nurse Mzumara is one of the four nurses featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series by CeraVe® that honors nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to their patients and communities.

Keep Reading Show less
Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less