Mourners huddled near Stonewall National Monument in New York City on January 24 to remember a beloved Russian pop star taken too soon.

Believed to have been gay, Zelimkhan Bakaev became the face of a horrifying, state-sanctioned crackdown on gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, a semi-independent state in southern Russia. His name may be unfamiliar to most Americans, but Bakaev's heartbreaking story is one worth sharing.

Photo by Aaron Hooper, courtesy of RUSA LGBT.

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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.

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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.

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Trump's been silent; Putin's shrugged it off. But you should care about Chechnya.

Chechnya wants to 'eliminate' its gay population by the end of May. We can't sit back and watch.

If you've found it difficult to engage with the horrifying news coming out of Chechnya regarding the arrests and abuses of queer men there, you're not alone.

When the reports first began surfacing, it seemed too awful to be true — we're in the era of "fake news," after all. Was this actually happening?

A rally in Paris was held in support of gay and bisexual Chechen men on April 20, 2017. Photo by Sipa/AP.

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