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From Chechnya to Canada: the secret escape for young gay men

From Chechnya to Canada: the secret escape for young gay men
From CBC - September 4, 2017

One of the gay Chechen men brought to Canada as a refugee under a program,whichhuman rights organizations and the Canadian government worked together in secret until last week,is telling his story of why he needed asylum.

Human rights organizations, including the Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad, had raised the alarm that young gay men were being kidnapped, beaten and even killed under a program sponsored by the Chechen government.

The Canadian government got involved and over the past few months has offered asylum to 31 young men. Rainbow Railroad says so far 22 of them have landed in Canada.

Asource has told CBC News this programbypassed normal procedure for refugees, allowing the mento be accepted as government-assisted refugees, meaning they will receive support for a year. The government is offering few details, citing security reasons.

'I am afraid for my life and for my family'

The young man CBC interviews arrived in Canada in July. He insists his identity be hidden, nervous he could be recognized. He wo not even allow his own clothes to be shown, pulling on someone else's baggy hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with the word "Canada"on one sleeve and the maple leaf on his chest. He pulls the hood far over his head, worried someone could see the story and pick him out by the profile of his nose.

"I am afraid for my life and for my family," he says, speaking through an interpreter.

Still, though, he wants to tell his story.

"I am doing this interview because my soul aches," he says. "It aches for everyone who went through this ordeal, everyone who's going through it and also this is my way of saying thank you to everyone involved in getting us out."

His ordeal, he says, began when men in military garb arrived at his workplace. They grabbed him, stuffed him into the trunk of a carand took him to a secret police stationwhere he was beaten and tortured.

"You are beaten, sometimes kicked, sometimes objects are used but the last resort is always electroshock."

He says every day he was confined in the corner of a dark room with other gay men, either he was shocked or he was forced to watch it happen to someone else.

He calls himself "lucky" in that they attached electrodes to his fingers. Those worse off, he says, were shocked through electrodes attached to their ears.

The goal, he says, was information for them to give up the names of other gay men. He says he lied and gave fake names, not wanting anyone else to go through the same torture.

"Just experiencing the electroshock once is enough to realize, you do not want to go through this more than once. It is the most difficult thing to go through."

'When it's necessary, you act'

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