In Russia’s Chechen Republic, gay people face violence not just from strangers on the street but from their own family members, encouraged by a culture that scapegoats and victimizes them. Welcome to Chechnya documents the sometimes harrowing efforts of activists running essentially a modern underground railroad to help at-risk gay citizens flee the predominantly Muslim country.
Chechnian leader Ramzan Kadyrov famously said in a 2017 interview that there were no gay men in his country. Welcome to Chechnya reveals the purges that seek to make this absurd claim true. Dozens have been imprisoned and reportedly tortured. Some, like singer Zelim Bakaev, disappear and are simply never seen again.
A young woman is blackmailed by her uncle in an effort to make her have sex with him. One man’s entire family has to go into hiding and flee with him, because they’ve all been threatened with harm. The man tries to get the Russian government to intervene, but given Kadyrov’s cozy ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his appeals fall on apathetic ears.