Story of AD
AD* grew up in Chechnya, where he was working as a hairdresser. The climate for LGBTQ people was dangerous in Chechnya, but a very small circle of people knew he was gay. In March 2017, while at work some men in police uniforms came in looking for him. The men called him over, took his phone and his passport, handcuffed him behind his back and threw him in the trunk of a car — all in broad daylight, in a busy area of town.
AD assumed this would be his last day alive.The men drove him to an abandoned warehouse with other detainees including violent criminals, drug dealers, and men suspected of being gay or bisexual. They were forced into one room without any bedding or food.
The second room in the warehouse was the “torture room” where the detainees were beaten, humiliated and electrocuted. The officers demanded that the detainees give up names of other likely gay or bisexual men in their networks.
“They beat us because we are gay,”. “They believe we are supposed to die and that we shouldn’t be allowed to live. People like us shouldn’t exist.”
“For Chechens, being gay is the worst thing. It is worse than a crime. It is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Per the government’s instructions, many detainees were killed or tortured further by their families upon their release. The officers, however, returned AD to the warehouse to “work on” him some more because he had refused to share any names. To this day, AD does not know why he was released just a short while later.
AD quickly fled to Moscow and then made his way to St. Petersburg, where he stayed with friends in hiding. In searching for a path forward, he learned about Kimahli Powell and Rainbow Railroad.
Powell came to St. Petersburg to meet with AD and other survivors to hear their stories and make plans to get them out of Russia to safety.
“When Kimahli came to Russia, that was the first sign of hope,” he said. “After that things moved quickly, and I came to Canada.”
AD has been living in Canada since June 2017, working on learning English and studying coursework to become a hairdresser in the country.
* name anonymised