Tale of a Dagestani gay: amidst honour killing and recruitment to Syria
    A silhouette. Photo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-man-shadow-alone-27967/

    The persecution issue of gays in Northern Caucasus became debatable thanks to investigations by Elena Milashina in the "Novaya Gazeta" newspaper. However, gays are persecuted not only in Chechnya, but throughout Northern Caucasus, where the theme of such repressions had been tabooed for a decade. In some regions, extortions from and blackmailing of gays by law enforcers were a sort of a conveyor process. The respondent of the "Caucasian Knot" said that many were forced to cooperate with law enforcers after being exposed to threats, violence and humiliation.

    The harassment story of the interview hero is quite rare. A young Salafi, a practicing Muslim from Dagestan, named Ruslan, fell victim to blackmail. His friend was pressed by power agents and was forced to give out a record made by a hidden camera. FSB agents presented the collected dirt to Ruslan, and offered him to work in Syria in exchange for silence.

    Having survived a poisoning attempt, after they tried to fabricate a criminal case against him, and threats of revealing his homosexuality to relatives and friends, and not willing to go to war in Syria and work for the FSB, Ruslan was forced to flee. The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent met him in Turkey.

    "Caucasian Knot" (CK): Tell us about yourself, who you are, how old are you now, where do you live and what do you do?

    Ruslan: My name is Ruslan, I come from Dagestan, and I'm 26 years old, now I'm in Turkey now.

    CK: Please tell us how FSB agents detained you.

    Ruslan: It was, as far as I remember, at the end of 2013, in Derbent. I was detained when I just walked down the street. It was about 3 p.m. I had arranged with one of my brothers (with a brother by faith, – note of the "Caucasian Knot") to meet after the prayer. I walked to the place where we had made the appointment, but he called me and said he was driving, and asked me to come to another place, to a crossroads. While I was waiting for him, a car drove up; they called my name and patronymic. I replied that it was me. They offered me to get into the car, saying that they wanted to talk to me. I asked who they were; to what they said, "You know yourself who we are." By the tone of communication, I understood that they were from special services – I think they were from the FSB. They were in civilian clothes. I was blocked by the car and couldn't get to the other side of the street. Since I had been summoned before to the OVD (Interior Division) for several times, I told them, "I've already had talks, and not once, now I have no time, a friend is waiting for me."

    They told me to call the friend and say that I will be late for the appointment. I didn't get through to him; so, I had to get into the car. I thought it would not be long. I wanted to take the front seat, but they said, "No, take the back one." One person was already sitting there, in the back seat. I saw from the route that we were not on the way to the OVD. I asked where they were taking me, and they said, "Don't worry, it's okay. A man came from Moscow and wants to talk to you." We stopped at the hotel in city centre.

    They showed me a video and told that it was in my best interests to cooperate with them, if I don't want everyone to know who I am

    The one who talked to me was sitting in the car in the front seat, and when we drove up, he went ahead, and the one who was sitting next to me followed me. I was in between them. The one who went ahead, exchanged a few words with the girl at the reception, and we went up to the second floor; they opened the door to us. There was a non-local man, a visitor. He said that he wanted to talk to me and that it was very important for me and for him. They asked different things about my friends; he opened the tablet and showed images of different people. Sometimes, after a couple of photos, he again showed the same ones. I knew some people, I had never seen before others. The common thing about them was that they were all Salafis, mostly from our region. I said about whom I knew. Someone was my neighbour, someone was my brother, someone was studying with me at school, and I didn't know some of them at all.

    I think all this was all filmed, although I didn't see the camera. A visiting man was sitting opposite me, and the one who was walking behind me sat down on the bed. The man who talked to me in the car, was writing something from time to time. When we communicated, I felt that pressure was coming on me. The visitor asked questions. The one who was making notes, periodically made also some changes; the third one, apparently, a bodyguard, just sat silently and looked at what was happening.

    CK: Did you try to refuse to communicate?

    Hotel. Author of the original photo: Georg Pik, Wikimedia CommonsRuslan: When I told them that they had promised that the talk would not be long, they said, "You'll leave only when we let you." I said that I would not answer their questions, since I was brought there by deceit. Then he found a video in his tablet, showing me and one person, whom I know very well. It was a video of private nature; it was filmed in the house of my friend, with whom I was depicted there. I didn't know about the existence of this video. After I was shown this video, they told me that it was in my best interest to cooperate with them, if I didn't want all the people whose telephone numbers I have on my phone and all my friends in the "VKontakte" knew who I was like. They had hacked my page in the "VKontakte"; there were friends in my group from our region, whom I communicated. I don't know whether they all had fake pages or not. Mine was fake one, with a fictitious name. There were no personal photos, except for in the correspondence, where I sent some personal photos to some people.

    CK: How did you get to know the person you saw with you in the video? Did you know he was a gay too?

    Ruslan: I knew that. We corresponded in social networks, but we met before, not on the Internet. This is my very old friend. I considered him a decent person, and I do so now. When six months later I talked to him on the Skype, he began crying and said that he hadn't wanted it and that he was forced to. He said, "They needed you." I asked him then about his family, he said that they had to move to another region of Russia. Perhaps, another would have behaved the same way in his place: he then told me that they generally wanted to kill him. When I left, he got under such a huge psychological pressure that he had to leave everything and go to Moscow. I got in touch with him only six months after I left. They had long given him no rest and forced him to call me and find out where I was and what was happening with me. After that, he was taken to the OVD a couple of times; they checked his phone and wanted to find out where I could be, and our mutual acquaintances. At that time, he thought that I was killed; and felt himself guilty of that. When I got in touch with him, he was happy. He's a normal and a kind guy; now, he is abroad.

    I ceased to control myself; it seemed to me that my head was now going to crack from pain

    CK: What else did they ask you about at the hotel?

    Ruslan: There were a lot of questions; the main ones – about the circle of my acquaintances from among Salafis. They wanted to get information about these people, who of them was "within the topic" (who was gay, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"). As far as I knew, there were no gays among them; and I said that they were all normal people; and their private life was of no interest for me. After that, the one who was local, got angry and began saying, "If listen to you, they are all holy angels here." I said that if a person didn't share his life with me, then I didn't touch him and didn't know about them what they now wanted to hear from me. I did't think that anyone would tell everyone about that in the mosque.

    An offer that could not be rejected

    CK: Did they ask you about your orientation?

    Ruslan: They said, "You are a person practicing Islam; and you are doing such things. Do you think this is generally normal?" I replied that this is my private life, and there is no article in the law prohibiting this; I asked on what grounds they were asking me exactly about this. If my own brother commits something, it doesn't mean that I should answer for it. Maybe, someone from these guys had done something, what has it to do with me? I actually thought that something had happened; therefore, they were pulling out everyone. They answered with a question to my question, or returned to the same question, saying that I hadn't answer it; and they constantly showed the video with that fellow. Then I saw that he started writing something from my account in the "VKontakte"; that is, it had been hacked. I didn't know what he wrote and to whom. Since then, I have no access to this page. They didn't delete it, but nobody entered this account for a long time.

    CK: What did they offer you?

    Ruslan: I asked what they wanted from me. They answered that they wanted good things for the people, and that many whom I knew were potential terrorists; and they needed information about them. I said that they already possessed all the information they needed. They knew who these people were, where they lived, and to what mosque they went for their namaz (prayer).

    When I heard about Syria, I felt sick. I said that I didn't want to go anywhere and that I wanted nothing from them. They suggested that if I performed this task, I would never have problems at all

    During the conversation, it turned out that they wanted to send me to Syria. When I began refusing, they said that I should not worry, that they all understood this, that in Turkey and then in Syria I should be met by their people and then seen off. They didn't say that these people were from Russia or local, but they said that they would teach me everything. As I understand, I had to become a link in the chain of people, who sometimes will meet and see off someone. They said nothing about the time of the mission; they said that they would periodically contact me.

    CK: What were you to do under this mission?

    Ruslan: I had to meet certain people. They didn't say whom. They also said that there were people there, whom they wanted to return; and I had to help them in this. It seemed to me that we were talking about people from the Caucasus, who had gone. They didn't say why they needed it. I think they wanted to implant me into the existing system of sending people into Syria and Iraq (about 1200 natives from Dagestan are fighting among militants of the "Islamic State" (IS), banned in Russia, – note of the "Caucasian Knot").

    CK: Did they tell you into which particular group they wanted to introduce you?

    Silhouette. Photo by the 'Caucasian Knot' correspondentRuslan: No, they didn't say anything about that...

    CK: Did they provide any guarantees that you would not be killed there as an agent or a spy?

    Ruslan: I asked them about this; they said that everything was under their control there – I shouldn't worry. They have their own people there; and this is a whole organization. Then, they offered another option: if I was so scared, then I could do it differently. I would be engaged in some business and send some goods from Turkey to Russia, and, when they'd tell me, I'd go to Syria. The opening of some business was to become the legal basis of my stay in Turkey. I understood that I would have to stay in Turkey for a long time, in order to be able to get to and from Syria. They said that it was even possible to open a company that will be engaged in cargo transportation in Turkey; and I would manage it. I understood that this is all a shelter; and that not necessarily everything would be as they described. I realized that they could then say that the plans had changed, and send me to Syria. They wanted the main thing – my consent; but their plans could change every day.

    When I heard about Syria, I felt sick. I said that I didn't want to go anywhere and that I wanted nothing from them. They suggested that if I performed this task, I would never have problems at all, and 'd be able to even openly teach anywhere, for example, to teach the Arabic language.

    Cooperation with the "state" with a pistol in hand

    CK: Why did they decide that you need it?

    I felt at this moment that I should not take the pistol by my hands, but I had no power; I was, as if paralyzed

    Ruslan: Some ten days before I was taken by these people, I was summoned to the Spiritual Administration of Muslims (SAM) of Dagestan. There, they talked with me, asked about my religious understanding of certain issues and about Allah Almighty; they asked about jihad, Syria, how I treat Salafism, how I pray. They asked whether I listen to some preachers or not. I replied that since I speak Arabic, I didn't listen to Russian-speaking preachers. They wrote down all my answers. One of them was a Sufi, wearing a skullcap. And the one who recorded our conversation was clearly a special agent. Even then it seemed to me that they knew something about me.

    One of them asked if I wanted to work with them, with the Muftiate. I asked, "What can I do with you?" They answered that I could teach the grammar of the Arabic language, since I know it well; they said that I could teach at their courses. I said that I didn't come to look for work; I just came because I got a call and was asked to come.

    CK: Was the interest in you from the SAM associated with your knowledge of Arabic?

    Ruslan: Most likely, yes.

    CK: You said that FSB agents also spoke about a possibility of teaching. Did they talk about working for the SAM?

    I am the state, and I offer you to cooperate

    Ruslan: They didn't say that I was offered a job particularly at the SAM. They just said that I could teach Arabic, the grammar, and no one would say anything to me. I replied that I was not going to teach, and that I learned the language for myself. They said that I was certainly teaching somewhere on the Internet. I answered no. They began telling that those who cooperate with the state never regret it and can solve any problem. The one who talked with me, just said, "I am the state, and I invite you to cooperate." He took out some paper and told me to sign it. I said that I wouldn't sign anything, and that I didn't intend to go anywhere. Then, the one who sat next to me said that they would give me 20 years in jail; and that I would be jailed in Russia, not in Dagestan. When asked what they gave such a long term for, he replied that they would find for what. They said that I would be prosecuted as terrorists' sponsor. I said, "What kind of sponsor am I? I'd like someone sponsor me; my own financial position was poor at the moment." The one opposite sat, said, "He's a normal guy. Don't pick on him." However, he said that if the state was offering, one should agree in an amicable way. He said that this was being done for the people, for the country. He said that in the republic "different things" happen, explosions, and that they couldn't control everything; and as a result, Muslims suffer. I said that among my acquaintances there was no one who would have arranged some kind of explosion, and even if my brother did it – it doesn't at mean that I am involved in it.

    CK: What was the end of your conversation?

    Ruslan: The one, who brought me, came out of the room. Then a knock came on the door; the girl from the reception came in and brought water with transparent glasses. She asked whether we wanted anything else. They asked for coffee with milk and tea. I replied that I wouldn't have anything. She left. I looked – they themselves began drinking water, so, I thought that the water was normal, and I also drank it. It was hot in the room. And after that, as I remember, when talking to them, I ceased to control myself; it seemed to me that my head was now cracked from pain. There was a moment when I was completely sick; these people were sitting around me. I saw that the one who was sitting on the bed all the time in silence, took out a pistol and was putting it into my hand. I felt at that moment that I should not take it, but I had no power to resist, I was, as if, paralyzed. But I think I could push him away. I don't know for how long this state lasted.

    CK: Did you touch the pistol as a result?

    Ruslan: I pushed it away. I understood that the man behind me would squeeze my hands; I tried to push him away. I don't know whether I did it or not, but I heard the pistol fall, and he cursed.

    CK: Do you think that they needed these fingerprints to make you more cooperative? That this pistol with your fingerprints could then be planted on you?

    Ruslan: Yes, I think so.

    I already didn't care, I had such a bad condition that I was ready to sign anything, for them just to let me go.

    Night escape

    CK: For how long have you been in the dim state?

    I was in such a bad condition that I was ready to sign, just to be able to go

    Ruslan: I don't remember for how long it lasted, but when I started to recover, it was clear that it was already dark outside. They talked among themselves and discussed something. One of them looked at me and said, "You look somewhat quite pale. Maybe you got too excited, didn't you?" He asked the other one, "What should we do?" He offered to let me go, so that I come next time. They said that they gave me five days, after which I should come and sign the paper that I would cooperate. It was already the same for me; I was in such a bad condition that I was ready to sign, just to be able to go.

     Night road. Photo by Nina Tumanova for the 'Caucasian Knot'CK: In the end, did you sign anything?

    Ruslan: In my right mind, I didn't sign anything. Therefore, they added something to the glass with water, so I could not control my actions. I don't remember everything.

    CK: Did you leave the hotel yourself?

    Ruslan: No, I didn't. The one, who was sitting on the bed, took me by hand, we went down the stairs and got into the car. It was another car. I was seated behind; he himself sat in front. I came up with an idea that they would take me somewhere out of the city and kill me there. When I got into the car, I felt very easy, maybe because we went out into the fresh air. I lost consciousness.

    I thought he would shoot me in the back now

    I was awakened by my house. I didn't want to get out, but I saw that they brought me to my home. I didn't believe it yet. I thought he would shoot me in my back. I went into the yard. I don't know how I went up to my room, and fell on the sofa. It seemed to me that I slept for very long. I woke up because I didn't have enough air; and my heart was beating very hard. I knew that I might die now. I intuitively knew that my brother was sleeping in the next room. I don't know how I crawled there, turned on the light, asked to call an ambulance, and again fainted. Then I came to my senses from the fact that someone was pulping me . I was in the sofa, and there were my relatives around me. They called a doctor-neighbour, who said that my kidney pressure had jumped; therefore I felt not enough air. I said that I never had any kidney problems.

    I wanted very much to sleep; my eyes were tired, but because I was choking, I could not sleep. The doctor gave me a sedative, I felt a bi better and fell asleep. The next day I still felt a strong weakness, and could not walk and even stand without help. But I couldn't fall sleep for a long time; I often woke up.

    CK: How did you decide that you need to leave?

    Ruslan: For several days a car with darkened windows stood near our house. It was an expensive car. None of our neighbours had such a car. I realized that I was shadowed. I even went out a couple of times, walked around and tried to see who was in that car, but I could not see them. I think people were there.

    I talked to my relatives. I had never had such health problems. I said that they wanted to recruit me. My father asked me if I checked my underwear, and whether there was nothing there. Because they may give a person to drink something like this, then take a picture on some girl; and tomorrow she would write an application that she had been raped. There were a lot of such cases. But I didn't remember anything like that, and everything was clean on me. And I told my father that I didn't think that this had happened to me.

    Being gay in the Caucasus is a double tragedy: this person will always hide, even from his closest people, from his family and from his friends

    I didn't tell my family about all the details of our conversation, that they had dirt on me and that they had hacked my page.

    My relatives told me that I should not just sit and wait; that if those people gave me five days, it meant they would come and make me sign it. I decided to leave. It was on the second or third day after the interrogation.

    I decided to escape at night. Through the neighbouring vegetable gardens, I went to the highway. I took nothing with me, not even the phone, because they could trace it, I understood it. Brother drove to pick me up.

    For some time I stayed with him, but I understood that I could not hide for a long time in this place. Someone could come to him and see me, someone who knew me. Then my relatives gave me money and a foreign passport, and then we left. We managed to drive to a neighbouring republic, and from there went abroad. Brother saw me off almost to the checkpoint and waited for me to pass through it. We thought that if they stopped me, it means that I was wanted. Five days were over; and they could have looked for me. But on the border, I showed only my internal passport and passed. They asked about the aim of the visit; I said that I was going to visit my relatives.

    CK: Was it the border with Azerbaijan?

    Ruslan: Yes. At the border, I took a taxi and went to Baku. I stayed there for a while, but I understood that I couldn't stay there for too long, because they could put on the wanted list. I had no phone and no one to contact. I went to an Internet cafe, entered my Skype; I wanted to talk to my brother, but he was not there. I visited it a couple of times more, but he was not there, although we agreed with him that if I passed successfully, then we would meet in Skype.

    CK: Did you have some plan?

    Ruslan: I had a goal – to go as far away as possible. But even in Baku, I didn't feel calm. It seemed to me that they were following me; that at any moment I could be extradited. I could not believe that I had escaped them. I even thought that I would be handed over by the taxi driver who drove me from the border.

    Turkey – temporary shelter

    CK: Have any of your relatives or friends learnt about the real reason for your departure, and about the blackmail?

    Ruslan: They know only part of the story. My relatives and my brother knew most of all. But the fact that I was blackmailed and that I'm a person of non-traditional orientation – nobody knew that.

    CK: Have any special agents contacted you or your relatives after that?

    Turkey. Photo by the 'Caucasian Knot' correspondentRuslan: Exactly five days later, they came to our house. They knocked and said they wanted to talk to me. They were told that I was not at home, but they didn't believe. They went into my room – there were my phone and my things there. They searched the house and even the barn. When my relatives were asked about the reason, they showed a piece of paper that they were from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), division for combating organized crime. I learned about this later, when in five or six months I could contact my brother from Turkey. He told me that they had come home, and that at first the car at the house was still standing.

    And last year they themselves wrote to me in my WhatsApp. When they did it, I changed the number immediately, and didn't save their messages. They wanted to meet me here, to talk.

    CK: Do any of your friends in the Caucasus know about your sexual orientation? How do they treat it?

    Ruslan: If someone knows, then only those who are themselves "in the topic".

    CK: Have you tried to contact members of the LGBT community with a request to help with the evacuation?

    Ruslan: No, I haven't.

    CK: Did you understand at that moment that such help could be rendered?

    Ruslan: I thought that if such help really existed, it would be connected with some noise, that they would show me everywhere, and I absolutely didn't want it.

    CK: What was the danger of the noise?

    Ruslan: I'm not ready to openly declare my orientation to my relatives and friends; we're not in Moscow: here, everyone knows who lives where.

    CK: How did your move occur? Did your relatives help you?

    Ruslan: When I left, my relatives raised money for me. In Turkey, I was helped by a man whom I had known for a long time. He lived in another city. When I was able to contact him, he helped me with a residence permit.

    CK: Do you communicate with members of the local gay community in Turkey?

    Ruslan: I'm not visiting any clubs and bars here; it's not mine, if I communicate, then somewhere in a cafe, just for the sake of communication. I have a couple of friends here. One guy is Russian-speaking; he has lived here for a long time; and one is a Turk, who finished his studies last year; he works in a bank. I got acquainted with him via my Russian-speaking friend; we are friends, sometimes we meet, talk about life, about what is happening in Turkey; we can go to the movies together, take a walk on holidays. I'm talking about those who are "in the topic".

    As for the attitude towards gay people in Turkey, then, according to my Turkish friend, before the attitude towards people with non-traditional orientations used to be more tolerant. I'm not talking about ordinary people; people in themselves here are tolerant, I'm talking about the authorities. I think it's a matter of time. Persecutions may start here, like in Russia.

    The situation now, for example, differs from that which was two years ago. This applies not only to gays, but also to people from the Caucasus and other visitors. If earlier the authorities of Turkey closed their eyes to everything or granted asylum, now, it is not so. I have many acquaintances, who have their residence permits not extended. When time comes to update their documents, they are detained and put into deportation centres, trying to expel them from the country. Then, the whole community has to raise money to hire advocates. I'm not talking about those who are "in the topic", I say in general.

    CK: If you are threatened with deportation, what will you do? Will you seek help in organizations that defend LGBTs' rights?

    Ruslan: No, I will try to leave for one of visa-free countries and get lost there.

    CK: There is enough information in the Caucasus that if a person has non-traditional orientation, he may be killed even by his own family members. What is the situation in Turkey?

    Ruslan: Here, it seems, it doesn't end in murders. In extreme cases, in religious families, they may reject their child, and break their relationships. But in other families, people are not so conservative. Children can confess to their parents, and they know about it in the family. It's in big cities. They may not approve it, but won't expose a person to be a pervert or an outcast.

    Turkey. Photo by the 'Caucasian Knot' correspondentCK: Have Russian power agents realized their threats through the spread of compromising materials?

    Ruslan: No, they haven't.

    CK: What do you think why?

    Ruslan: It's possible, not to have noise in the media.

    On life of gays in Chechnya and Dagestan

    CK: Do you know any other cases of pressing gays in Northern Caucasus?

    Ruslan: I can't say anything about myself lately, because I was not there. But from the stories of my acquaintances I know that certain actions were taken there precisely by power structures to recruit young people and use them for their own purposes. This took place in Dagestan and Chechnya.

    The let the person understand that they know what he was doing; they know about his connections with other guys, and thus, manage to recruit him. He became an activist, went to the "Mashuk" camp.

    He was told that they knew what he was doing; they knew about his connections with other guys, and managed to recruit him. He became an activist, participates in various events organized by the state, films videos; he went to the "Mashuk" camp

    I had one acquaintance. He met someone on the Internet, it was an alien man, who invited him to his home; and there, they were already waiting for him; as I understand, the beat him up, took away the phone. He was told that they knew what he was doing; they knew about his connections with other guys, and managed to recruit him. He became an activist, participates in various events organized by the state, films videos; he went to the "Mashuk" camp.

    CK: What, in your estimation, is the number of gays in Northern Caucasus?

    Ruslan: In the Caucasus, society is more conservative. Nobody advertises, we have no organizations like in Moscow or Saint Petersburg; there are no places where we can meet openly. It seems to me that in Dagestan this is about 5% of the male population.

    CK: The male population of Dagestan is about 1.4 million (according to the 2010 census, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"). That is, according to your estimates, there are about 80,000 gays in the republic, aren't they?

    Ruslan: I can't talk about numbers in absolute terms. I have no exact information.

    You want me killed? They'll kill me. Why are you asking about it?

    People usually create families, but this thing remains inside the person. I know there are people in Dagestan who have such stories: they got married, because this was already demanded by the society, but at the same time they have guys with whom they can meet. It's hold back, but the family may know.

    CK: And in Chechnya?

    Ruslan: In Chechnya, I have only a couple of friends. After the recent events covered by publications in the "Novaya Gazeta", I contacted my friend from there, and he told me that if he said anything on this topic, he would be killed. He asked directly, "Do you want me killed? I will be killed. Why are you asking about this?" I asked another friend of mine, if he had thought of moving to another region, to Moscow or somewhere else, because sooner or later they could learn about him and do something with him; even someone from his own family. He replied that he had not thought of moving, but if they found out, it would be a shame for the family and he would be killed.

    CK: What can you say about the scandalous story with secret gay prisons (according to Radio Liberty, such prisons are located in Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt, – note of the "Caucasian Knot")?

    Ruslan: As for Chechnya, it seems to me that everything is possible there. The same secret prisons, where ordinary people were kept not because of their orientation, but simply for criticizing the authorities; everyone knows that these prisons exist there. And since they exist, why couldn't they keep gays in them? But these are not special prisons, but the same ones.

    About gays in the Muftiate, Caucasian lesbians and farce dating in the network

    CK: The "Novaya Gazeta" reported that among the gays persecuted in Chechnya there are representatives of the Muftiate, and other well-known people of the republic. Do you know anything about such cases?

    Ruslan: A year ago I talked with my friend from Grozny; he then told me that in the Muftiate itself it is very widespread. How did he know it, I don't know. But he spoke about it confidently and didn't explain how he had known that. I don't know about other cases with famous people.

    CK: Mostly, media report about persecutions of gays. Do you know any cases of harassment of homosexual women?

    Ruslan: It seems to me, it's easier for them, because in relation to a woman this is never perceived so negatively. They may think that her mind was ill, due to the fact that she had not got married for a long time; and they will try to marry her. But I don't know such cases that there were problems with unconventional women, because it is softer perceived than in the case of guys.

    CK: How do members of the gay community communicate in Northern Caucasus? Are there any forms of interaction and support?

    Ruslan: There are no public organizations. The only thing thy have there – individual dating through the Internet. They mostly get acquainted with "Hornet" (social network for gays, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"). Usually they communicate with people from their republic, but sometimes they can go to another city, to another region.

    CK: How big is the risk to get acquainted, through these networks, with a dummy person, who works for special services?

    Ruslan: It happens often. Policemen extorted money from someone; or they wanted to recruit someone. Everyone has a different story. There is a risk, but still people can communicate. Besides, at first, they get acquainted, nobody drags someone into the bed at once; they just communicate; and sometimes it takes months.

    CK: How did the gay community in the Caucasus react to the initiative of GayRussia activists to hold parades in the Caucasus (in March 2017, applications were submitted for gay parades in Nalchik and Cherkessk, – note of the "Caucasian Knot")? Do you support such initiatives?

    Ruslan: I don't know anything about this. It seems to me, as far as the Caucasus is concerned, the society will accept it with hostility. Now, this problem is hushed up, but if to hold openly, like in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, then, firstly, they will not let you hold the action, and, secondly, no one will go there. Local gays don't support such initiatives, at least those from my circle of acquaintances.

    CK: Are they not ready to participate in parades, or don't they support them in principle?

    Ruslan: They don't approve it. Being gay in the Caucasus is a double tragedy; this person will always hide it, even from his closest people, from his family and friends.

    And what if to return?

    CK: Do you consider the option of returning home?

    Ruslan: I would like to see my relatives. Being here, I realized how much I'm attached to my home and to my friends, who stayed there, but it seems to me that in the near future this is impossible. If I try to return there, they'll start recruiting me again, or maybe they'll kill me.

    CK: Are you ready for the situation when your orientation becomes known at home?

    Ruslan: I think not.

    Hornet and VKontakte. Collage prepared by the 'Caucasian Knot'.  CK: What could the consequences be, if your relatives know about your orientation?

    Ruslan: At best – expulsion from the family and the society forever.

    CK: Have the story with fingerprints on the pistol or any other persecutions received continuation?

    Ruslan: At first, the district policeman often came and bothered my relatives. And some person contacted me by the WhatsApp. And then they asked my relatives to contact me to make sure that I hadn't gone anywhere, that I was still in Turkey. They almost threatened my relatives. It seems to me that in any case they wouldn't let me live peacefully. When I talked with their man, he said he would solve all my problems, "It's okay, and you don't have to worry." And when they came to my house, the local district policeman and some other man, they said that they were aware of my affairs and that I could return freely, and I would have no problems. Judging by the way they are interested in my situation and where I am, it seems to me that it is not safe there. Otherwise, they would have forgotten about me.

    Interviewed by Oleg Zuber, May 16, 2017

    To ensure the respondent's anonymity, certain names and details have been changed.

    Notes: It is difficult to estimate the number of gays in those societies, where homosexuality is sharply condemned. Data for countries of Western Europe and North America indicate that the share of homosexual and bisexual people in the population of these countries is between 2% and 6% (How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? / Gary J. Gates // Williams Institute. 2011. P. 3).