By now, it's likely that you've heard about the horrific reports of the imprisonment, torture and murder of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. The semi-autonomous region of Russia has long been plagued by homophobia, but in recent times under its leader Ramzan A. Kadyrov, oppression has escalated to the point that hundreds of men have been imprisoned, and some killed. Alarmingly, a spokesperson for the leader claimed that gay men "do not exist" in Chechnya – and that "if there were such people, law enforcement agencies wouldn't need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no return".
In Melbourne, an organisation has risen up called Pink Wolves (the wolf being the national animal of Chechnya). They're running a candlelit vigil at Fed Square at 6pm, Tuesday May 16 to remember those who have lost their lives, show solidarity towards the men struggling in a dangerous, oppressive regime, and to take a stand and petition Malcolm Turnbull to provide refuge in Australia for Chechen gay and bi men.
Read more about the vigil (and the situation in Chechnya) on the Pink Wolves event page. Organisers have requested that attendees bring an electronic candle (wax candles are not permitted in Fed Square) and wear something pink.
If you want to help further, you can sign this Amnesty International petition to call on Russian and Chechen authorities to stop the persecution, sign this Megaphone petition to ask the government to accept Chechnyan refugees, write to the Australian government and donate to the Russian LGBT Network.