For about six months before 22-year-old Khalimat Taramova fled Chechnya on June 4, her family kept the young woman, who identifies as bisexual, under lock and key. They beat and verbally abused her and forced her to undergo so-called conversion therapy. In May, Taramova reached out to a prominent LGBT rights group begging them to help her reach safety. They promised to help but said it would take some time.
Taramova couldn’t bear the abuse anymore. A friend who feared for Taramova’s life took her to Marem shelter for battered women, in Makhachkala, in neighboring Dagestan. On the advice of the activists running the shelter, Taramova recorded a video saying she had left Chechnya voluntarily because of abuse and sent it to Chechen authorities.
On June 10, a Dagestani police officer knocked on the shelter’s door, saying that he had information that Taramova, whose family had reported her missing, was staying there and that he needed to confirm she was okay.
Several hours after he interviewed Taramova in the presence of a lawyer who cooperated with the shelter, police stormed the shelter and detained the activists who they transported to a police station. Then several Chechen police officers and Taramova’s father rushed in. Taramova and her friend, who were huddled on the balcony, threatened to jump. The officers and her father left, but shortly after, a man, introducing himself as a concerned neighbor, arrived and promised to take the women to safety. Desperate, they got into his car; he drove them to a police station.
The women were held at the station until the next morning, when Chechen police, who were waiting outside, detained Taramova and forced her into a car. Dagestani officers restrained her friend.
Chechnya’s broadcaster ran a story on Taramova this week, in which she says on camera that she is “fine,” her family is taking good care of her, there had never been any abuse, and those who took her to Dagestan probably drugged her. This is far from the first time Chechen authorities have shown victims of abuses or their relatives “recanting” on camera.
Russian federal authorities have binding legal obligations to ensure Taramova’s safety and freedom. Failure to act will implicate Moscow deeper in the arbitrary detention and abuse of a woman whose life is in danger. Taramova’s well-being and fate lies with both Grozny and Moscow.