Amin Dzhabrailov remembers the day vividly. He was working in his hair salon in Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya, Russia, in 2017 when he says three large men came in, grabbed him and threw him in the trunk of their car.
“My life was going through my eyes. I was expecting that the door [was] gonna open and I’m gonna die,” Dzhabrailov said.
What he said followed is painful for Dzhabrailov, who is gay, to recount. Over several days, he was handcuffed to a chair, beaten black-and-blue and electrocuted, all while being pressured to reveal the names of other gay men in the Russian province, he said.
“They tell me that they know that I’m gay, and [to] tell [them] about more gay guys… The sense was [they would] probably just torture them also. ... I didn’t give any name[s].”
Reports of hundreds of gay men in Chechnya being rounded up and tortured in 2017 shocked the world. Almost three years later, human rights groups and LGBT people who have fled the region say little has changed.
Dzhabrailov said that on the day he was kidnapped, he was put in the trunk of a car and taken to a basement. There, he said he was tortured and beaten for days. At one point, Dzhabrailov said, his captors staged his own execution.
“They took off my shoes… and they put me on the wall, put [a] bag on my head…. That guy charged his gun, and put [it] right here on my head. And I started painting the wall with my blood. And he said that it’s my last seconds.”
Dzhabrailov's eyes filled with tears when he gave his harrowing account. He is one of several LGBT people from Chechnya who have spoken to "Nightline" about their experiences living in the region amid the reported anti-LGBT purges, which have been propagated by Chechen police in the semi-autonomous Russian republic since 2017.
Yet, despite at least 200 reported cases of horrific abuses against LGBT people in the region, Dzhabrailov is only the second victim to speak openly about what he says happened to him. Many others, some of whom spoke to "Nightline" on the condition of anonymity, fear reprisals for sharing their stories from the Chechen security services and even their own families. Despite the international outcry, LGBT people still routinely face terror and torture in Chechnya.
Dzhabrailov's interview is part of an upcoming ABC News "Nightline" special. The team, led by ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman, spent a year speaking with multiple victims of the anti-LGBT campaigns carried out by Chechnya’s security services and exploring their lives in Russia and Europe, where some have taken shelter.
The team also traveled to Chechnya, where Longman confronted senior officials over the allegations of abuse and obtained exceptional access, talking directly with the some of the men allegedly responsible for the unprecedented persecution.
Chechen authorities have denied any wrongdoing.