Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens is a group of people raising money for organizations working directly with gay men and other persecuted LGB T people from Chechnya and the northern Caucasus. They do this through direct donations, donating royalties to these charitable organizations, and an online auction to be held May 5–12.
Historical fantasy author EM Prazeman, who has donated an original story based on the prompt of the highest bidders choice to the auction, talks about why she decided to get involved:
Chechnya seems far away, and unimportant. Isn’t that always the way it seems? The world is such a big place, and there are so many people in it. There’s so much suffering. What can one person do about all that? It turns out that one person can do a lot for good, or ill.
“As long as Putin backs me up, I can do everything, Allahu Akbar!”
– Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen dictator*
I grew up in an era when a lot of the charities that people heard about or saw on television commercials were pretty lousy at delivering the help they promised. Feed the Children, one of the most famous charitable organizations in the US, went through scandal after scandal, and is in the midst of yet another lawsuit. At first we didn’t hear about it, but as the information emerged at a slow and uneven pace, it called the idea of giving at all into question. We learned to give directly, to give locally, and to volunteer.
But everything has changed now. Now I can give globally, directly. I didn’t have to guess about an organization’s track record. I could find out. When I saw what the Russian LGBT Network was doing, I had to help.
It’s probably hard to understand how helpless and frustrated I’d felt, and how free I feel now. I can create a graphic design and ship it to dozens of people scattered all over the globe, who can then share those designs, alter them, improve them, make them work so that people become aware of causes that they care about. I can send five dollars to Somalia in an instant. I can exchange emails with the head of a charity in Germany. The fact that I’d learned about what’s happening in Chechnya at all is amazing even as it chills me.
Now I can read about men at risk in Chechnya and do something tangible about it today instead of just being angry and sad about it.
After 11 days, he was released to a male relative, who was told that Maksim was gay. The security officers told the captives’ male relatives that, if they had any honor, they would kill the young men…**
I can’t give to every cause, or spend all day, every day volunteering. But I don’t have to. I can reach out to other people, and we can all help a little. A friend of mine likes to say, many hands make light work.
Thirty years ago I might have read about the graves, the tragedy, the shadowed after-effects of what had happened months or years after the fact, if at all. But it’s the year 2017 and a network is up and running to get people who are still alive and in danger right now out of Chechnya. They’re in the news, and they’re getting people at risk out of Chechnya right now. In a year or two, I fear it might be over one way or another but this is happening fast enough, fiercely enough that I think that we can save a lot of people. Real people. We can do this. Visit Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens or https://readersandwritersforlgbtchechens.wordpress.com/ for more information.
EM Prazeman lives in the Pacific Northwest on small acreage, where she tends to goats, chickens, and both ornamental and produce gardens. This sounds more picturesque than the reality, though the view on the property is splendid. She is a Top Writer at Quora.com, and has published to-date five novels and two short stories with four more coming out in 2017. Prazeman’s writing is influenced by Alexandre Dumas, JRR Tolkien, Sun Tzu, Niccoló Machiavelli, Hossam Ramzy, Akira Kurosawa, Frank Herbert, Leonardo DaVinci, Ursula LeGuin, Baldassare Castiglione, Hayao Miyazaki, and many other writers, visual artists and musicians.
“For me, writing, visual art and music are all mixed up. They’re the same activity. They’re just expressed in different mediums.” – EMP
By Dale Cameron Lowry
When the news started coming out of Chechnya about the organized police campaign of torture, imprisonment and murder being conducted against men perceived to be gay, it hit me hard.
Growing up in the Netherlands just a few decades after World War II, I learned to dread authoritarianism and genocide — authoritarianism’s frequent offspring — early on in life. On school and family outings we visited houses with secret rooms where families had provided refuge to Jews as they sought to escape Occupied Europe. Every summer, we would drive through northern Germany to see my cousins, and my mom would announce the sites of former concentration camps we passed along the way.
I felt compelled to do something about the situation in Chechnya — but what? How could I possibly help from the other side of the world?
On April 14, I got an email that mentioned the Russian LGBT Network, the main organization working to help vulnerable Chechens get to safety. Things started to click into place in my head. I figured out how I could help.
I started by setting aside some of the proceeds from my recently released anthology Falling Hard: Stories of Men in Love for the Russian LGBT Network. Then I asked other writers if they could do something similar.
Fantasy author Olivia Helling was one of the first to respond, and she also volunteered to organize a charity auction. Over the next week or so, the idea grew into an effort that now includes more than thirty writers, publishers, and other book people. We call ourselves Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens and, through royalties, other donations, and an online charity auction to be held May 5–12, we’re helping to make a difference.
Authors, publishers, and other book people are:
- setting aside royalties for the Russian LGBT Network
- making direct donations to organizations helping vulnerable Chechens
- contributing signed paperbacks, cover design and editing services, ebook collections, bespoke short stories, characters named after readers, and more to an online auction with proceeds to benefit theRussian LGBT Network, ILGA-Europe and Rainbow Railroad, which are helping LGBT Chechens escape to safety.
I’m also maintaining a newsfeed with updates about the situation in Chechnya and what charities are doing to help. You can check it out here.
If you’re an author who would like to get involved, please sign up at Authors & Publishers for LGBT Chechens. There, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions about the auction, royalty donations, the charitable organizations that are helping out LGBT Chechens, and more.
If you are a reader who would like to learn more about the situation in Chechnya and how to help — including how to make a direct donation to a designated charity, buy a book from a participating author, or support the auction — please visit Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens.
Dale Cameron Lowry is a romance and speculative fiction writer living in the Upper Midwest with a partner and three cats. Queer Mormons, immigrants and emigrants, people with disabilities, multilingual folks, and others who spend their lives navigating multiple cultures often appear in Dale’s writing.