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LGBT activists in Azerbaijan have claimed that dozens of gay and transgender people have been detained by police “following a number of raids around Baku (the capital city), with reports of torture and beatings.”
If the claims turn out to be true, their details will closely mirror the ongoing campaign of detainment and torture carried out against LGBTQ people in the semi-autonomous Russian region of Chechnya.
Initial reports of anti-LGBTQ raids in Azerbaijan
According to a Sept. 22, 2017 video message posted by Javid Nabiyev, president of the Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance (below), police have raided private homes and public places popular among gay people. He adds that the police have forced detainees to give up contact info on their LGBTQ associates and are forbidding access to any lawyers and family members.
In local media, police have claimed that all of the people arrested were gay sex workers or drug dealers. A local politician has additionally claimed that the detainees were spreading sexually transmitted infections, though no evidence of either claim has surfaced.
Here is Javid Nabiyev’s video report on the Baku raids:
Baku activists anonymously describe detainment by police
The Sweden-based human rights group Civil Rights Defenders claims to have anonymously spoken to Baku activists, and released a statement that said:
Activists report that the detainees were subjected to beatings, verbal abuse, and forced medical examinations, as well as [transgender] women’s heads being forcibly shaven. Many were released only after giving up the addresses of fellow members of the LGBTI community, who were then in turn arrested and subjected to the same treatment. An undetermined number of those detained have been sentenced to either 20 or 30 days of administrative detention.
Police are also reportedly blackmailing several closeted LGBTI people for use as witnesses in politically motivated cases, threatening to publicly out them if they do not comply.
In the past, Azerbaijani security services have used administrative detention, which does not require a public hearing prior to sentencing, and isolating detainees from outside contact to prevent the reliable documentation of physical torture.
Same-sex activity is legal in Azerbaijan, but the country is still homophobic
Although the country repealed its Soviet-era anti-sodomy laws in 2000, gay men in the country still find it difficult to come out amid publicized abuse of gay sex workers by police. Police ordered the removal of a gay novel from bookstore shelves in 2009, and in 2014, a gay couple in Azerbaijan were forced to flee the country when a local publication published their details.
In 2016, ILGA-Europe (the European arm of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) ranked Azerbaijan last among 49 European countries in terms of LGBTQ protections and equality.