In April 2017, the Russian independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta shocked the world by publishing reports of a violent anti-gay purge happening the the semi-autonomous Russian region of Chechnya. An openly gay 30-year-old journalist who writes under the name Ali Feruz (real name Khudoberdi Nurmatov) helped cover the story and has done so ever since. However, Russia is now threatening to deport him back to his home country of Uzbekistan, a place where he could possibly face detainment, torture and imprisonment for being gay.
On Aug. 1 2017, Russian authorities arrested Nurmatov near his workplace after asking to see his documents. The next day, a judge ordered his deportation back to Uzbekistan. The website en.crimerussia.com reports that after returning to his cell, Nurmatov reportedly tried to slit his own wrists using a pen, but guards prevented him, tying his wrists behind his back so he could no longer hurt himself.
Nurmatov came to Russia six years ago, partly to escape persecution in his home country. In 2008, Uzbekistan authorities detained and tortured him in an attempt to collect information on his friends’ political views and to recruit him for intelligence gathering. He refused and in retaliation, the legal authorities beat him and “threatened to rape his wife and imprison him on false information.”
After coming to Russia, he subsequently came out as gay and divorced his wife in 2013. He has repeatedly applied for political asylum in Russia, only to have the courts deny his request.
If deported, Nurmatov fears he’lll be imprisoned and tortured again in his home country. Male same-sex encounters are illegal in Uzbekistan and punishable by up to three years in prison.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United States Department of State and Council of the European Union, call Uzbekistan “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights.” The government uses arbitrary arrests and torture to silence journalists and various other enemies of the state under the pretense of “stopping terrorism.”
Human Right Watch reports that on August 4, “the European Court of Human Rights issued a preliminary injunction ordering Russia not to deport Nurmatov, until the court can review his case.” Meanwhile, Chechen authorities and religious clerics have threatened Nurmatov’s co-workers with violence and death, causing some to go into hiding, even as they continue to report on the region’s eight-month campaign of kidnapping, torture and murder of LGBTQ people.