Baku gays freed after crackdown
Police in Azerbaijan have been arresting and torturing men suspected of being gay or bisexual, as well as transgender women, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Javid Nabiyev, president of Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, posted a Facebook video saying detainees were forced to give names and addresses of gay and transgender acquaintances.
“People are confused,” Nabiyev said. “Everybody have [sic] fear that they might be arrested anytime on the street, and even existence of this fear is big problem.”
After interviewing some of those detained and Azeri lawyers, HRW said that since mid-September, police in Baku had detained numerous people on dubious charges, beating and using electric shocks on some and demanding bribes and information about other gay men. The authorities have not denied the crackdown, justifying the action on morality and public health grounds.
Many of those held were freed after October 2, a lawyer said.
The government said those arrested in the Baku
raids were accused of offering unsolicited sexual services, violating public order and spreading infectious diseases.
It said that all 83 suspects detained last month had been freed from custody, while 32 diagnosed with having sexually transmitted diseases were sent for medical treatment. They said that 12 were HIV positive of which six had developed Aids.
“The round-ups in Azerbaijan fit a familiar horrifying narrative that exploits so-called traditional values to justify violence against sexual and gender minorities,” said Graeme Reid, HRW lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights chief. “Authorities are targeting gay and bisexual men and transgender women using tactics that indicate an intent to continue, and widen, the crackdown.”
The media has reported unconfirmed accounts of up to 100 arrests.
Two of the men HRW spoke to were detained at the Organised Crime Unit, or Bandotdel, and said they were tortured. At least 34 others reportedly told the courts they suffered from severe ill-treatment, including beatings, and that they were forced to sign false statements. The lawyers said transgender detainees had their heads shaved.
Azerbaijan decriminalised same-sex relationships in 2000 but there are no LGBT rights groups in the mainly Muslim country.
Detainees were apparently asked to sign statements refusing the services of a lawyer.
A lawyer said police documents said some detainees “were arrested on sidewalks as they were shouting or arranging sex work”. Prostitution is illegal in Azerbaijan, but HRW is not aware of any those held having been charged with the offence.
Gay pride in Germany targets homophobia in Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Wikimedia