Gay men speak out about Azerbaijan's LGBT crackdown: ‘They gave me electric shocks’

Lawyers and activists say dozens of gay and transgender people have been arrested and detained

Lydia Smith
Monday 23 October 2017 22:23
Some people alleged they were coerced into confessing involvement in the sex industry
Some people alleged they were coerced into confessing involvement in the sex industry

Several men have come forward with firsthand accounts of an alleged crackdown on the LGBT community in Azerbaijan.

One of the men, who remained anonymous, said he was detained for nine days and tortured.

“They gave me electric shocks,” he said in an interview with Radio Free Europe.

“They beat me with a stick on my knees. I couldn’t move afterwards.”

Dozens of gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan have been arrested, detained and forced to give up friends to authorities, according to lawyers and activists in the country.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in the majority-Muslim nation in 2000 and people are legally allowed to change their gender, but animosity towards LGBT people still remains.

Some of those arrested have been subjected to beatings, abuse and forced medical examinations, lawyers said, although these reports could not be independently verified.

Trans women have had their heads forcibly shaven, according to a report by British gay rights charity Stonewall.

One Baku-based activist, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that authorities were targeting “main streets, metro stations and LGBT-friendly placed like clubs, pubs and bars.”

Authorities in Azerbaijan have alleged that those arrested were involved in sex work, although nearly all cases the accused have denied such allegations.

Some alleged they were coerced into confessing involvement in the sex industry.

One unnamed man told Radio Free Europe officials made him sign documents that “were already filled in” as well as other blank documents, before questioning him about seeing “clients”.

“I told them I am not seeing clients, I’m just gay,” he said.

Azerbaijan has a poor record when it comes to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

Earlier this year, the country was rated the worst place in Europe for LGBT rights, with a 5 percent score compared to 76 percent in the UK.

The allegations follow an alleged anti-LGBT purge carried out by authorities in Chechnya earlier this year, in which hundreds of gay men were reportedly arrested, detained and tortured in the conservative republic.

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