Azerbaijan legalized homosexual activity in 2000, but the former Soviet country was still ranked the worst in Europe for gay people in a 2016 survey. (file photo)

Dozens Of Gays Reported Arrested In Azerbaijani Police Crackdown

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The FINANCIAL — Rights groups and activists on September 28 said dozens of gay people have been jailed in Azerbaijan in recent weeks, and called for their release.

Javid Nabiyev, president of Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, said in a Facebook video that police have held detainees for up to 30 days and forced them to give the names and addresses of gay and transgender acquaintances.

“People are confused,” Nabiyev said in the video, which was published on Facebook on September 22. “Everybody have fear that they might be arrested anytime on the street.”

Nabiyev said some right-wing political leaders have called for a crackdown on gays and transsexual people, contending that they are “sources of immorality and dangerous diseases” and “have been cursed by God.”

Local activists said at least 50 gay and transsexual people have been detained in police raids of private homes, metro stations, and LGBT-friendly clubs, pubs, and bars in Baku over the past two weeks, according to RFE/RL.

‘Beatings’ And ‘Verbal Abuse’

Civil Rights Defenders, a human rights group based in Sweden, said the number of arrests could run into the hundreds. It said many of those detained were released only after giving up the addresses of gay and transsexual acquaintances.

Lawyers for some of those arrested said their clients had been subjected to beatings, verbal abuse, and forced medical examinations, rights groups said. The reports could not be independently verified.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs denied that police targeted or discriminated against “sexual minorities,” and said the arrests were part of a crackdown on prostitution.

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“In our country, representatives of sex minorities have never been persecuted. However, this does not mean that they are exempt from liability for illegal actions,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The police had to take measures in connection with the fact that recently people of nontraditional sexual orientation engaged in prostitution.”

Azerbaijan legalized homosexual activity in 2000, but the former Soviet country was still ranked the worst in Europe for gay people in a 2016 survey by the international advocacy group ILGA.

In 2015, the European Parliament voted to condemn the “intimidation and repression” of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people in Azerbaijan after a string of homophobic incidents.

ILGA’s executive director in Europe, Evelyne Paradis, accused Azerbaijani police of “indiscriminate targeting” of gay and transsexual people.

“[We] are worried about the fate of the victims of these raids, and are calling for the immediate release of anyone still in detention,” she said in a statement.

British gay rights group Stonewall also contended that authorities had singled out gay and transsexual people, and said that some transsexual women had their heads forcibly shaven.

Azerbaijani officials told the Caucasian Knot newspaper that the raids are part of a campaign to fight prostitution and “protect national moral values” in response to citizens’ complaints.

The arrests followed a crackdown on LGBT people in the nearby Russian republic of Chechnya, where more than 100 gay men were believed to have been rounded up and tortured earlier this year, according to media reports.

With reporting by NBC News, Reuters, and Eurasianet.org

 

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