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Feature: The truth about gay life in Azerbaijan outside of the Eurovision Song Contest

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  1. New Aussie 27 May 2012, 3:21am

    So, just like the UK back in the early 60s. Look, it is not helpful assessing the world through the prism of western European gay Nirvana sunglasses. Azerbaijan, bordering Armenia, Iran, Georgia and Russia is not exactly surrounded by gay friendly nations. Aliyev is cut from the same cloth as Putin and the population share a culture with Iran. That they decriminalised homosexuality in that context is a big and important thing. And if things like seeking to become an EU accession state aided and abetted by foreign trade and things like eurovision there is the hope that a momentum can be built towards further gay law reform, even though the prospects may look bleak at the moment. It took us about 40 years from 1960 to see Britain really change for the better and I would guess that such a timescale for Azerbaijan might also be reasonable to expect.

    1. “So, just like the UK back in the early 60s.” If only. Azerbaijan is more like Soviet Russia in the 1930s. It’s not just a matter of gay rights; the article quite rightly notes the country’s appalling general human rights situation. It’s disgraceful that this country with its vile regime and appalling human rights record was accorded this opportunity for free publicity.

    2. „Azerbaijan, bordering Armenia, Iran, Georgia and Russia is not exactly surrounded by gay friendly nations.“

      Neither is Israel which recognizes gay marriage.

      1. Paddyswurds 27 May 2012, 1:06pm

        However Israel also totally ignores the human rights of it’s Palestinian neighbours and citizens and thousands of children are without a decent education and health care and many go to bed at night hungry….or those that have a bed.

        1. More anti-semitic drivel. ‘Totally ignores’ indeed! Israeli Arabs have equal rights in the only democratic country in the Middle East. There are Israeli Arab parliamentarians, judges, and leaders in most professions including health and education.

          1. Drew, does this make your comment “pro-semitic drivel?”

    3. Just like the UK in the 60s? Are you for real? Can you see no difference between the UK, which has had some form of a representative parliament since 1832, freedom of association, freedom of expression… If you don’t protect freedom of expression, you cannot make any progress on any civil rights in the first place.

  2. lgbt in azerbaijan suffer from rusian type of homophobia which is driven by so called ‘traditional’ family values within society. still, lesser evil when compared to the homophobia legislated by the state like iran


  3. What is curious is that these countries think that sexual orientation, a blameless biological state, is something so shameful they will kill gay relatives as a matter of honour, yet something so obviously immoral, poisonous and undoubtedly unislamic as financial corruption, that is entirely blameworthy, is widespread and totally accepted.


  4. This is the usual nonsense exaggerated propaganda, Azerbijan is nowhere near as bad as this article alludes to.

    1. Rachel Haytread 27 May 2012, 3:42pm

      Would you please give us some details to support your comment? The artticle above provides one point of view and it would be helpful if you would provide a counter argument to allow us to make a better informed decision about this country.

    2. “Azerbijan is nowhere near as bad as this article alludes to.”

      Prove it, please. Do tell us all how Amnesty International is wrong in their assessment.

  5. Wow, such complicated politics. Gay rights, European ties, theocracy vs. secularism, Soviet legacy, institutional homophobia, Azeri nationalism, and Iranian politics. There seem to be few combinations of issues in the world that seem more volatile. And that list wasn’t even including the painful recent decades of history in the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

  6. Judith Iscariot 27 May 2012, 8:43pm

    To beat the hell out of a dead horse, WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? Christ, gay people aren’t hurting anyone by being gay, Muslims aren’t inherently hurting anyone by being Muslim. Just keep your hands to yourself, don’t kill people, be nice, and let everyone be.
    It breaks my heart that people can’t just understand the simple concept of love.

    1. That would certainly be nice. I blame hate and fear.

      1. You left out greed.

  7. Great, great article. We’ve been covering the human rights issues on our Eurovision website ( but this is really comprehensive.

  8. GingerlyColors 28 May 2012, 7:14pm

    For a predominately Shia Muslim country to decriminalise homosexuality is a major step – even if it was done in order to join the Council of Europe. The Azeris could have easily go into bed with those murderous, homophobic neighbours of their, Iran instead. Azerbaijan lies at a crossroads in Europe, where East meets West and the Islamic world meets the Christian one and the only way that things can improve in Azerbaijan is for us to hold out the hand of friendship to that nation and let them know that our values are better than those of Iran’s, who wants to interfere in the affairs of Azerbaijan. Things have a long way to go there but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Mind you, that Eldar Gassimov looked quite nice.

  9. Very interesting article. On a humorous note, I find it totally fascinating that you found a gay activist in Azerbaijan who is an empath!

    ‘What is the position of the Azerbaijani government regarding LGBT people?’ I ask Ruslan Balukhin, a(n) LGBT activist.. . ‘I don’t know a single politician here who supports LGBT people,’ he answers empathically.

  10. Terry Stewart 10 Jun 2012, 11:25pm

    The article almost painted a picture of Paradise in the West and Hell in the East. This is a very bad image which is being used and is not to dissimilar to that used by the Israeli regime in its attempt to Pinkwash. Basically we are lead to believe that Azerbaijan is the most Homophobic country in the area.

    Then we are told about the Gay clubs and LGBT support group and that Homosexuality was decriminalized in 2001.

    At no stage are we informed of Mass arrests of Gay people, summary executions of Gay people. We are rightfully informed of Human rights abuses, by littauer.

    The article then leads us into Iran, no surprise there, as their regime is not known for its liberal views on Homosexuality. Some how the Tour ended there and didn’t venture into Israel to show the model of “Democracy and equality, which exist for its Minorities communities”. That is what its regime would like us to believe. One would have thought being in the area Dan Littauer would have dropped in.

    So was this article really about Azerbaijan the LGBT community, the Rich, Islam, Israel or how good we Europeans are.

    ” The illegal evictions, expropriations, and demolitions for hundreds of local residents, forced out of their homes”. Is Littauer talking about Azerbaijan or Israel?

    The Mr. Tatchell puts his sixpence worth into the pot. “The country has a shocking human rights record. It restricts religious and media freedom, suppresses peaceful protests, and tortures political prisoners and jails journalists and opposition activists on trumped up charges.’ Is Tatchell talking about Azerbaijan or Israel?

    “If lifting the curtains of the kitsch Eurovision Song Contest reveals a repressive regime, the reality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is no better.

    Homosexuality was illegal in the country until 2001, when Azerbaijan was forced to decriminalise the statue or not be accepted into Europe”. This all reminds me of somewhere closer to home than Azerbaijan.

    Some people have mentioned the UK in the 195/60s and quite rightly so. as there is a parallel to be drawn about where we stood back then on. Gays and I am afraid, we were no better than the Azerbaijanis or the Iranians for that matter.

    We had Ian Paisley running around screaming “Save Ulster from Sodomy”, which resulted in a witch hunt of Gays and a number of Homophobic murders as a result.

    We had the Chief of Police in Manchester saying that God had told him to oppose Homosexuality, which was matched by a witch hunt of Gay in the country along with a number of deaths by suicide of Gay people as a result of the repression of the regime here.

    We had Gay clubs and Pubs being raided by Police an of course mass arrest of Gay people in Manchester, London and Bradford to name only a few. No we were not in paradise then nor are we now.
    Our regime was not all that different from some of the regimes we have talked about. We have to talk about the lives of the LGBT community, in those countries, but we must also talk about what is happening to the rest of the population, under such regimes.

    If we talk only LGBT in Israel, then we ignore the plight of the Palestinian people. If we talk only LGBT on Syria, then we ignore the repression of the regime against its entire people. If we talk about only LGBT in any country, then we fail to make the connections with the LGBT communities natural allies in those countries and that can be a disaster for the LGBT community in those countries.

    We do have to offer them International Solidarity and support and raise the issue as widely as possible. We must never substitute their organizations with what we think is good for them.

    Finally the last word to Dan Littauer: Don’t be fooled. Many of the Human Rights NGOs and LGBT Lobbyists are part of the 1%.

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