Azerbaijani web users have condemned a gay pride ‘mini rally’ staged in the capital city of Baku on 7th September.
The rally, which is believed to be the first gay parade in the Muslim country, took place peacefully, with no arrests and no reports of harassment or violence, though the number of participants in the rally has not been publicised.
Oxu News reported that the event, organised by gay rights activists Ruslan Baluxin, took place “in a friendly atmosphere and without incident.”
According to Modern Azerbaijan, the campaigners covered their faces, but also raised rainbow pride flags high over their heads.
The rally did not receive much coverage in the the local mainstream media, but the BBC Monitoring Service has found that many Azerbaijani’s have been voicing their criticism online after discovering that the rally took place.
“Stop this outrage,” user emusya123 commented, referring to the rally.
One user, Kruzhevo, said: “How many of them [gay protesters] were there? So that I know to what extent this tragedy is… People, I am scared for the future generation.” He went on to comment that Azerbaijan should “follow Russia’s example.”
Another, ‘Posrednik,’ added that only reason the parade was staged peacefully because it had not received publicity in the country and people there had not recognised the rainbow flag as a symbol of gay pride.
User ‘Poklonnicha Shumakhera’ stated that while they the believed sexual orientation of others was “their own business,” they were “totally against” gay parades.
Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 2001, oppression and harassment of LGBT people in the Muslim country is thought to be widespread. There are no legal provisions for same-sex unions or anti-discrimination laws.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said LGBT Azerbaijan citizens suffer police harassment and brutality, blackmail, intimidation, bribery and invasions of privacy and have no legal protection against discrimination.
The 2012, Eurovision song contest, held in Azerbaijan, was accused by Iranians of hosting a gay pride march to coincide with the event. A senior administration official addressed a press conference to clarify the issue.
“They are making statements about something that does not exist. We are holding Eurovision, not a gay parade,” he said.
He added: “There is no word in the Azerbaijani language for a gay parade, unlike in their language.”