Victims of Azerbaijan’s crackdown on LGBT people have been ‘brutally beaten by police’
Victims of the Azerbaijani crackdown on LGBT people have shared horrific stories of being arrested and tortured by police.
At least 100 gay and transgender people have been detained, beaten and forced to give up friends to authorities, according to activists in the country.
Some of those detained have reportedly had their heads shaved for the purposes of humiliation.
Same-sex activity is legal in Azerbaijan at an equal age of consent, and people have the right to legally change their gender.
But the country has a poor record when it comes to protecting LGBT people.
This year, it was rated as the worst place in Europe for LGBT rights, with a 5 percent score compared to the UK’s 76 percent.
Police raids in the capital of Baku were prompted by citizens’ complaints that non-heterosexual people were engaged in prostitution, the government has said.
A Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson told the Caucasian Knot news site that “recently, people of non-traditional sexual orientation engaged in prostitution regularly gather in the centre of the city and violate public order.
“Citizens repeatedly appealed to the police with a request to stop such illegal actions. In this regard, the police have taken measures.”
These measures have included abusing innocent citizens, Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance has reported.
The arrests are horribly reminiscent of the gay purge in Chechnya, in which more than 100 people have been detained, abused and, in at least 26 cases, killed.
One anonymous victim, a trans woman, said: “I was brutally beaten at the police station.
“There’s almost no unharmed spots left on my body.
“My head was shaved; I was slandered and threatened. Although several international organisations offered help to get me and my boyfriend out of the country, I refused to leave my home city [of] Baku”.
The government’s version of events – that these were brief detentions with no hint of abuse which were prompted by criminal allegations – has been amplified by Azerbaijani media outlets.
One news site has claimed that those who were arrested are “infected with the most dangerous illnesses … including AIDS.”
Another site reported the detentions with the headline: “Hunting season on gays is open!”
Fake profiles have reportedly been set up on social media to contact people suspected of being LGBT and inviting them to meet.
In a screenshot provided to PinkNews by the Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, a mystery person tries to trap a person they suspect of being homosexual.
Javid Nabiyev, president of the group, translated the conversation as follows, with the fake profile labelled as A, and the recipient labelled B.
A: Hi, are you a lesbian? Hey girl…I’m a trans woman, need your help.
B: Yes, please.
A: Are you a lesbian?
B: What do you need?
A: There is news about police arrests. It’s all fake. Nobody got arrested. Just some faggots working for the police.
B: Okay. What kind of help do you need?
A: I need the help of a lesbian. I’m a stylist. I need a helper. If your lesbian or gay friends need work, tell me. They will be well-paid. If someone is interested, forward them to me.
Thankfully, B worked out what was going on – and in return, they received terrifying threats.
B: Okay, okay, you are fake. I know who you are, get away from me.
A: What! OKAY? Do you know that we can find you?
B: Who are you? You know who I am, bitch, I was checking you.
This tactic seems to be widespread.
Another victim of the crackdown reported: “I was with my friend in the Old City. Suddenly police officers came to us, put us in car and took us to police station in Nasimi District.
“I’m a feminine-looking guy, and that’s probably why they [took] me. I had a two-day detention.
“During these two days, three police officers beat me so badly, I lost my consciousness.”
Another trauma was recalled by a third victim, who said: “The door was beaten on the 20th of September.
“We did not open the door, and after half an hour our friend, who was in prison, called by phone. Then the door was knocked again.
“When I looked through the peephole, I saw my friend and some policemen. They took my friend, and we were captured too.
“They beat me. The police told me that I was doing prostitution, and I must give them information about clients.
“I said: ‘I’m not a sex worker.'”
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Another person who spoke to Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance said that “if you don’t give information about others, they call to your family (which is the worst) or beat you.
They said that most of those arrested “have been beaten. They shave transgender people’s heads and they humiliate them. The police threaten them to get information about others.
“When I tried to ask why all this was happening, one told me it was a raid, while another said it was none of my business, and that if I didn’t shut up, I’d be in trouble.
“They treat you like you’re a murderer.”
Four lawyers recruited by the Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance are currently on the case.