A bisexual man from Kyrgyzstan was forced to leave the country after suffering two homophobic attacks within the same month.
The man, who is in his 20s, said the attacks took place in November in the Issyk-Kul region located in eastern Kyrgyzstan, bordering Kazakhstan and China.
PinkNews has agreed to identify the victim only by the initials A.D. to protect him from possible repercussions.
The first homophobic attack took place after A.D. left the home of his friend A.A. around 8pm on an early November evening. The two hugged on the street as A.D. waited for his cab to arrive when three men approached them, calling A.A. by his name.
A.D. told PinkNews he and his friend were brought to an isolated area where the three men began to beat and insult them, particularly targeting A.A.
“They beat us mostly in the kidneys, stomach and legs with batons, and they left.”
Homophobic attack reported to the police
A.D., who had never met the attackers before, decided to report the incident to the police. He had recently attended a workshop from a local LGBT+ groups and understood the importance of reporting anti-LGBT crimes.
In the police statement, he described the men’s appearance and noted that they had used police batons to beat them during the homophobic attack. He was told he’d be contacted if a match for the suspects was found.
When A.D. told his friend he reported the homophobic attack to the police, A.A. expressed concern with the decision. He was fearful of possible repercussions from the law enforcement officials themselves.
“I’ve always tried to hide my sexuality, I often felt like a two-faced man.”
LGBT+ activists in the country have long denounced the role of police officers in abusing LGBT+ people. According to LGBT+ group Kyrgyz Indigo, the climate of homophobia and transphobia in the country enables police officers to target LGBT+ people for extortion, as they fear being outed to their family and friends, who are likely to reproach and marginalise them.
The group is one of the few organisations in Kyrgyzstan that monitors reports of homophobic crimes. In 2018, Kyrgyz Indigo received 56 reports, 34 from cisgender men and 12 from transgender women, of which nine went to the police. The data represented a marginal improvement from 2017, when 59 cases were reported but only three reached the police.
LGBT+ community in Kyrgyzstan target of homophobic violence
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Kyrgyz Indigo, violence against the LGBT+ community in Kyrgyzstan is widespread, as 96 percent of the 88 respondents reported experiencing psychological violence, 84 percent said they were subject to physical violence and 35 percent survived sexual violence.
“[Kyrgyz society’s] expectation is that you are heterosexual and cisgender. It’s extremely difficult if you do not conform to these expectations, you risk losing your family,” Anna Kirey, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, told PinkNews.
According to Kirey, the climate of homophobia and transphobia was exacerbated in recent years by the passing of the so-called gay propaganda law in Russia in 2013.
“The police has absolutely no reason to detain or harass LGBT people. It’s purely arbitrary detention.”
— Anna Kirey
The country lacks its own similar legislation—a bill on the topic was proposed in 2014 but was never fully approved—but the Russian law’s existence changed the way Kyrgyzstan understands advocacy for LGBT+ rights, associating any demand for progressive change with “propaganda.”
Kirey explained: “It created a climate of impunity, it gave a green light basically to anyone who wanted to express their hate towards LGBT people.”
“The police knows there are vulnerable groups for extortion,” she continued. But as there is no law in Kyrgyzstan outlawing homosexuality, “the police has absolutely no reason to detain or harass LGBT people. It’s purely arbitrary detention.”
Nazik, an advocate for LGBT+ rights in Kyrgzstan, previously opened up to PinkNews about the level of abuse LGBT+ people endure in the country. Describing one homophobic attack she survived, Nazik said she was “beaten with a bottle” and the police was unwilling to investigate the crime.
Second homophobic attack lands A.D. in hospital
A.D. would soon come to find out just how dire the situation is for LGBT+ people in the country, especially those who attempt to resist the climate of intimidation.
On the evening of November 19, A.D. said he was approached on his way home by a man who came out of a black car and identified himself as a police officer. The man claimed the police had detained A.D.’s suspected attackers and needed him to confirm their identity. The man insisted it was an urgent matter, so A.D. reluctantly got in the car, where another man was waiting.
“After some time, I realised that they were not going in the direction of the police,” A.D. recalled. Feeling increasingly frightened, he asked them to stop the car, but the men only stopped the vehicle once they reached the outskirts of the town.
“They told me to get out of the car and started insulting me saying: ‘You damn gay, how dare [you] write a statement, don’t you understand that no one will not help you, you are a shame for the whole society.’ They said when me and A.A. die, nobody will bury us like [everyone else],” A.D. recalled.
A.D. said that after being insulted and threatened, one of the men pulled out two bottles of vodka, saying they would now drink together and forget about everything that had just happened.
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“I said that I did not drink and [I was] ready to forget everything without drinking. But then the second man hit me hard in the head from behind and I fell. They continued to beat me, they clamped my nose and started pouring vodka [in my mouth]. After that, I woke up in the hospital from pain all over my body, especially in the stomach.”
A.D.’s stomach was wrapped in bandages, but doctors told him that his assailants had carved the word ‘gay’ on his skin. A.D. said his mother decided to move him from a public hospital to a private clinic for treatment after two days because the hospital staff appeared reluctant to look after him.
A.D. said his mother is the only member of his family who embraces him for who he is. “I’ve always tried to hide my sexuality, I often felt like a two-faced man,” he said, adding: “I lost all my relatives and friends, but only my mother does not leave me.”
He hopes that sharing his story will help highlighting the struggles LGBT+ people face in Kyrgyzstan.
“I want the evil leaders of our country to be ashamed of the fact that they cannot protect the rights of citizens of their country. They caused us pain that we will never forget. Even if we die I want to be heard,” A.D. said.
Amnesty International’s Kirey believes that change in Kyrgyzstan can happen, as it is possible for LGBT+ groups to operate in the country and have a dialogue with the government.
“The government has a chance to act to protect LGBT+ people from these abuses,” she said, describing instances in which some police complaints were investigated and the victims got compensation.
She added: “Things are moving forward even if the violence isn’t going away.”