Gay man in Turkmenistan goes missing after posting heartbreaking video fearing he might be ‘forcibly taken away’
A gay man in the central Asian country Turkmenistan has gone missing after claiming in a heartbreaking video that he might be “forcibly taken away”.
Kasymberdy Garayev has reportedly vanished alongside his mother, father and siblings after police discovered that he is gay. Gay men can be imprisoned for up to two years in Turkmenistan.
In the video – seemingly directed at his family – Garayev said: “My dears, forgive me. I’ve caused you a lot of pain recently. I made you cry.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. If I am forcibly taken away, know that I am innocent. Please forgive me. If I disappear, forgive me.”
Since sharing the video, Garayev and his family have vanished.
Garayev spoke about his experience of being gay in Turkmenistan in an anonymous article, but security services discovered his real identity.
Garayev’s struggle began when he shared his story of being gay in Turkmenistan with Radio Free Europe earlier this month.
He spoke to the publication anonymously in a story published on 21 October in which he said he had known he was gay since he was a child, but said it was difficult to accept in a conservative society.
He later went on to study medicine in Minsk and returned to Turkmenistan in the summer of 2018. He arranged to meet a man online when he returned home – however, the meeting turned out to be a police sting operation to catch gay men. He was lured to a public place by the undercover police officer where he was arrested.
I didn’t mean to hurt you. If I am forcibly taken away, know that I am innocent. Please forgive me. If I disappear, forgive me.
Garayev avoided prosecution – which he said was only because his uncle works in security service for the president of Turkmenistan – but he was beaten by police and subjected to electric shocks.
His family collected him from the police station, but then spent the following weeks attacking him over his sexuality. They arranged for him to marry a woman, sent him to a psychologist and a “mullah” to cure him of his homosexuality, and his father threatened to stab him.
Garayev later fled to Turkey to seek help from the UN refugee office, but his family hired somebody to track him down and bring him home.
He was summoned by police on 24 October. He hasn’t been seen since.
While Garayev initially spoke on the condition of anonymity, authorities in Turkmenistan deployed security services to find out who he was by investigating workers in the health sector where he said he worked.
He was summoned to a police station on 24 October and it was the last time he has been heard from.
When his workplace was contacted, Radio Free Europe was told that he no longer works there. They also discovered that his family are no longer living at their address and neighbours did not know where they had gone.
Disappearances like these are common in Turkmenistan. An organisation called Prove They Are Alive fights for the rights of those who have been detailed and are serving “long-term sentences” and about whom no information is available.