The new Chechnya? 100 gay and transgender people reportedly arrested and tortured in Azerbaijan

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

At least 100 gay and transgender people have been arrested, tortured and beaten in Azerbaijan, according to local reports.

Police conducted a number of raids in the capital of Baku and forced those who they arrested to give up their friends’ addresses, activists have said.

Some of those detained have reportedly had their heads shaved.

(Wikimedia Commons)
(Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Police have said that their actions have nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation and accused the detainees of being engaged in prostitution, according to media site Eurasianet.

Other reports from inside the country state that the raids were carried out in the name of “protecting national moral values.”

Ayaz Efendiyev, deputy chairman of the Justice Party, responded to the reported arrests with a prejudice-filled diatribe.

“Defending these creatures who are sources of immorality, dangerous diseases, and who have been cursed by God, Western circles are trying to destroy our national traditions under the name of ‘human rights,’” he said.

Azerbaijan 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.

In 2015, the European Parliament voted to condemn the “intimidation and repression” of LGBTI people in the country.

Homosexuality has been legal in Azerbaijan since 2000, but LGBT people and activists in the country still face routine and systematic oppression.

Javid Nabiyev, president of the prominent Nefes (‘Breathe’) LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, said that “suddenly, without any clear reasons to us, police officers organised raids against gay and transgender people.”

Speaking to PinkNews, he said: “It’s unclear what prompted the roundup, or how many people have been affected.

(Facebook/Javid Nabiyev)
(Facebook/Javid Nabiyev)

“Lawyers working on the cases say that at least 100 people have been detained over a period of several days.

“According to official statements, police officers detained people after receiving complaints of prostitution. The statements say the measures were taken in full accordance with Azerbaijani law.”

Nabiyev reported that a police spokesperson has claimed that “‘people of non-traditional sexual orientation were gathered in the centre of Baku to engage in prostitution.

“‘Citizens repeatedly appealed to the police with a request to stop these illegal actions. In connection with this, the police have taken measures’ he added, which is BULL S***!”

The activist continued: “Today they kidnapped one gay in his workplace.

“I think the police are pushing a media narrative, stating that all those arrested had AIDS and other STDs.

“People are scared…the police have some concept of being gay, and they are arresting people without reason, asking for addresses and taking money to release them.”

He added: “We are using all tools and resources to inform all LGBT people to be careful… [to] not have new dates, not come out with their sexual orientation and gender identity to people they don’t know well, not to answer to unknown phone calls, and to stay in the shadows for a while.

“Everybody has a fear that they might be arrested at any time.”

Watch Javid Nabiyev’s account here: