Tireless Azerbaijani LGBT+ journalist ‘slaughtered, beheaded and has penis cut off’ by own cousin

Avaz Hafizli, an LGBT+ activist and journalist in Azerbaijan

LGBT+ journalist and activist Avaz Hafizli was mutilated and killed in Azerbaijan, and his own cousin has been arrested for his murder. Warning – graphic violence.

Hafizli was a journalist with the news channel Kanal 13. He was also a prominent activist, working tirelessly to protect the country’s trans community and calling for government action on anti-LGBT+ hate crimes, even chaining himself to the gate of the Prosecutor General’s Office during one protest.

According to local media, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry issued a joint statement confirmed that he was murdered on Tuesday (22 February) at around 4pm. He was founded beheaded with his genitals cut off.

The gay man was wrapped in a rug and transported to the morgue in a “garbage truck”, activists said, as police didn’t want to “touch a foul body”.

His cousin, Amrulla Gulaliyev, admitted to killing him and has been detained while authorities investigate. But Hafizli’s friends and local activists believe that the authorities are in part responsible for his death.

One friend, an activist who worked with Avaz Hafizli in Azerbaijan but recently moved to the UK, told PinkNews that because he openly protested for LGBT+ rights, Hafizli was “facing police violence”.

“After his open protests, his family and relatives started threatening him,” she continued. “He knew that there is a danger, yet he kept going.

“Yesterday he was killed by his cousin, brutally, his head and penis were cut off.”

She said that colleagues and friends are worried “that just like previous cases, this will not be investigated fairly” and that the truth will be covered up.

“The whole queer community is in panic now, because this violence keeps being justified in the media and even praised by some politicians.”

Another friend of Avaz Hafizli told PinkNews the he was afraid the late journalist’s family “would bury him in graveyard for unknown people, as they never liked him, rejected him and even threatened him”.

After Hafizli was killed, the friend followed the body to the mosque, where it was washed before the funeral, and saw that his penis had been removed.

“It is safe to say that the act itself was directed to Avaz’s identity as gay person,” he added.

“If that is not a statement of ‘you are not a man’ then for what purpose [would they] cut off his penis?”

Lili Nazarov, an LGBT+ activist in Azerbaijan, said in a statement that Hafizli “did his best for LGBT+ rights”, and added that in 2020 he helped to organise the funeral of a trans sex worker whose family refused to collect her body from the morgue after she was stabbed 11 times.

“Avaz told me that he was scared when that happened,” Nazarov continued.

“The culprits of his death are society, the Azerbaijani government and state security agencies… Every year, dozens of LGBTQI+ [people] are slaughtered because they are LGBTQI+. Every day, women are killed because they are women, and hundreds of thousands of people live in dread, but they have never done anything to prevent it; in fact, they have caused it.

“How many more people must be slain in order to guarantee our safety and rights? Who will be killed next?”