azerbaijan, europe’s worst country for lgbt rights
Azerbaijan, which lies on the border between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, decriminalized homosexuality in 2000. Despite this, LGBT people in Europe’s worst country for gay rights are routinely targeted and attacked by authorities and far-right groups and are isolated by society.
Ali Melikov, 18, who uses they/them pronouns, said they lost friends and family after being outed as a young teenager – and began receiving anti-LGBT abuse at school almost constantly.
“I do not think the LGBTQ+ situation in Azerbaijan is good,” they said.…
“The government is doing everything it can to pursue free societies, taking more radical steps every day.” Because of the political and social situation, the number of prisoners is growing daily; journalists who try to report on it are being imprisoned.”
Melikov, who police officers detained during a protest in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, spoke at the country’s first LGBT press conference in nearly a decade in 2022, and is at the forefront of LGBT advocacy in the country – but he says the activism has taken its toll.
“It’s difficult to admit, but I no longer have friends in this country.” Many of them were forced to flee the country… “All of them left because of the discrimination they saw from the people and the pressure from the state,” they said.
In the former Soviet Republic, violent attacks, unjustified detentions, and discrimination against minorities are common.
LGBT organizations and individuals are frequently subjected to cyber attacks and hacking attempts in an attempt to silence their voices.
A far-right youth movement known as “TamizQan” (Pure Blood) has used the secure messaging app Telegram to target members of Azerbaijan’s LGBTQ community.
According to the LGBT magazine Minority Azerbaijan, posts from the Pure Blood group from 2021 discuss finding and beating people with a “non-traditional sexual orientation” in Baku.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association’s (ILGA) 2023 Rainbow Europe Index, Azerbaijan is the worst place in Europe for LGBT people to live. Not only has the country been ranked last for several years, but its score has continued to fall this year to just 2%.
According to the ILGA, there is “a near total absence of legal protection” in the country.
According to Melikov, organizing for LGBT rights is nearly impossible with fewer than 20 public LGBT activists. “I don’t see a ray of hope in this regard in Azerbaijan.”
As a new wave of anti-gay crackdowns began in late 2017, the deteriorating situation for LGBT people in Azerbaijan became international news. According to local media reports, more than 100 LGBT people were arrested, primarily in Baku, in what Azerbaijani officials claim was a campaign against prostitution. LGBT people were targeted, according to international human rights organizers, activists, and lawyers.
According to Aykhan Osmanli, project coordinator at the Gender Resource Centre (GRC), a group founded in response to Azerbaijan’s lack of safe spaces for LGBT people, the government plays a significant role in inciting anti-LGBT discrimination.
People detained during the 2017 crackdown, according to Osmanli, were brutally beaten and their hair was shaved off as an act of humiliation. “Since then, police have actively used pogroms [violent riots aimed at expelling minority groups] to threaten and exclude LGBTQI+ and queer identities,” they added.
In recent months and years, there have been reports of gay men and transgender women being murdered, beaten, interrogated, and forced to undergo medical examinations.
The beheading of Avaz Hafizli, an Azerbaijani journalist and LGBT rights activist, by his cousin last February and the death of trans woman Nuray Nuriyev, who was stabbed and burned alive in 2021, are two particularly heinous examples.
“After the murder of trans woman Nuray, who was targeted by blogger Sevinj Huseynova on their social media account, GRC organized a public prosecution campaign and a case was filed to multiple judicial departments, to which the answer was that they couldn’t do anything because LGBTQI+ is not considered a social group,'” Osmanli explained.
According to Melikov, advocating for LGBT rights in a country like Azerbaijan is extremely difficult because those in power continue to repress free speech and limit the ability of vulnerable groups to organize for their human rights.
“Unfortunately, we do not have access to international platforms, so we struggle to make our voices heard,” Melikov explained. “The government is attempting to conceal all of this.” It tries to give the impression that everything is okay by bringing events like Formula 1 and the EuroGames here.”