Showing posts with label Azerbaijan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Azerbaijan. Show all posts

July 8, 2016

Azerbaijan The Worse Place in Hell to Be Born Gay but Born we Did

Azeri LGBTI activist Javid Nabiyev in 2012. Photograph: Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance 

Azerbaijan has been ranked the worst place in Europe to live as an LGBTI citizen, after meeting only 5% of a leading rights organisation’s criteria for legal equality.
The ILGA-Europe Rainbow Index, released today, ranks 49 European countries according to the laws, policies and practices that affect LGBTI communities.
The countries with the three lowest scores are all post-Soviet: Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan. The countries leading the index – Malta, Belgium and the UK – all scored above 80%.
Although homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, the 2016 index draws attention to the country’s failure to protect its LGBTI community from hate crime and discrimination. The review links the low score to the high number of homophobic and transphobic violent attacks, as well as discriminatory remarks made by political figures.
“Of all the social groups that are victims of violence and hatred, we are the ones that struggle most,” says gay Azerbaijani activist, Javid Nabiyev.
“Each year, hundreds of LGBTI people are exposed to physical, psychological and economic violence by their family members and the people around them. They are killed, forced to live a double life, commit suicide or leave the country.”

East v west

Today, Nabiyev sits in a small box-room in a German refugee shelter, the bare white walls are decorated only with the rainbow LGBTI flag and the national flag of Azerbaijan. Despite everything that happened to him there, he says: “It’s my homeland and I miss it.”

Nabiyev’s life in Azerbaijan became unbearable after he proposed to his boyfriend in 2014, and the pair became targets of a national hate campaign. Pictures of their engagement ceremony posted to Facebook found their way onto mainstream news. The couple’s personal details were published online and Nabiyev’s neighbours became threatening, he says.

The couple fled to Turkey before the pressure of persecution finally tore them apart. They returned to Azerbaijan separately, and Nabiyev continued with his activism.

But his work for Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance – the organisation he founded – made him a fresh target for the authorities. He can no longer count the number of times he’s been beaten by police and in the media, he was accused of being a western spy. Worried he could be detained more permanently, he fled to Germany.

Bjorn van Roozendaal, programme director of ILGA-Europe, sees the tension between east and west as key in the struggle for LGBTI rights. “We’ve seen a lot of backlash in the region. One common denominator is that Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia all want to distance themselves from the west and the LGBTI struggle has been at the centre of that,” he explains.

“LGBTI rights are seen as a modern western value that the west is trying to impose and this mindset really comes at the cost of the LGBTI community.”

Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe, which describes itself as “the continent’s leading human rights organisation.” All CoE members have signed the European Convention of Human Rights, in which article 14 prohibits discrimination “on any ground such as sex, gender”.

LGBTI rights are seen as a western value that the west is trying to impose
Bjorn van Roozendaal
In September 2015, the EU Parliament passed a resolution on Azerbaijan, condemning its treatment of human rights defenders and said it was “extremely concerned over the situation of LGBTI people”.

But van Roozendaal is not optimistic about the resolution’s power. “I don’t think that a country like Azerbaijan really cares what the EU think. I don’t think they want to be seen to be promoting LGBTI rights,” he says. “Change is not going to happen in top down way, it’s going to come from bottom up – from activists on the ground.”

He can’t speak openly about the work ILGA-Europe is doing in Azerbaijan because “any kind of visibility that we give to the work we do, puts people at risk. This work is made extremely difficult by the government, which is very sad.”

He can say that they are working to support the LGBTI communities to educate them on how to avoid risk and document hate crime. But it’s not easy to support grassroots groups. “There are strict controls on any kind of money that goes into the country, so it’s difficult to fund even awareness campaigns,” he says.
 Nabiyev’s is just one of many tales to have leaked out of the country in the past few years.

One of the most high-profile was the death of Isa Shakhmarli in 2014, a leading LGBTI activist who killed himself draped in the rainbow flag. He left behind a video in which he said: “I tried to explain that love is love as much as I could but my family and friends never understood.”

After his death, his friend Lala Mahmudova took over his role at the LGBTI organisation, AZAD. Mahmudova, who is straight and currently studying in Chicago, says she is often criticised for supporting LGBTI equality.

“On Facebook, a lot of my relatives and friends have blocked me because I support LGBTI people. They say, ‘You are going against our society’s values’.”

  Mahmudova sees violence and abuse at the hands of family members as a serious problem. “I know a lot of transgender people who are beaten by their fathers, sisters and mothers. It starts with their family,” she says. But with no LGBTI shelters in Azerbaijan and a largely unsympathetic police force, there is little Mahmudova or AZAD can do to help people in this situation.

Given the risks, for many people coming out to family and friends is too dangerous. Ahmad – not his real name – a 21-year-old student living in the capital, Baku, explains: “If my brother and my uncle find out [I’m gay], they will get very angry and I don’t know what could happen.”

Ahmad doesn’t feel like he has a family, and says he could never approach the authorities for help. “As a nation, we have no trust for our police or our government,” he says. “I have always felt I have no one but myself to lean on.”

Morgan Meaker
The Guardian

February 1, 2014

Gay Suicide in Azerbaijan Focus on The Human Rights of the Gay Minority

 The suicide of a gay rights activist has drawn stark attention to the problems faced by sexual minorities in Azerbaijan.
Isa Shahmarli, the 20-year-old leader of the Free LGBT group, was found hanged on January 22.
He had left a suicide note in a Facebook status update.
“I am going. This country and this world are not for me.… I am leaving to become happy,” he wrote. “You are all to blame for my death. This world is not bright enough to contain all my colours. Goodbye.”
The day before Shahmarli died, he gave an interview to the online television station Meydan in which he said he dreamed of the day when same-sex couples could stroll through Baku holding hands.
Shahmarli’s flatmate Reyhan Babayeva told IWPR that when he first told his close friends from university that he was gay, they refused to keep it secret and told everyone.
“His course-mates laughed at him and once even beat him up. Then one of his relatives found out and told his family, and they threw him out of the house. His relationship with his father was difficult enough already,” she said.
Shahmarli’s death sparked passionate debate on Azerbaijani social media networks, with strong opinions expressed on both sides. Some praised Shahmarli for his courage and lamented his death, while others said the country was better off without him.
Tariel Qasimov, editor of the website, said that homosexuals rarely faced trouble from officials, but often got abuse from their own families.
“When relatives find out that someone in the family is gay or lesbian, it’s seen a disgrace, something shameful. In some cases people are forced to get married, and in others they are thrown out of their homes and left to fend for themselves,” he told IWPR.
“The majority of their friends abandon them, leaving them without understanding and support. There are many people who consider it their duty to shame and disgrace people and to laugh at them. In Azerbaijan, the majority of gays therefore conceal their orientation from relatives and friends.”
Matanat Azizova, head of the Women’s Resource Centre, disagrees that officials leave gay people alone. She says her organisation is regularly approached by people saying they have been beaten or abused by police officers.
“There was even a case where the police beat up a lad in his own home. They then stripped him naked and took him like that to the police station,” she said. “Sometimes people are blackmailed into giving false testimony against someone else.”
Azizova said gay people needed to work more with civil society organisations, but cautioned that substantive improvements would happen only if the wider human rights environment changed for the better.
Javid Nabiyev, head of the gay rights organisation Nefes, says the stigma extends to employment.
“We’ve done a survey among 500 representatives of large and small companies, and 70 per cent of respondents told us they would not employ homosexuals,” he told IWPR.
Nabiyev said that he himself was unable to get a job because of his work on gay rights.
Aydin Mirzazade, a member of parliament from the president’s Yeni Azerbaijan party, told IWPR that the constitution guaranteed equal rights to all, and anyone who faced discrimination or abuse should seek redress.
“There must be no violation of human rights, whether it’s based on someone’s orientation or some other characteristic,” he said. “If someone from a sexual minority has really been subjected to unlawful treatment or has come under pressure, they must go to the police, tell the media about it, and defend themselves in every way they can.”
Nika Musavi is an IWPR-trained freelance journalist in Azerbaijan. 

January 25, 2014

20 Yr Old Azerbaijan Gay Rights Advocate Gives Up Commits Suicide

Isa ShahmarliIsa Shahmarli
“I am going away: this world and this country are not for me. I am going away to be happy. Tell Mom that I love her,” wrote 20-year-old gay rights advocate Isa Shahmarli before he apparently hanged himself on January 22 in his apartment in Baku. His death has sparked a debate about LGBT rights in conservative Azerbaijan.
In his suicide note, posted on his Facebook page, Shahmarli, who chaired the LGBT group Azad (Free), blamed “everyone” for his death. “This world is not colorful enough to accept my color too. So long,” the message reads.
One local outlet carried footage of an ambulance team trying to resuscitate Sharmarli. Some news reports suggested that problems with his family and Azerbaijan's largely homophobic society drove the young man to suicide.
Though authoritarian, Azerbaijan is often viewed as the world’s most socially liberal Muslim country, and less homophobic than its Christian neighbors, Armenia and Georgia. A small rally in support of gay rights was held in Baku last year. A similar event was thwarted by mob violence in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
But being liberal is a highly relative concept in the South Caucasus. As discussants at aHeinrich Böll Foundation conference on the LGBT situation in Azerbaijan put it, while a degree of tolerance exists for men with feminine appearances in such professions as hair-styling and show business, Azerbaijan’s sexual minorities live in a suffocating world of discrimination and rejection.

Hate crimes and hate speech are not rare and are not properly addressed by local laws, found a report by The Danish Institute for Human Rights. Some parents reportedly cut off their children, if they come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, human rights groups say.

Against that backdrop, some Azerbaijanis see Sharmarli's suicide as a motivation for change.   “All of us are guilty of his death,” whether by ignoring the mistreatment of gays or not speaking out in defense of their rights, wrote journalist Nigar Fatali in an epitaph for Shahmarli onMeydan TV’s website.
"The last time [Azerbaijan] made use of being free, rich and comfortable, we created the first opera in the East, built the first school for girls and established the first democracy in the Muslim world," she argued. “Now it is time to champion other things that truly matter, like tolerance, understanding and acceptance – the most human colors.”
pics: Radio Free Europe


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