Freedom in the World 2023 | Freedom House

The latest edition of Freedom in the World, the annual comparative report on political rights and civil liberties, marks the 50th anniversary of the series. Despite ongoing challenges to democracy, the report shows that the demand for freedom is universal. 

The year 2022 saw a possible turning point in the global struggle for democracy, with the gap between countries registering overall improvements and those registering declines being the narrowest in 17 years of deterioration. 

War, coups, and attacks on democratic institutions by illiberal incumbents remained the biggest threats to freedom and democracy. However, there were democratic gains through transparent and competitive elections, lifting of pandemic-related restrictions, and a renewed commitment to judicial independence in some countries. 

The report also highlights the need to protect civil liberties, particularly freedom of expression and personal expression, which have come under increasing pressure. 

The report concludes that democratic societies’ international solidarity, commitment to shared values, and continued support for human rights defenders are crucial to ensuring that the next 50 years bring the world closer to a state of freedom for all.

European Parliament Passes Resolution on EU-Azerbaijan Relations, Highlights LGBTQI+ Rights

The European Parliament has passed a resolution on EU-Azerbaijan relations, specifically emphasising the importance of human rights, including those of LGBTQI+ citizens. The resolution refers to several international conventions, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The resolution highlights the importance of freedom of the press, and references the joint opinion of the Venice Commission and the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law. It also references a previous European Parliament resolution on foreign interference in democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation.

The resolution emphasises the importance of upholding human rights, including those of LGBTQI+ citizens, and urges Azerbaijan to take measures to combat discrimination and violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. It also calls on the Azerbaijani government to release political prisoners and to cooperate fully with the European Court of Human Rights.

European Parliament also emphasises the situation regarding non-discrimination against LGBTQI+s in Azerbaijan. The resolution urges the Azerbaijani authorities to adopt anti-discrimination legislation that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. It also calls for civil, administrative, and/or criminal proceedings to protect people from hate speech and hate crimes.

The resolution further calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to reform criminal legislation by adding the aforementioned grounds as aggravating circumstances, and to combat violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. Additionally, it reiterates the call by PACE (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) for the Azerbaijani authorities to investigate cases of wrongful arrest of LGBTQI+ citizens and to prevent and combat police violence against them.

The resolution condemns disinformation emanating from Azerbaijan targeting the West, specifically after the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. It notes that the narratives used against the West are similar to those used in Russian propaganda and include attacks on LGBTQI+ rights and alleged threats to traditional values.

The resolution also highlights the persistent hate speech and hate crime against LGBTQI+ citizens in Azerbaijan, as well as the country’s ranking as the worst among all Council of Europe countries in terms of legislation and policy aimed at protecting LGBTQI+ individuals, according to the ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe Index.

The resolution references a 2022 resolution adopted by PACE on violations of the rights of LGBTQI+s in the Southern Caucasus, which includes requests for authorities to reform legislation to address these violations.

Additionally, the resolution highlights the ongoing war in Ukraine, and references several United Nations Security Council resolutions and a ruling of the International Court of Justice. It also cited previous European Parliament resolutions on cultural heritage in Azerbaijan, the aftermath of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the implementation of the common foreign and security policy, the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh, security in the Eastern Partnership area, and the humanitarian consequences of the blockade in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Feminist Library | Fem-Utopia

Fem-Utopia has recommended a list of books on gender-based violence that are available to read for free. The initiative is inviting everyone who is interested in learning more about gender-based violence and women’s rights to visit their feminist library at Baku Community Space.

The list includes 14 titles covering various aspects of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment at work, child marriage, and violence against women. The list also includes resources for understanding gender and reproductive health rights in Azerbaijan, as well as tools for dealing with male violence.

The books can be borrowed free of charge for a period of one month. The feminist library is aiming to provide a platform for education and discussion around issues of gender and equality in Azerbaijan. 

Fem-Utopia’s initiative is an important step towards promoting awareness and education around gender-based violence in Azerbaijan. With the help of these resources, individuals can better understand and combat the issues surrounding gender-based violence, working towards a more equal and just society for all.

Fem-Utopia, an Azerbaijani-language online platform that aims to spread feminist ideas and create video content, was founded on May 30, 2020.

“My Labour Rights” | Nafas LGBTI

“My Labour Rights” announces an open call for participation.

As it is stated in Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, everyone has the right to work under safe and secure conditions without discrimination. But how does this apply in reality of our community? How can we protect our labour rights in the labour market?

To find answers to these questions, we invite you to the training session “My Labour Rights” organised by Rauf Heydarov’s initiative. Hurry up to register.

The training will consist of two parts:

  • The first part theoretical information
  • Coffee break
  • The second part practical application of the theoretical part

Trainer: Vafa Rustam – expert in women’s rights

Date: April 8th

Time: 17:00 – 20:00

Venue: Sat Plaza, Baku Community Space

To register follow the link.

This project is one of the winners of the small grants competition held within the framework of the “LGBTI+s demand: mental health and justice” programme of Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance.

“The biggest problem is not being able to live” | Ali Malikov

LGBTQI+ activist Ali Malikov gave an interview to Türkiye’s Bianet media. In their interview, Malikov talked about the history of LGBTQI+ activism in Azerbaijan and the path it has taken. They also shared their own involvement in activism, the struggles they have fought, and the threats they have faced.

Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance is sharing the English translation of an interview that was originally in Türkiye Turkish. For original text, please, follow the link.

  • My LGBTI+ activist friend Avaz Hafizli was killed by having his head and genitals cut off.
  • In Azerbaijan in 2017, nearly 100 trans and gay people were kidnapped by the police and subjected to rape and torture, but no political party or major human rights organisation spoke up for the rights of LGBTI+s.
  • The organisation called “Gender and Development” has offices in Baku and other cities in Azerbaijan and works with the Ministry of Health to monitor the places, jobs, and information of trans and queer people in Azerbaijan.
  • Trans woman Nuray was killed by being burned in the forest.
  • They keep talking, listing human rights violations, and complaining that their voices cannot be heard. When you listen to Azerbaijani LGBTI+ activist Ali Malikov speak, you see similarities and differences with the struggle for LGBTI+s’ lives in Türkiye. It’s a system based on hate speech, attacks, and annihilation. Against it, there are struggles and lives dedicated to existence and being.
  • Azerbaijani LGBTI+ activist Ali Malikov is telling their story.
  • “In 2020, QueeRadar awarded me the Queer Blogger of the Year award.”

First of all, can you introduce yourself?

I’m Ali Malikov, an LGBTI+ activist living in Azerbaijan. I have been actively involved in activism for more than three years.

After co-founding “Femkulis,” one of the largest feminist platforms, with my feminist activist friend, I started to become more recognised in civil society and engage in more visible activism.

Later on, I founded “Qıy Vaar!” (“my dear” in Azerbaijani LGBTQI+ community slang), which was initially a closed queer platform but is now open to the public.

Currently, I work for Nafas LGBTI+ Alliance, one of the first free queer organisations in Azerbaijan. My activities cover LGBTI+ and women’s rights issues. In 2020, QueeRadar awarded me the Queer Blogger of the Year award.

I also participate in organising various events, discussions, and education sessions for creating different communities. I was one of the speakers at the first press conference on “Pride Month” in Azerbaijan.

My activism in Azerbaijan has recently expanded to encompass animal rights and general human rights issues. We are also trying to establish a vegan collective and organise numerous protests against the government’s killing of stray animals in Azerbaijan.

“We participated in a demonstration with our own flag for the first time.”

Can you tell me about LGBT+ activism in Azerbaijan?

LGBTI+ activism in Azerbaijan started to emerge freely only in the 2010s with organisations such as Nafas and Azad. We think that we are very young and inexperienced in this regard. In fact, I am only 18 years old, and yet I am known as one of the “most visible” within the community precisely because I am at the forefront of this movement.

For example, last year, for the first time, LGBTI+s in Azerbaijan participated in a protest organised by civil society with their own flags and banners. My activist friend Cavid Nabiyev and I organised that.

In Azerbaijan, it is impossible for LGBTI+s to become politicised due to the depoliticisation of the people and the system that has become monstrous. This is because LGBTI+s receive no support from those who claim to be in power or from their alternatives.

In fact, when about 100 trans and gay people were kidnapped, raped, and tortured by the police in 2017, no political party, no local or major human rights organisation spoke out for the rights of LGBTI+s.

This police and state pressure was repeated again in 2019, but once again we did not receive any support. In fact, there is an LGBTI+ organisation in Azerbaijan that is affiliated with the government and collects personal information about LGBTI+s by distributing condoms and conducting HIV tests.

This organisation, called “Gender and Development,” has offices in Baku and other cities in Azerbaijan and works with the Ministry of Public Health. Their goal is to keep track of the places, jobs, and information of trans and queer people in Azerbaijan.

While no non-governmental organisation (NGO) is registered in Azerbaijan, this organisation has been established since 2007, and there are allegations that they are involved in sexual exploitation and selling people’s information.

When I shared this information, they tried to defame me by accusing me of “human trafficking,” but they were unsuccessful. It is almost impossible to sustain spaces for us in Azerbaijan. Even our organisation, which has been around for 10 years, doesn’t have an open office. No one even gives us space to use.

There is not even an “LGBTI+ space” where the community can go in Azerbaijan, only underground and a few supportive places exist. My LGBTI+ activist friend Avaz Hafizli was killed by having his head and penis cut off.

In late 2021, fascist blogger Sevinc Hüseynova began live-streaming and calling for the killing of trans people. Trans woman Nuray was burned to death in the forest.

“No one heard Avaz’s voice.”

Avaz Hafizli was organising many protests with the trans community. However, the State Security Service of the Republic told us that they wouldn’t protect our lives because “LGBTI+s are not a social group.” As a result, Avaz’s family and others started to threaten him with death.

At the end, Sevinc Hüseynova targeted Avaz too. Avaz was murdered by having his head and genitalia cut off. However, before his murder, Avaz had organised many protests for himself.

For example, he tied himself to the prosecutor’s office and said that his life was in danger, but no one heard him, and we found him dead. Avaz’s killer was given the minimum sentence of 9 years and 6 months. In the trial, there were many irregularities, and the charges were not written.

Even though more than a year has passed, Avaz’s family has not even allowed us to make a gravestone for him.

In Azerbaijan, you have to be ready to lose everything for LGBTI+ activism. Just the other day, I went to a police station because a girl was beaten, and they mocked me by saying “we are waiting for you” in a sarcastic way, meaning they would arrest me. Even when I was detained at a protest the other day, they threatened to rape me.

“The biggest problem is not being able to live.”

What problems do LGBTI+s and activists face the most in Azerbaijan? What kind of problems do you face?

In Azerbaijan, the main problem for LGBTI+s is the inability to live openly and find safe shelter. When people reveal their queer identities or are outed, they are often killed, beaten, or placed under house arrest by their families.

Even when they flee from home, collaborating police often return them to their re-assigned families. It’s not easy to get legal support or psycho-social assistance for those over 18 or under 18. I only know of two lawyers and one organisation that provides psycho-social support. However, I cannot benefit from this service because I know all the employees (two social workers and two psychologists) on a daily basis as an activist.

There are no supportive shelters available. It is very difficult to do anything because Azerbaijan has seriously cut off funding from other countries. Embassies only “help” with social initiatives to maintain good relations with the government, but I do not trust their sincerity. My biggest fear is being alone because even though we are getting stronger every day, we are becoming more marginalised and ghettoised. I am afraid that I will die, be kidnapped, or be imprisoned before I can voice my final words.

In Azerbaijan, even signing a campaign for peace can make you a target because of the Aliyev regime. For example, even before I turned 18, I was on state-run television and insulted.

Other non-state television channels are banned in Azerbaijan, and only online media is available, mostly controlled by other countries. Another internet media outlet affiliated with the government targeted me because I expressed my desire for peace and called for it during the Karabakh war.

“Azerbaijan is worse off than Iran”

Can you make your voice heard to the world?

Most of our problems are compounded by Azerbaijan’s occupation policy during the Karabakh war and the fact that Azerbaijan itself is not known. In the latest report by Freedom House, Azerbaijan is said to be worse off than Iran.

They have instilled so much hatred in Azerbaijanis that they are ready to attack every LGBTI+ person they see, saying “you are Armenian” or “may the blood of martyrs be forbidden.” I experience these things every day. Even when someone asks me for an interview, I am filled with hope.

For me, being LGBTI+ in Azerbaijan means having my life taken away from me.

TikTok Account about Queer History | Queer Historian

In recent years, TikTok has become a platform for sharing all kinds of content, including educational content. And now, a queer historian from Azerbaijan is using the platform to share his research on queer history, sexuality, and gender.

The TikTok account – Queer Historian, created by the historian, features videos that are both informative and engaging. The author uses his own articles and papers to create content that covers a range of topics related to queer history and sexuality. The videos are aimed at educating and informing people about these issues, and have already gained a large following.

The author, Vahid Aliyev said that he was inspired to create the TikTok account because he felt that there was a lack of representation of queer history and sexuality in mainstream media in Azerbaijan. He believes that it is important to educate people about these issues, especially in a country like Azerbaijan, where there is still a lot of stigma surrounding LGBTQI+ identities.


Hi there! this TikTok video is about “2013 – Russia’s Year of Political Homophobia,” an introduction to the book “Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi” by Dan Healey. #Russia #sexuality #history #fyp #queerhistory101 #historytime

♬ original sound – Queer Historian – Queer Historian
TikTok @queerhistorian

“I want to use my platform to share information about queer history and sexuality, and to help people understand these topics better,” Vahid Aliyev said in an interview with Nafas LGBTI. “I think it’s important to create a space where people can learn and ask questions without fear of judgment or discrimination.”

The videos cover a range of topics, from the history of queer activism to contemporary research on gender and sexuality. They are presented in an accessible and engaging way, with the author sometimes using humour to make complex topics more approachable.


Hey everyone! How’s it going tonight? [audience cheers] Great, great. So, I was reading this article the other day called “Challenges of Gender Studies in Azerbaijan,” and let me tell you, it was a real page-turner. #genderstudies #azerbaijan #queerhistory #history #critique

♬ original sound – Queer Historian – Queer Historian

The author said that he plans to continue creating content for the TikTok account, and hopes to expand his reach. “I think that there is a lot of interest in these topics, and I want to continue to share information and start conversations,” he said. “I hope that my TikTok account can be a space where people can learn and grow together.”

“Community Leaders” programme | Qızlar Oxusun

Qızlar Oxusun has announced the opening of applications for its “Community Leaders” programme.

The purpose of this programme is to contribute to the development of community leaders in regions and support their social initiatives related to education issues. It should be noted that during the programme, efforts will be focused on combating girls’ drop-out rates and ensuring their personal and professional development.

The programme, which will last for 3 months, will consist of the following stages:

  • Organisation of training on project management;
  • Provision of organisational and mentorship support for community leaders to implement their initiatives.

Individuals aged between 22-35 years living in any district or village can participate in the programme.

Click here to access the registration form.

The deadline for applications is March 28, 2023.

Qızlar Oxusun project has provided information that successful candidates will be notified about the next selection stage.

MIL Network Launches Feminism School to Educate Young People about Feminism

The MIL Network, a public project in Azerbaijan, has launched the MIL Feminism School to educate young people about feminism, including its development, branches, waves, and movements in Azerbaijan and neighbouring countries. 

The school will be led by Fatima Ismayilova, a member of the MIL Network who is currently studying for a master’s degree in social sciences and researching the feminist movement in Azerbaijan. 

The program will be held online via the Zoom platform, and participants aged 18-30 can apply through an application form. Deadline is 31st March.

The sessions will be held on weekends in April 2023, and participation is free of charge.

Psychological Counselling for LGBTQI+ Individuals | Ali Abbasov

Author: Ali Abbasov, psychologistt-consultant

This article is presented within the framework of the “LGBTI+s Demand: Mental Health and Justice” programme, implemented with the support of the USAID Azerbaijan and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST), by the Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance.

Before touching on the subject of psychological counselling for LGBTQI+ individuals, it may be useful to first consider in general what a psychologist does or does not do. Subsequently, attention will be given to issues that should be considered during psychological counselling with LGBTQI+ individuals, the lack of knowledge of many psychologists about psychological counselling with LGBTQI+ individuals, and the fundamental issues brought by LGBTQI+ individuals.

When considering what a psychologist does or does not do, one of the important aspects that should be realised is that the psychologist is not superior to the individual seeking their services. While the psychologist may have developed themselves in the field of psychology, they do not know the details of the individual’s life better than they do. For this reason, it is necessary for the psychologist to listen to the individual’s story without assuming a hierarchical approach or showing more interest in the story than the individual themselves.

Another issue is that the psychologist should not make decisions for the individual seeking their services. While listening to the individual, the psychologist should not make statements like “I think it would be better for you to reconcile with your family,” “I think you should not discuss this with your friends,” or “I think if you text your friend, the problem will be solved.” This would not only impose the psychologist’s own will on the individual but may also lead to various conflicts.

Another issue I would like to address is that the psychologist should not make predictions about the future. The aforementioned statements can be seen as a type of prediction about the psychologist’s future. For example, by expanding one of the aforementioned statements to “I think it would be better for you to reconcile with your family. If you reconcile with your family, you will feel more comfortable,” a prediction sentence can be created. A psychologist who creates such sentences probably assumes that if the individual reconciles with their family, the problems causing their discomfort will be solved. However, the individual may become upset when they hear this sentence without thinking that it will be beneficial. Another possibility is that the discussion does not result in the “feeling of comfort” predicted by the psychologist.

The other topic that needs to be addressed is the issues that a psychologist should pay attention to when providing psychological consultation to LGBTQIA+ individuals. One of the critical issues that a psychologist should be aware of is the importance of not imposing their own values on the individual seeking help, even if it means going beyond the ethical code. The psychologist should avoid being non-objective towards the age, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other cultural and individual characteristics of the person seeking help. Such behavior goes against ethical codes, including the American Psychological Association’s ethical code, which emphasizes that a psychologist should not impose their values on the other person.

In this context, I can give an example of a psychologist asking questions such as “Have you ever considered changing?” without listening to the LGBTQIA+s’ concerns. Unfortunately, some psychologists still ask these kinds of questions, which violates ethical rules and imposes their values on the other person. A more beneficial approach for a psychologist with this type of attitude is to work on their non-objective methodology.

Another issue is that a psychologist should not solely focus on the gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or gender expression of the person seeking help for their own interest. While listening to the concerns brought up by the person seeking help, the psychologist should be aware that their gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or gender expression may play a role in the issues raised. However, asking questions about this solely for the psychologist’s interest, when it is not helpful for the person seeking help, may harm the therapeutic relationship and prevent the person from expressing their needs.

Another topic I would like to address is the lack of information that psychologists have on providing psychological consultation to LGBTQIA+ individuals. I believe that one of the main reasons for this is the lack of emphasis on this topic in both formal and informal education. Based on my observations, from primary education onwards, the formal and informal information on this subject is scarce, and much of the information available is based on personal opinions rather than scientific resources. As a result, psychologists who cannot access scientific resources may not have sufficient knowledge on this subject.

When writing about misguided and biased thoughts, I would also like to touch on another topic. Although writing these sentences makes me quite sad, I do not want to move on to the next part without touching on this issue. Based on my observations, some psychologists can voice biased thoughts that support phobic thoughts that have taken root in society, even though they are knowledgeable about LGBTQI+ people in the field of psychological counseling, just to gain more acceptance. Even if the psychologist who adopts this approach assumes that what they say is wrong, they may choose to believe in that wrong thing just to gain more acceptance. In this case, the psychologist not only violates ethical rules but also strengthens wrong thoughts by using their status, and may even indirectly support hate speech.

Another point I would like to note is the topics brought to the sessions by the individuals who apply for psychological counseling. Since it is too long to emphasize each of these topics, it will be the subject of a separate study. LGBTQI+s’ main issues are often related to their sense of belonging. Being misunderstood by many people around them may result in the individual feeling like they do not belong to their circle. In this case, the individual may face isolation, loneliness, and meaninglessness. In this regard, some approaches such as informing them that it is not right for them to be discriminated against based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or gender expression, supporting them in summarizing their needs, moving protective factors in their social environment, and empowering activities may be helpful. Another point is the family relationships, which are also related to the circle. In this case, in addition to the above-mentioned studies, creating communication with the family if possible, working on communication patterns may be beneficial. Although these topics cover a part of the issues brought to the meetings, I would like to emphasize that the needs of the individuals who apply for counseling or the topics they bring are not limited to these.

Finally, I would like to touch on the necessity of a systematic approach to the topics brought by the individuals who apply for psychological counseling. Specifically, psychological counseling should focus on a specific part of the issues in the individual’s life. However, the topics brought by LGBTQI+ individuals often cannot be seen as separate from each other. Therefore, a holistic approach that considers the individual as a whole may be more beneficial in this regard.

Above, I tried to touch on different aspects related to psychological counseling for LGBTQI+ individuals. This topic is actually much deeper and needs to be enriched with new research. I hope this article sheds some light on the importance of psychological counseling for LGBTQI+ individuals and leads to more detailed future studies on the topic.

Psychologist-consultant Ali Abbasov wrote about the psychological counseling for LGBTQI+ individuals for the Nafas LGBTI.

Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance Holds First Meeting with Volunteers

Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance held its first meeting with volunteers on March 14th, marking an important milestone in the organisation’s mission to promote LGBTI+ rights in Azerbaijan.

The meeting served as an introduction for the volunteers to each other and to the activities and goals of Nafas LGBTI. The organisation is dedicated to transforming Azerbaijan into a country where every LGBTI+ individual is free, equal and safe. Nafas LGBTI aims to achieve this through advocacy, community building and amplifying queer voices from Azerbaijan.

As an independent LGBTI+ rights organisation, Nafas LGBTI is committed to promoting the diversity and integration of marginalised communities into social and political life. The organisation strives to advance the discourse on human rights in line with the principles of justice and equality.

The meeting was attended by a diverse group of volunteers who share a common goal of promoting LGBTI+ rights in Azerbaijan. The volunteers were excited to learn more about Nafas LGBTI and its activities, and to begin working towards creating a more inclusive and accepting society in Azerbaijan.

Nafas LGBTI is proud to have such a dedicated and passionate group of volunteers who are committed to working towards a better future for LGBTI+ individuals in Azerbaijan. The organisation looks forward to collaborating with its volunteers to achieve its mission of promoting equality, safety and freedom for all LGBTI+ individuals in the country.