Currently, Bern, Switzerland is hosting Europe’s largest LGBTIQ sports tournament. EuroGames 2023 symbolizes a safe and inclusive space for athletes from diverse backgrounds to come together, celebrate diversity, and build networks of support. However, we, Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance, express our profound disappointment and condemnation of the actions taken by the Embassy of Switzerland in Azerbaijan, which resulted in depriving us of the historic opportunity to participate in EuroGames 2023. In solidarity with teammates who were denied visas and as an act of protest, the third member, who had been granted a visa, decided to forgo participating in the tournament.
The EuroGames organization had already shown its support for Nafas team, consisting of three members, to participate in the competitions. We were immensely proud that Azerbaijan was to be represented for the first time in the history of this event. However, our hopes were crushed when the Swiss Embassy in Baku denied visas to two of our team members, citing “reasonable doubts” about their intentions to leave the territory of the Member States before the visa expiry – whatever that means!
Such prejudiced assumption not only robbed us of this historic opportunity but also undermined our integrity. Our intention was solely to be a part of EuroGames, gain valuable experience, and bring that knowledge back to our local context to further advance the rights of LGBTIQ individuals in sport.
The situation we are confronted with raises serious concerns about exclusivity and discrimination. As members of the LGBTQ community in Azerbaijan, we are already facing numerous challenges due to intersecting social and political realities in our country. Our activism and human rights work further compounds this socioeconomic marginalization, making it even more crucial for us to have access to opportunities like EuroGames to raise awareness, feel connected, and build networks of support. It is disheartening that our activism and dedication becomes an obstacle against us.
We are confused, we are deeply disappointed, and while we take also note of this unpleasant experience, we strongly condemn the Embassy of Switzerland in Azerbaijan for perpetuating prejudiced assumptions. Exclusionary practices like these go against the principles that the EU and like-minded countries claim to champion. We believe that the values upheld, such as non-discrimination and equality, should be extended to all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic background and class.