UN Member States call on Azerbaijan to protect the rights and freedoms of LGBTI+s

On November 14, 2023, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council held its fourth periodic assessment of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani delegation was led by Samir Sharifov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

During the review, six countries made 11 recommendations regarding the recognition, protection, and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms of the LGBTI+ community in Azerbaijan. Compared to the results of the 3rd UPR cycle, which took place in 2018, this time there is an increase in the number of LGBTI+-focused specific recommendations. 

Recommending States urged the government of Azerbaijan to take legal and administrative measures on a range of issues concerning the rights and freedoms of the LGBTI+s, some being more broad and some more specific. 

Commenting on these recommendations, Javid Nabiyev, Senior Advocacy Officer of the Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance, said that

recommendations mostly point out to the necessity of enhancing anti-discrimination legal framework, in particular recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity amongst the protected grounds. In more specific recommendations, Azerbaijan was called to introduce a transparent self-identification process for legal gender recognition free from medical or diagnostic requirements. Concerning harmful practices, Azerbaijan was recommended to make legislative and administrative changes for banning conversion therapies, and “corrective” medical surgeries on intersex children. As to ensuring access to justice for LGBTI+s, Azerbaijan was called to carry out educational programs and awareness-raising campaigns, building the capacity of the judicial and police apparatus in particular for better responding to hate speech and hate crimes committed against the LGBTI+s.

Nabiyev also added that

this stage of the process, which is very significant in the context of highlighting human rights violations against LGBTI+ people and calling for improvement, has successfully concluded for our community. As Nafas, we take pride in our contribution to achieving this outcome by participating in the 4th cycle of the UPR process of Azerbaijan (see the advocacy paper) and we thank other community initiatives and colleagues who have dedicated their efforts to the same cause.

It should be noted that the cycle is still ongoing. Over the next three months, the Azerbaijani government will review all the recommendations and announce which ones it will accept and which ones it will not.

All recommendations are as follows:

– Adopt a comprehensive law to prevent and eliminate discrimination, including that motived by sexual orientation and gender identity.

– Include in legislation sexual orientation and gender identity as a ground for protection from discrimination.

– Adopt broad antidiscrimination law, which covers discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

– Adopt legislative measures to combat acts of violence and discrimination against the LGBTI+ community and adopt measures to ensure that such acts are investigated and punished. Moreover, move forward with measures in the area of gender identity and civil rights in respect of unions of same-sex adults.

– Ensure the rights and freedoms of LGBTQİ+ persons, protect from all forms of violence and discrimination.

– Amend the Family Code to include all forms of families, including same-sex couples; 
– Introduce a transparent self-identification process for legal gender recognition free from medical or diagnostic requirements; 
– Ban conversion therapies; 
– Respect intersex children’s rights to self-determination and ban unnecessary surgeries.

– Develop educational and awareness-raising campaigns, and conduct training for the judicial and police apparatus in particular, with a view to improving their capacity for better responding to hate speech and hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

Queers in Baku are blackmailed, sexually abused, and extorted by police after the birthday party

On the 26th of July 2023, the police raided a birthday celebration, primarily a group of individuals who identified as queer, taking all to the Yasamal district 26th police station. 

Subsequently, they were subjected to forced medical examinations under the false suspicion of drug consumption. 

As if this invasive violation wasn’t enough, the police went further, exploiting their positions of authority, touching to intimate body parts of the detainees and blackmailing them. The police threatened them to expose their queer identities to their families unless they paid hush money. 

Despite the release in exchange for money, the torment continued, as one of the affected continued to be blackmailed by the police officers, using his academic future as leverage to force compliance. He was asked to engage in sexual acts as a means to avoid expulsion from the university. Otherwise, the police threatened with disclosing his identity to the management of the university where he studies. He was given 24 hours to make this life-altering decision, leaving him trapped in an agonizing and traumatic dilemma.

Statement on Pride Month: Our Fight is Just! 

As we mark Pride Month in June, this month, LGBTQI+ communities worldwide celebrate the achievements and resilience in our movements, while recognizing the ongoing challenges our communities face. Nafas stands in solidarity with the LGBTQI+ community globally and we reaffirm our commitment to promoting equality, non-discrimination, and respect for the human rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

It is disheartening to witness that despite progress in many parts of the world, violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community persist in Azerbaijan. We are deeply concerned about bias-motivated speeches, especially by state officials and parliament members, that perpetuate harmful stereotypes, promote hate, and incite violence against the LGBTQI+ community. Such rhetoric undermines the principles of equality and human rights that are the foundation of any just and inclusive society.

Furthermore, we condemn all forms of hate crimes, threats, and attacks directed at our community, as well as against human rights defenders and activists advocating for their rights. These acts not only infringe upon the basic rights to life, liberty, and security but also undermine the principles of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and privacy that should be protected for all.

We call upon the Azerbaijani government, civil society organizations, and individuals to work together to eliminate discrimination, violence, and prejudice against the LGBTQI+ community in Azerbaijan. We urge state officials and parliament members to exercise their roles responsibly by promoting equality and inclusivity through their words and actions.

To our LGBTQI+ friends, wherever you are, we hope you hear us! We want to assure you that we stand by your side. We recognize the challenges you face daily, and we are committed to creating a safe and inclusive Azerbaijan where you can live authentically without fear of discrimination or violence.

This Pride Month, let us celebrate the progress our movement has made while acknowledging the work that remains ahead. Our fight is just, and as Nafas, will continue to champion the rights and dignity of the LGBTQI+ community in Azerbaijan, not only during Pride Month but every day of the year.

Let us unite in the pursuit of justice, equality, and respect for all in Azerbaijan. Together, we can build a society where diversity is celebrated, and each of us is free to embrace our authentic selves.

“Azerbaijani police must stop harassing LGBTI people and activists”

“Azerbaijani police must stop harassing LGBTI people and activists,” says PACE General Rapporteur.

“I am deeply concerned by new reports that LGBTI people and activists defending their rights in Azerbaijan have again been targeted by police officers,” said Christophe Lacroix (Belgium, SOC), General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the rights of LGBTI persons, on May 31. “Following their protests against police behaviour towards them, several trans women were reportedly detained early last week, and the following day LGBTI activists demanding their release were also reportedly detained, ill-treated, humiliated and/or fined. These reports are deeply worrying, as are allegations that some of these individuals were subjected to forced medical tests,” he added.

“No one should ever be targeted on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or sex characteristics. Law-enforcement authorities in particular, instead of engaging in such practices, should be enforcing and protecting human rights for all. This is not the first time that we have received reports of harassment and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons and activists by the police in Azerbaijan, and the Assembly has already called on the authorities to investigate cases of wrongful arrest of LGBTI people and prevent and combat police violence against them,” Mr Lacroix said.

“I once again urge the Azerbaijani authorities to put an end to these practices immediately and to conduct a full, effective and independent investigation into all allegations of abusive treatment of LGBTI persons and human rights defenders by the police,” he concluded.

Javid Nabiyev shared alarming mistreatment by Azerbaijani police: “My fight continues”

Javid Nabiyev, an LGBTQI+ activist has revealed a harrowing account of mistreatment and abuse endured at the hands of the Azerbaijani police on his Instagram post. He spoke out about his personal experiences of discrimination and violence, shedding light on the systemic prejudice faced by the LGBTQI+ community in the country.

Recalling past encounters with the police, Nabiyev shared a particularly disturbing incident in 2014, when he was subjected to violence solely because of his gay identity. However, his resilience and hope for a brighter future led him to return to Azerbaijan, driven by the activism of activists like Ali Malikov and Avaz Hafizli.

Upon his return, Nabiyev found hilmself arrested once again, this time as punishment for raising the voice of his community. He described a nightmarish night spent in police custody, marked by degrading and dehumanising treatment.

“I witnessed police officers using napkin to touch the door handle after we did.”

Amongst the distressing experiences he recounted were witnessing police officers using napkins to avoid touching the same surfaces as LGBTQI+s, observing a fellow police officer being attacked by other officers, and being forced to prove his innocence by physically demonstrating the absence of a hidden razor under his tongue. 

“I was forced to undergo analyses without a court order, based on the mentality that ‘LGBTI+ is a source of diseases’.”

Javid Nabiyev further highlighted the violation of his rights, as he was subjected to medical tests without a court order, solely based on the misguided belief that being LGBTQI+ makes one a source of diseases. He was handcuffed as if he had committed a severe crime and was paraded around as objects of ridicule within the police department. Shockingly, police officers took pictures and videos of the activist to share with their friends, boasting about their detention of LGBTQI+s.

My fight is justified. This time, you won’t be able to kill that flame inside me! I am proud, I am resilient! Instead, I am filled with anger! My fight continues, saying, ‘You won’t be free until we are free’.”

Nabiyev expressed his anger and determination to continue the fight for equality and justice, despite the mistreatment he has endured. He refuses to let the flame of resilience be extinguished and vows to persist until freedom and equal rights are achieved for the LGBTQI+ community in Azerbaijan.

The revelations made by LGBTQI+ rights defender highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive reforms within the Azerbaijani police force and the protection of LGBTQI+s from discrimination and violence. LGBTQI+ rights organisations, such as ILGA-Europe and RFSL  and LGBTQI+ rights defenders showed solidarity with the detained activists and supported their calls for justice and equality in Azerbaijan. 

LGBTI+ activist details mistreatment and trauma

LGBTI+ activist, Ali Malikov who was recently detained in Baku, Azerbaijan, has taken to social media to share distressing details about the treatment endured during their detention. Malikov, who was amongst the activists protesting the arrests of trans community members, described a harrowing experience lasting over 20 hours.

In their tweet, Malikov revealed that their detention involved physical contact, threats, and confinement in a small, airless room. They recounted the presence of two other individuals – Aleksandra and Shabnam, one of whom appeared to have been subjected to sexual abuse. The activist expressed deep concern for the well-being of those affected.

Although Malikov and fellow activist Javid Nabiyev were fined 70 AZN and 300 AZN, respectively, they were not immediately released. Instead, they were forcefully returned to the cramped room where they had been held. The police allegedly pushed and hit them, exacerbating an already distressing situation. Malikov tearfully recounted enduring torture alongside other detainees throughout the day.

The police proceeded to release of Ali and Javid, while others were detained for 15 administrative days. The police brought the released individuals face-to-face with those still detained, seemingly intending to traumatise both parties. Malikov interpreted this action as a deliberate attempt to instil fear and distress.

The accounts shared by Malikov shed light on the alleged mistreatment and trauma experienced by LGBTI+ activists during their detention. These revelations have further intensifies concerns about the treatment of LGBTI+s in Azerbaijan and raises urgent calls for the protection of their rights and dignity.

LGBTI+ activists detained in Baku faced accusations of administrative offences

After the detention of LGBTI+ human rights defenders in front of the 37th Police Department in Baku, new information about their legal situation has been released. According to the information provided by journalist Nurlan Libre, Javid Nabiyev, Ali Malikov and two other unidentified people were brought to the police department in handcuffs. They were treated as criminals despite the fact that they had not been involved in any actual wrongdoing. 

Witnesses present in front of the police department said that Javid Nabiyev faced difficulties during the process. Video evidence also showed that force was used during their detention. The protocol with Article 510 was prepared against Ali Malikov from Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance. 

In addition, Faig Alverdiyev, Zaur Askerov, Ali Ahmadov, Orkhan Mammadov and Seymur Allahverdiyev gathered in front of the 37th Police Department of Khatai region and protested the arrest of their comrades. Their attempts to voice their concerns were described by the police as ‘leading to a confrontational situation when they raised their voices and argued with police officers’. As a result, they were detained and brought to the police department.

According to the information provided by journalist Nurlan Libre, service protocols were drawn up and sent to the court, including Article 510 (petty hooliganism) of the Code of Administrative Offences. 

LGBTQI+ rights activists protest against the arrests of trans community members

Today, on May 23, LGBTQI+ activists gathered to protest against the recent arrests of a trans community members.

On May 22, videos circulated on social media showing confrontations between the police and three trans individuals in Baku’s Xetai district.

The footage depicted the trans individuals being detained after an altercation with the police. According to a statement given to Meydan TV by one of the trans activists, the incident on May 22 was sparked by the police’s alleged disrespect and degradation of the trans community’s honour and dignity.

In demand for the release of the detained individuals, activists advocating for LGBTQ+ rights gathered in front of the 37th Police Department. Among them were activists from Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance Ali Malikov, Javid Nabiyev, and several others, who were also subsequently detained by the police.

Meydan TV/Protest by activists

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has confirmed that an investigation into the incident is underway, according to a statement given to Meydan TV.

Lawyer Zibeyde Sadigova stated that Javid Nabiyev and Ali Malikov, who were detained in front of the 37th Police Department in Xetai district, are currently being held at the 36th Police Department.

No specific reasons for their arrest have been provided by the police department. 

Facing the State: Police Departments and LGBTQ+s

“Facing the State: Police Departments and LGBTQ+s” film presentation by Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance concluded the May 17 – IDAHOBIT Week with events that reflect the reality in the country.

As part of our event, a screening of the film, which covers the experiences of LGBTI+ community in the police departments in Azerbaijan, took place with the financial support of Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance. The film was prepared through a small grants competition under the program “LGBTI+s Demand: Mental Health and Justice.”

Following the film, guests, social workers, activists, and psychologists analysed the legal problems faced by LGBTI+ citizens.

How IDAHOBIT celebrated in 2014?

How Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance celebrated IDAHOBIT in 2014

In 2014, Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands, organised a significant event to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia, and Transphobia – IDAHOBIT. Taking place at Gobustan, one of Azerbaijan’s oldest human settlements, the gathering aimed to challenge prejudice within Azerbaijani society and debunk the notion that LGBTI+ rights are a “European import.” Under the theme “We are as old as Gobustan!” participants highlighted the historical presence of LGBTI+ communities in the region.

The event commenced with a spirited “March for Equality” towards the historic site, where colourful balloons were released into the sky, and rainbow flags proudly waved. Members of the LGBTI+ community, along with their allies, came together to denounce homophobia and transphobia, demonstrate unity, and advocate for equality and an end to anti-LGBTI+ violence.

This symbolic gathering at Gobustan served as a reminder that the LGBTI+ community is an integral part of Azerbaijani society, and their rights and contributions should be acknowledged and celebrated.