Feminist Community Marches for Women’s Rights and Safety in Azerbaijan

Feminist Community Marches for Women’s Rights and Safety in Azerbaijan

Dozens Take to the Streets Demanding Action Against Gender-Based Violence

Rising Violence Against Women and Political Retaliation Sparks Outrage

March Organisers Call for Implementation of Policies and Conventions

Protesters Vow to Continue Fight for Women’s Safety and Rights

Dozens of women, LGBTI+s and supporters of gender equality marched in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, on March 8, demanding an end to violence against women and equal rights for all. The rally was organised by the feminist community in Azerbaijan in honour of International Women’s Day

Dozens Take to the Streets Demanding Action Against Gender-Based Violence

The protest drew a diverse crowd of women, LGBTI+s and supporters of gender equality. Participants held up signs and chanted slogans calling for an end to violence against women, the implementation of policies to improve social welfare and financial support for women from vulnerable groups, and the adoption of the Istanbul Convention to combat violence against women and domestic violence.

Rising Violence Against Women and Political Retaliation Sparks Outrage

The organisers of the march cited a surge in violence against women in the country, with news of the murder of 11 women reported in the media in February alone. In addition, many women are subjected to various forms of violence by the patriarchy, with nine women experiencing physical violence and eight women targeted for murder attempts in February. Women and minors also face political retaliation, putting their lives in danger.

March Organisers Call for Implementation of Policies and Conventions

The rally aimed to raise awareness about the systematic violence and femicides against women in Azerbaijan and put pressure on the government to adopt the Istanbul Convention. The organisers called for the implementation of policies and programs to improve the financial support of women from vulnerable groups and ensure equal rights for everyone regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

Protesters Vow to Continue Fight for Women’s Safety and Rights

The “8 March – We Want to Live!” march drew attention on social media, with some expressing support for the protesters and their demands for equal rights and an end to violence against women. However, many were disapproving, and mentioning government’s narrative “there is no violence against women in Azerbaijan”. The organisers of the march have pledged to continue their fight until their demands are met and women can live safely and free from violence in Azerbaijan.

How Patriarchy Shapes the Cities | Queer Art Festival Baku

Throughout the summer of 2022, Queer Art Festival Baku carried out workshops on filmmaking and urbanism for around 40 participants. The workshops addressed the challenges marginalised communities face in city design and the built environment. As the continuation of the project, in early autumn, QAF organised three community meetings to discuss the queer experiences of city planning, share the knowledge gained during the workshops, and have discussions about inclusive city design. 

The second topic of the meetings was “How patriarchy shapes cities?”. During this community meeting that was carried out on 25 September, participants reflected on questions to understand how “man-made” cities are leaving the needs of women* and LGBTI+s behind. 


Baku is not a compact city and the urban infrastructure is designed mostly in favor of privileged men who can afford cars and driving. Schools, hospitals, malls, libraries, and many other public institutions and gathering spaces are either in very central areas or spread around other newly emerging centres. 

Rising housing prices due to the rapid centralisation over the past few decades and the increasing number of people moving to Baku for job and study opportunities each year made accommodations around central areas almost inaccessible and more affordable residential areas are separated from commercial and industrial areas. Thus, the urban design leaves many underprivileged women* and LGBTI+s who do not have access to cars or other individual means of transport with little to no choice of traveling long distances to have access to certain services, entertainment, leisure, and education. In the country, many people still have stereotypes about women drivers, and most car drivers are still men. 

Focusing on the issue from a certain perspective, one could understand how patriarchy is shaping cities: a city where a cis-heterosexual man could easily go around with a car to get to places, yet it is mostly women*/single mothers – who are also mostly the main caregiver in the family – bear the challenges of unsafe and insecure public transport, threat and fear of being outside after certain hours, inaccessible areas due to man-created toxic environment to give a few examples. LGBTI+s and other marginalised communities are going through similar experiences and they are even in a more vulnerable situation due to the systemic violence and lack of inclusive city design. 

According to the participants, the lack of job opportunities, and the challenges of more conservative and oppressive neighbourhoods of their hometowns leave them with no other choice but to move to big cities. The community is also mostly centred in Baku and it is another motivating reason for most LGBTI+s to move to the capital. However, the design of packed and tall buildings that are very close to the sidewalks challenges the community in a way that they feel “seen” or easily observed by others. Small towns usually have contrasting planning where most of the houses are one floor with a big backyard and are pretty far from each other. Participants agreed that they used to feel less exposed to the neighborhood because of the built environment of their hometowns. Many also pointed out that the backyard of their residential buildings in Baku is mostly taken away by cis-hetero men in the evenings to gather and play board games or chat and they do not feel safe going out around these times. Additionally, the noise they make at night also disturbs the neighbourhood, and unfortunately, no one feels safe enough to complain about it most of the time.   

Another discussion point was about the inclusivity challenges of Baku for women* and LGBTI+s. The participants were worried about the increasing harassment cases and hate crimes and added that the lack of cameras and lighting in many streets outside the center is one of the reasons for worsening the situation. One stated, “we want to feel safe not only around the centre but also everywhere else in the city!”. Stating that the role of patriarchy in urban development is very significant, the participants highlighted “more queers and women are harassed in subways and buses and this kind of city-building serves cis-hetero men. In the reality of Azerbaijan, those men drive more cars and their comfort is prioritised.”

In conclusion, participants agreed that the abscence of women* and marginalised communities in decision-making processes about the city planning of Baku is one of the major reasons for most urban challenges. Wider sidewalks, gender-neutral public toilets, proper and functioning transport card systems at bus stops, public transport running on time, cameras and lights on the streets for security, and coded doors in the residential buildings were mentioned as a few examples to solve the issues on ground level. Close to the end of the event, participants went through some art pieces from last year’s exhibition “Queer Urban Stories” and commented that it was interesting to analyse the artworks, and as a result of the discussions, they became aware of more struggles related to urban design.

Discussion Points of Internal Premiers | Queer Art Festival Baku

Throughout the summer of 2022, Queer Art Festival Baku carried out workshops on filmmaking and urbanism for around 40 participants. The workshops addressed the challenges marginalised communities face in city design and the built environment. Participants started with exploring the theoretical focus of  issues affecting vulnerable/marginalised communities in the local context and understanding the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (particularly the “Leave No One Behind” Agenda) at the local level and how they are reflected globally.

The project also provided the participants with the safe space to analyse the impact of existing inequalities in our cities by looking at inclusive city planning and why it matters. The gained knowledge was later translated into practical skills and throughout 4 weeks of workshops, participants explored different filmmaking skills and tools, starting from script writing and finalising their journey with film editing. The combined theoretical and practical knowledge of participants on filmmaking and urbanism later helped them to produce short films with the support of supervisors where filmmakers addressed the struggles of underprivileged groups.     

After the workshops, the films premiered internally for the participants and their guests on August 2, 3, and 17 as well as during the third and last community meeting on October 2. The article will elaborate on the main discussion points of the participants of the internal premieres and the feedback/challenges of the filmmakers throughout the project.                             

Initially, the audience liked the topical variety of the films and enjoyed the fact that films covered themes such as isolated safe spaces for LGBTI+s, safety and security challenges of women* in dark and narrow streets, the queer public toilet stories, and the self-expression of a trans woman. Many also felt positive about the premiered films that the lack of inclusive design for people with disabilities, poor conditions of bus stops, and unorganised construction of roads are well portrayed. Some of the audience was worried that filmmakers could have encountered technical problems in some film sites because of strict authority controls and restrictions on public places. Usually, filmmakers have to go through very formal and bureaucratic processes to get permission on filming in public sites. 

During the internal premieres and the community meetings, the participants mentioned they were not aware or could not think of certain challenges of particular communities, and working with marginalised people for some films and watching the results gave them a great chance to understand how city design is leaving underprivileged groups behind. The majority of the audience agreed that city planning in Baku does not cover the needs of people with disabilities and that the binary city design is challenging the trans community the most. A few examples were mentioned about the struggles of people using baby carriages and wheelchairs due to the lack and misinstallation of ramps on underground passages and overpasses. People with disabilities are not able to use public transport and they are lacking access to many public services. Last, it was highlighted that trans people are frequently asked to present their IDs to access certain public spaces. Considering the trans-exclusive policies of the country the community faces many challenges to change their personal documents and the situation leaves them vulnerable to deadnaming, harassment, and belittling in public spaces. 

The audience concluded that the built environment and the city design in Baku need to be challenged to be more inclusive, just, and human-friendly and they commented on some general solutions. Many agreed that public toilets need to be gender-neutral, the roads should be narrowed for cars and expanded for pedestrians, and buses should work based on an accurate schedule. Access to public transport must be accessible at night and top-up booths should be available at every bus station including a card-payment method. Some of the participants also added that, if they are given the chance, they could cover topics on the challenges of LGBTI+s with their families, and struggles of the community in public hospitals, schools, and nightclubs. They could address the issue with the means of filmmaking, infographics, and animations. 

In conclusion, participants mentioned that they gained practical skills and relevant knowledge in filmmaking and developed analytical skills for identifying the challenges of underprivileged communities in regards with inclusive city planning. 

LGBTI+s, Women and Cities

Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance introduces the topic of “LGBTI + s, Women and the Cities” in our third podcast record of the Queer-Feminist series. This time, our guests Nigar and Turana answered the questions like: “Why is urban planning important for women and LGBTI +? How inclusive are our cities for them? What internships in our cities would make life easier for women and LGBTIs? ” and also mentioned the concept of inclusive cities and urban problems in the country.

Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in relation to the sixth periodic review of Azerbaijan in the 77th CEDAW Session. 

This report is submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in anticipation of the Committee’s upcoming review of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The report is submitted by Nafas LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, Free LGBT Azerbaijan Collective. 

Overall, there is no mention of lesbian, bisexual and trans (hereinafter – LBT) women and girls, and intersex persons in the report provided by the State. As it is evident, the State did neither include intersecting forms of violence, discrimination, and harassment faced by LBT women and girls, and intersex persons into its legal and policy reforms or designed programs. 

Despite the widespread discrimination and abuse faced by LBT women and girls and intersex persons in Azerbaijan, this Committee has never addressed this population in its recommendations to the state. Our report is aimed to fill in this gap and to highlight the problems faced by LBT women and girls and intersex persons in Azerbaijan. 

Taking into account both the State’s obligation to guarantee the enjoyment of rights without any discrimination, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), and the list of issues set by the Committee, the report directs the Committee’s attention to serious and ongoing violations of the CEDAW rights of LBT women and girls and intersex persons in Azerbaijan. Given that the State must take a systematic approach and publicly address LBT women and Intersex issues in a positive manner to ensure that they can live on an equal footing with the rest of the population in Azerbaijan, this report introduces specific recommendations, including recommendations made by other UN mechanisms and questions for the interactive dialogue.