By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
BAKU, Azerbaijan – Dozens of gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku have been detained and sentenced to jail this month.
Those arrested have been sentenced to up to thirty days in jail. They are also being demanded to provide names and addresses of gay and transgender acquaintances.
The detainees have been subjected to beatings and medical examinations, according to the Civil Rights Defenders, a human rights group based out of Sweden. Transgender women have been forced to have their heads shaved.
Azerbaijan government officials claim that the arrests are part of a crackdown on the illegal sex trade in Baku, but Samed Rahumli, a lawyer who is assisting the victims, said the police “targeted homosexuals in general, not prostitutes as they have claimed.”
Rahumli reported that those “detained were subjected to inhuman treatment and torture. Their heads were shaved, some were electroshocked.”
In some instances, police posed online as gay or transgender people looking for dates.
One victim, who identified himself as Hasan, reported that police claimed he was a sex worker, beat him and demanded he provided information pertaining to his alleged clients.
According to activists, the reasoning provided by the government is being used as a pretext for persecution of the LGBT community.
The detainees were being held under “administrative detention”, which is a legal practice in Azerbaijan that allows for the bypass of public hearing prior to sentencing.
A survey conducted in 2016 by a human rights organization ranked Azerbaijan as the worst of 49 European counties in which to be gay.
International organization Human Rights Watch reported that men have been outed to their families and that these relatives have been encouraged to carry out honor killings.
Several victims have been evicted from their apartments as a result of the raids.
The arrests are reminiscent of the detainment and torture of gay men in Chechnya earlier this year. In some cases there, victims were killed.
A spokesman for the country’s interior ministry said “these raids are not against all sexual minorities. The arrested are people who demonstratively show a lack of respect for those around them, annoy citizens with their behaviour, and also those whom police or health authorities believe to be carriers of infectious diseases.”
Evelyne Paradis, European executive director of the International Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, called “for the immediate release of anyone still in detention.”
For more information, please see:
ABC News – Dozens of LGBT People Detained in Azerbaijan Capital – 29 September 2017
CBC News – Azerbaijan Arresting More LBGT People ‘day by day’, Activist Says 30 September 2017
The Guardian – Outcry as Azerbaijan Police Launch Crackdown on LGBT Community – 28 September 2017
Independent – Mass Arrests of LGBT People in Azerbaijan Condemned by Human Rights Groups – 28 September 2017
NBC News – Dozens of LGBTQ Reportedly Arrested in Azerbaijan – 26 September 2017
New York Times – Azerbaijan Detains Dozens of Gay and Transgender People – 29 September 2017
Washington Post – Dozens of LGBT People Detained in Azerbaijan Capital – 29 September 2017