Detainees claim that they were beaten in the police department and were demanded to pay a bribe
On 22 September the Azerbaijan police conducted special raids in the center of Baku during which about a hundred representatives of sexual minorities were detained. The head of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan, Police Colonel Ehsan Zahidov, confirmed that these raids took place, but stated that they didn’t imply arrests but short-term detentions. Victims claim to have been physically assaulted at police stations.
“The police demanded bribes from detainees in order to release them and stipulated that gays are not allowed to appear in the center of the city at places for mass gatherings and were not allowed to wear clothes disclosing their sexual orientation,” the BBC quoted one of the people in custody.
Another detainee said that he was kept in a basement for four days and that they demanded he point out others gays among his acquaintances. Zahidov says that the reason behind the raid were citizens’ complaints and ‘disrespect for others’ by representatives of sexual minorities.
He also dismissed allegations of torture and said that many of the detainees posed ‘a threat to the health of other people’. According to the Colonel, the police had sent detainees to the national AIDS center where five of them were diagnosed with HIV and syphilis, and another one reported as being HIV positive. However, the AIDS Center officially declared that no one approached them requesting to check for HIV status.
In addition, the police didn’t even inquire about whether the detained citizen had been registered or not. A representative of the minority group in Azerbaijan, Gulnara Mehtiyeva, said that this is the first case of such a large-scale persecution of LGBT community members in Azerbaijan. According to Mehtiyeva, the complaints made it clear that people were detained around midnight, taken to police stations and penalized.
“It was clear that they detained both transgender and gay people, and even those not associated with sex services and having regular jobs,” BBC quoted Mekhdiyeva.
ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association overseeing the rights of sexual minorities) reported Azerbaijan as ranking 49th among the European countries in a sexual minorities protection rating.
There were a lot of comments supporting police actions and some openly homophobic statements. Here are a couple of the most typical comments from Facebook:
“Gays are mentally and sometimes genetically ill people … Instead of depriving them of their rights or life, it’s better to study their genetics at a scientific level to solve this issue. That should be about detecting a genetic flaw at a certain point of the fetus’ development while still in the womb in order to prevent the birth of such a person. That would prevent him from having an unhappy life and the feeling of being flawed… The birth of a gay[person] gives psychological issues to both his parents and the people around [them]!”
“I’m sick and tired of this! What have they done to you? They are living their own life and mind their own business. They neither kill nor harm anyone, and you should as well learn not to interfere in the lives of others. The police should fight against theft and corrupt officials instead.”