Senators Urge Trump Administration to Investigate Reported Persecution of Azerbaijan’s LGBT Community
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First applauds today’s bipartisan Senate effort to urge the Trump Administration to investigate the the alleged detention of dozens of LGBT people in Azerbaijan and, to condemn any credible reports of abuse publicly. The effort, led by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), came in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson which cited a rising tide of government-led persecution of LGBT communities throughout the region.
Senators Toomey and Wyden were joined on the letter by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
“Today’s letter reminds the Trump Administration and Azerbaijan’s leadership that human rights abusers will not get a free pass. We hope Secretary Tillerson will heed the senators’ call and engage directly,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “We applaud Senators Toomey and Wyden for leading on this issue.”
October’s mass detention of more than 50 members of Azerbaijan’s LGBT community was unprecedented even in a country which has not been a welcoming place for LGBT people. Weeks before, Ehsan Zahidov, the spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, told reporters that LGBT people “do not fit in our nation, our state, and our mentality.” Homosexuality was decriminalized in Azerbaijan in 2000.
“Baku is just the latest crackdown on LGBT communities in the region, and with little accountability for this type of persecution, it likely won’t be the last,” added Gaylord. “But if the State Department steps up and puts pressure on the government of Azerbaijan to speak out forcefully and demand accountability, it could send a message to vulnerable communities everywhere that they are not alone.”