Tillerson Urged to Condemn Persecution of LGBT Community in Azerbaijan

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today expressed alarm over reports that Azerbaijani authorities have detained and tortured dozens of gay and transgender people and called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to publicly condemn the abuses. These reports come amidst the ongoing crisis for the LGBT community in Chechnya, where hundreds of gay and bisexual men have been detained and tortured—and, in a number of cases killed—in custody.

“This persecution is a violation of human rights, plain and simple,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “The State Department needs to stand up, speak out, and demand an end to the detention and torture of Azerbaijan’s LGBT community.”

This roundup was ostensibly conducted under the auspices of cracking down on the illegal sex trade and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the country’s capital of Baku, yet activists report that the majority of those detained were not involved in prostitution. Weeks before, Ehsan Zahidov, the spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, told reporters that Baku residents were calling for authorities to take action against the capital’s LGBT population. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Azerbaijan in 2000.

“What’s happening in Baku is strangely reminiscent of what’s occurring in Chechnya. When human rights violations are met with impunity, it opens the door for the persecution of other vulnerable communities around the world,” added Gaylord. “The State Department should do everything it can to pressure the government of Azerbaijan to put an end to this crisis and should provide support to activists on the ground.”

For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Christopher Plummer at [email protected] or 202-370-3310.


Published on October 3, 2017


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