Arbitrary arrests in Azerbaijan must stop


The arrest of perceived cisgender gay men and transgender women in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku continues – with the new wave of arrests landing many in longer detention periods.

The wave of arrests and detentions, which started in the beginning of September, has targeted persons with ‘’non-traditional appearances.’’ The arrests are targeting sex workers, who are knowingly transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, according to authorities.

The exact numbers are difficult to assess as the situation is on-going, however, an estimated 100-200 perceived cisgender men and transgender persons have been arrested.

‘RFSL is seriously concerned by this wave of arbitrary detentions and harassment of LGBTQ persons in Baku,’’ says Marie Månson, Director of International Programs at RFSL. ‘’This is a case of multiple discrimination against the LGBTQ persons, specifically targeting gay and transgender sex workers. We call upon the authorities to immediately release those still in detention.”

Many of the arrested have been held on accounts of ‘’disturbing the public order,’’ and received from 20 to 30 days of detention. Some have been released, but detentions of perceived cisgender gay men and transgender women continue. Local groups RFSL has had contact with have no knowledge of detentions of lesbians, bisexual persons or transgender men.

The Republican Center for HIV Prevention has publicly stated that they have not received any patients, directed to them from the authorities, contrary to the authorities’ allegations of combatting and preventing HIV. In Azerbaijan it is illegal to forcibly test people for HIV without a court order.

According to local group testimonials, the raids on perceived cisgender gay men and transgender women were conducted both in public spaces, work places and private homes and in most cases were accompanied by physical harassment, verbal abuse and torture. People were targeted based on their ‘’non-traditional’’ appearances and many were only released after they were forced to reveal contact details of other LGBTQ persons that were also targeted subsequently. There are reports of beatings and humiliation of transgender women.