Connect with us

Southern-Central Asia

LGBTQ activism in Uzbekistan ‘is almost impossible’

Human rights activist speaks after call to end so-called anal tests

Published

on

Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Photo courtesy of Bigstock)

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan— A human rights activist in Uzbekistan says LGBTQ people in their country continue to live in fear.

“Members of the LGBT community continue to be intimidated,” the human rights activist told the Los Angeles Blade this week. “Activism and protection of the rights of LGBT representatives is almost impossible in the country.”

“There are no mechanisms that would somehow help people who are already in a complex psycho-emotional state,” added the human rights activist. “It is not possible to ask for help if you suffered on the basis of your sexual orientation; either from law enforcement agencies, doctors, psychologists or other structures that should provide this assistance.”

Uzbekistan is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Human Rights Watch; the Council for Global Equality; the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity; Freedom Now; Human Dignity Trust; the Human Rights Campaign; ILGA-Europe; the International Partnership for Human Rights and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany in an Aug. 5 press release noted Uzbek authorities between 2017 and this year have subjected at least six men to so-called anal exams to prove they engaged in consensual same-sex sexual relations. The groups urged President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to immediately ban this practice.

“Forced anal examinations, and their use in seeking convictions for consensual same-sex conduct, are an appalling violation of basic rights that diminishes Uzbekistan’s efforts to make its poor human rights record a thing of the past,” said Human Rights Watch Associate LGBT Rights Director Neela Ghoshal in the press release. “The Uzbek government has been vocal about its intent to make human rights reforms, yet persists in using a discredited, abusive procedure that amounts to torture.”

The human rights activist spoke with the Blade days after Human Rights Watch and the other groups urged the Uzbek government to ban anal exams. The Blade on Thursday reached out to the Uzbek government, the Uzbek Embassy in D.C. and Uzbek Ambassador to the U.S. Javlon Vakhabov for comment.

Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia that borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Mirziyoyev has been Uzbekistan’s president since 2016.

The human rights activist — who asked the Blade not to publish their name — said Mirziyoyev promised “radical changes in all areas, especially in the field of human rights.”

“The entire world community, like the entire population of Uzbekistan, expected global changes in these areas, but almost five years have passed since he has been in power and much that was promised was simply forgotten or rejected under various pretexts,” said the human rights activist. “During all five years of government as president in the field of LGBT rights, nothing was done except aggravating the situation and worsening the situation of the LGBT community in Uzbekistan.”

The human rights activist noted Article 120 of the Uzbek penal code “is directed primarily against men, but the presence of an article in society is perceived as a ban on the entire LGBT community.” They also said efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in Uzbekistan have been “rejected, citing the thinking of civil society.”

The human rights activist told the Blade that prominent politicians and religious officials in their country publicly say LGBTQ people should undergo treatment, lose their citizenship and be destroyed.

A new criminal code that Uzbek lawmakers approved in February contains a provision that addresses “crimes against morals, youth and family.” The human rights activist with whom the Blade spoke sarcastically said “it turns out that the LGBT community in the country is the culprit of problems in families, in young people.”

“Representatives of the LGBT community in Uzbekistan have no protection and no rights,” said the human rights activist. “In addition, the lack of support from civil society, the imposition of a negative image of the LGBT community on people deprive them of the support of civil society, because people have been introduced to the idea that if you are willing to help the LGBT community, then you are necessarily part of them and should be subject to punishment.”

“Open homophobia and unleashed hands of law enforcement agencies allow the use of any methods of pressure and torture on people who are charged under Article 120, because no one will help in this situation,” added the human rights activist.

The human rights activist told the Blade that they welcome the call for Mirziyoyev to ban anal tests in Uzbekistan. The human rights activist added they are hopeful the U.S. and European Union can potentially spur Mirziyoyev’s government to do more to protect LGBTQ Uzbeks.

“The hope of the LGBT community of Uzbekistan is connected precisely with the possibility of influence from the government of America and the European Union on this issue,” said the human rights activist, while adding the pandemic has forced the U.S. and European countries to shift their priorities.

The human rights activist noted Uzbekistan is a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council and “has undertaken to promote and protect human rights and to adopt a number of legislative, institutional and administrative measures to fulfill its international human rights obligations, and has undertaken to protect, promote and uphold universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”

The human rights activist also pointed out the EU does not impose tariffs on goods it imports from Uzbekistan.

“The EU made concessions to Uzbekistan in this matter when it gave it the status of its partner,” they noted. “But at the same time Uzbekistan is not confused in fulfilling its obligations.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Southern-Central Asia

29 LGBTQ Afghans arrive in U.K.

Rainbow Railroad part of evacuation effort

Published

on

Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

LONDON — A Canada-based group on Friday said it has successfully evacuated 29 LGBTQ people from Afghanistan.

Rainbow Railroad in a press release said the 29 evacuees arrived in the U.K. “as part of a joint” operation the organization carried out with the British government and Micro Rainbow and Stonewall, two U.K. LGBTQ advocacy groups. The press release notes they “will begin to resettle and rebuild their lives in the country” with the assistance of the British Home Office and other British government agencies.

“In Afghanistan, these 29 people faced grave and immediate threats to their lives because they are LGBTQI+,” said Rainbow Railroad in the press release. “Since the fall of Kabul in mid-August, Rainbow Railroad worked diligently on the ground with our partners in the region to provide safety for these 29 individuals, who we have now found a permanent pathway to safety out of the country.”

“This first arrival was the culmination of months of advocacy to the U.K. government, civil-society cooperation and partnership building which represents the best of what we can accomplish when we work in tandem with governments and civil society organizations,” added Rainbow Railroad

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan. Rainbow Railroad in its press release said it “helped dozens of LGBTQI+ individuals escape via the military airlift” that ended at the end of August.

Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country since the Taliban regained control of it are LGBTQ. Rainbow Railroad is among the advocacy groups that continue to urge the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain in the country.

Continue Reading

Southern-Central Asia

Petition urges White House to protect LGBTQ Afghans

Taliban regained control of country on Aug. 15

Published

on

Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

WASHINGTON — More than 10,000 people have signed a petition that urges the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country.

The Human Rights Campaign; the Council for Global Equality; Immigration Equality; Rainbow Railroad; the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and the International Refugee Assistance Project on Friday presented to the White House the petition that urges the administration to adopt “a 10-point action plan … to expedite and ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghans.”

The same six groups last month urged the Biden administration to adopt a plan that would “prioritize the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people, and ensure that any transitory stay in a third country is indeed temporary by expediting refugee processing.” The groups, among other things, asked the White House to “speak out forcefully against human rights abuses by the new Taliban regime and any increased targeting of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQI people, and use existing mechanisms to sanction and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights abuse.”

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the other groups that have continued their efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans since American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30. Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country are LGBTQ.

“We reiterate our call for President Biden to adopt the 10-point policy plan which will expedite and ease the refugee process for LGBTQI Afghans,” said Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a press release. “The 10,000+ people who signed our petition have demonstrated that they want the United States, long a beacon of refuge for those fleeing persecution, to take action to protect LGBTQI Afghans—a vulnerable group who risk oppression, even death, simply for who they are or who they love. Now is the time for action.”

Continue Reading

Southern-Central Asia

Transgender activist in Pakistan fights for change

Jannat Ali attended 2018 HRC summit in D.C.

Published

on

Jannat Ali at WorldPride 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo courtesy of Jannat Ali)

LAHORE, Pakistan — A pioneering transgender activist in Pakistan continues her fight for change in her country.

Jannat Ali—who describes herself as an “artivist”— is the executive director of Track T, a trans rights organization that is based in Lahore, the country’s second largest city that is the capital of Punjab province.

Track T in December 2018 organized Pakistan’s first-ever trans Pride march that drew nearly 500 people. A law that permits trans people to legally change the gender on their national ID cards and other official documents, allows them to vote and bans discrimination based on gender identity in employment, health care, education and on public transportation took effect earlier that year.

“That was an opportunity (for people) to celebrate their real true identities,” Ali told the Los Angeles Blade on Aug. 19 during a telephone interview from Copenhagen, Denmark, where she was attending WorldPride 2021. “People were shaking hands because we did it so beautifully.”

Jannat Ali, left, with Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride at WorldPride 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo courtesy of Jannat Ali)

Ali in March launched “Journey with Jannat”, an “inclusive infotainment show” with episodes on Instagram and YouTube. She is the first openly trans person to host her own program in Pakistan.

Ali in 2018 traveled to D.C. to participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit. Track-T last year received a $5,000 HRC grant.

“They changed my life,” Ali told the Blade, referring to HRC. “They helped me to fulfill my dreams in my life and make me be able to share my work.”

Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 2009 ruled in favor of recognizing trans people as a third gender on identity cards. The Pakistani government in July opened the country’s first school for trans people.

Section 377 of Pakistan’s colonial-era penal code that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations remains in place. Ali told the Blade that implementation of the 2018 trans rights law— especially in the country’s tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan and in rural Pakistan — remains a problem.

“The government doesn’t (make it a) priority,” she said. “It’s a responsibility of other provinces to adopt or to amend it and present their bill in their own provinces.”

Ali said violence based on gender identity remains prevalent in these areas.

Alisha, a trans activist who worked with Trans Action in Peshawar, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province that borders Afghanistan, died in 2016 after a man who reportedly raped her shot her several times.

Activists said staff at a local hospital delayed treatment because she was trans. The province’s then-governor ordered personnel to place Alisha in a private room, but she died a short time later.

“We are thankful to the governor,” a local activist told the Blade after Alisha’s death. “This was the first time that a government executive showed support.”

Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan ‘really sad’

Ali spoke with the Blade four days after the Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute gay men if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country are LGBTQ. The Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the other groups that have continued their efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans since American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30.

“I was really worried,” Ali told the Blade when asked about the plight of LGBTQ Afghans in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country. “I was really sad.”

Ali this week said she is now “in touch” with LGBTQ Afghans who have fled to northern Pakistan.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular