Uzbekistan’s LGBTQ + community says it faces increasing threats and repression after anti-LGBTQ + protests turned violent and new laws were passed this week banning the publication of content that is considered disrespectful to society and the state.
Human rights groups say the legislation, passed Tuesday, will prevent the media or online commentators from arguing for the decriminalization of sexual conduct between men, which is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. . Uzbekistan, along with Turkmenistan, are the only post-Soviet states that prohibit sexual relations between men.
Anti-LGBTQ + violence erupted in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, last weekend after a heated debate on social media over calls to reform the penal code on homosexuality. Two teenagers were seriously injured in the clashes.
Miraziz Bazarov, a popular blogger and critic of conservative Uzbek values who actively supported LGBTQ + rights, He was also beaten by a group of masked men and hospitalized. Three days later, his home was searched by security and documents services and a computer was confiscated.
Members of the LGBTQ + community in Uzbekistan, speaking to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, They say the protests and the posting of the photos, names and addresses of LGBTQ + people on social media, along with calls for violence, have left them in fear for their lives.
“Fear has appeared in my life. I am afraid of dying here and there is nowhere to escape. These days, many of us stay home out of fear, ”said Shukhrat, who is not his real name, a 20-year-old gay man.
“We just want freedom and peace, but everything has gotten worse. The panic attacks, depression and the recurring thought that something could happen to me have returned. I don’t want to live like this. “
Another man said that many in his community were afraid the violence would escalate in the coming weeks.
“Now I feel even more vulnerable,” he said. “Before, we were only afraid of the law, now we are also afraid of radicals, and the government is officially on their side.”
Under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the past four years have seen Uzbekistan move towards a more politically progressive agenda, but this has not spread to the country’s LGBTQ + population.
The government has recently proposed to amend the country’s penal code to change the charge against homosexuality from “sodomy” to a crime against family, morals and children.
“LGBT people in Uzbekistan were already vulnerable to harassment, threats, abuse and violence, even before Sunday’s events, given the criminalization of consensual same-sex behavior and widespread homophobia,” Mihra Rittmann said. , Central Asia Principal Investigator for Human Rights Watch. .
“Now, with growing hostility towards an already vulnerable group and outward manifestations of intolerance and violence, it is critical that the Uzbek leadership unequivocally condemn such violence and that the authorities hold the perpetrators accountable.”
Conservative bloggers have said that the increasing visibility of LGBTQ + activists and campaigns for sexual minority rights were eroding conservative values.
“Our youth are being raised in a spirit of conservatism and respect for traditions,” said Abu Muslim, an Islamic blogger. “Our society sees it as an attack on Uzbek religious values. It will never be accepted. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism