Tillerson Urged to Support LGBT Community in Tajikistan
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today expressed alarm over reports that Tajik authorities have created a registry of gay and lesbian citizens and called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to publicly raise concerns about this action. The organization notes that this registry could serve as a precursor to violence and discrimination against the LGBT community. These reports come amidst the ongoing crisis for LGBT communities in Azerbaijan and in Chechnya, where victims, mostly gay and bisexual men, have been detained, tortured, and killed in custody.
“Drawing up a registry of gay and lesbian Tajiks should trigger alarms throughout the region,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “The State Department needs to act quickly and decisively to ensure that Tajikistan does not become the next Chechnya.”
Creation of the registry was ostensibly done under the auspices of protecting the LGBT community and cracking down on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the Central Asian country. Last year Tajik authorities identified 319 gay men and 48 lesbians as part of two initiatives entitled “Morality” and “Purge,” ominously named projects which purposes have not been divulged by the Interior Ministry. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Tajikistan in 1998.
Reports of the registry continue a troubling pattern of persecution of LGBT communities in the former Soviet Union. The escalation is part of a broader pattern of organized persecution of LGBT people in the region that dates back to legislation targeting the free speech and expression of LGBT people in Russia.
“Tajik authorities can dress this up any way they want, but they are fooling no one. This is not an effort to protect the LGBT community, it is the first step in a broader scheme to persecute them,” added Gaylord. “The State Department needs to say loudly and clearly that attacks on LGBT Tajiks will not be tolerated.”
For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.