22nd of January is held in Azerbaijan as a Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on initiative of Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance since 2014. It goes without saying that the day was founded after late LGBT activist Isa Shahmarli committed suicide with LGBT flag. The members of LGBT community in Azerbaijan commemorate this day as a fighting day. Our fight is very young. But our aim is to send people a message that we exist, there is no place for hate, and we can live as one.
Obviously, among the social groups that are victims of violence and hatred, we are the ones that struggle most and are subjected to discrimination. Each year hundreds of LGBT people are exposed to physical, psychological, economical violence by their family members, by people around them, get killed, they are forced to live a double life, commit suicide, leave the country. Many lesbians who are forced to hide their orientation because of their family and society, are married off, face sexual violence from the person they are married off. In 2015, more than 10 attacks against LGBT people was reported by law enforcement authorities as a result of which 2 transgender and 1 gay was killed, and 1 lesbian and 1 transgender died as a result of suicide. Needless to say these are just the events that were publicized by the media. In reality, the numbers are much greater. Azerbaijan was placed last among the 49 members of the Council of Europe in ILGA Europe’s reports for 2014 and 2015. Azerbaijan is behind even Russia according to these results.
During 2015 not only hate crimes were committed but also, a lot of hate speech was observed. People of strong reputation among the society such as Member of Parliament Fazil Mustafa, the chairperson of National Television and Radio Council (NTRC) of the Republic of Azerbaijan Nushiravan Maharramli openly declared their hatred towards homosexuals and LGBT rights. Fazil Mustafa even called people to take a hard-line on homosexuals after Javid Nabiyev’s, the chairman of Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, engagement was featured in media. As a reaction to the creation of first LGBTI magazine “Minority”, member of the Parliament, the chairman of Press Council of Azerbaijan Aflatun Amashov called it “against national-moral values”. Also, regarding the incident of 5th grade textbook where the journalists hinted homosexuality, the press secretary of the Ministry of Education told that this was “a so-called result that is incompatible with our ethical values”. Thus, the Ministry of Education therefore showed its homophobic position.
One of the main sources and instigators of hate speech towards us is media. Media outlets and journalists who work there freely call out people for hate and evoking the hate speech.
In spite of all mentioned and not mentioned, we still send out our peace message. We ask everyone to accept and respect individual’s freedom. Homosexuality should not be considered as immorality. This is not a choice as you cannot choose your birth sex, your parents, and your place of birth. The choice is up to you: Choose Peace, Love and Equality, not hate. Just be a humanist!