In Azerbaijan, the organisation Nəfəs LGBT Azərbaycan Alyansı prepared two actions in order to commemorate IDAHOT 2014. The actions highlighted the importance of accepting LGBT people as part of society and also challenged violence and hatred against LGBT comunities with a European-wide campaign.
In 2001, Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe and committed to several obligations, and yet LGBT people still face significant discrimination, violence and isolation in society, and at the hands of the state. Therefore, activists set out this year to analyse legislation in terms of LGBT rights in Azerbaijan, and to propose new bills which also include raising the profile of national obligations which Azerbaijan has yet to fulfill, in front of the European parliament.
Under the theme ‘We are as old as Gobustan!’, Nefes, the LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Netherlands, organised a gathering on IDAHOT on one of the oldest human settlements in Azerbaijan, Gobustan. With this event, the participants protested against prejudice within Azerbaijani society, and specifically against the framing of LGBT rights as a ‘European import’, by highlighting that LGBT communities ‘are as old as Gobustan’.
After a ‘March for Equality’ to the site, the participants release colorful balloons into the sky and rainbow flags were also proudly waved. LGBT people and their allies took part in the protest to say no to Homophobia and Transphobia, to show unity and to speak up for equality, and for an end to anti-LGBT violence.
They shared some pictures online, as well as a video of the #IDAHOT 2014 in Azerbaijan, which you can view here:
Hate Kills Campaign
Prior to May 17, Nefes had also launched a campaign to promote ‘Common Sense for Equality’. In every European country there is an inscription on cigarette boxes: ‘Smoking is harmful for your health and people around you’. The campaign invited people to replace the word smoking with ‘homophobia’ (or ‘transphobia’, ‘biphobia’, ‘hate’, etc). People with cigarette boxes in their hands from different countries all over Europe took photos and sent them in to the organization. The pictures were turned into posters which were then popularised on social media.
Unfortunately, after the participants stood up against discrimination, isolation and violence against LGBT people at the IDAHOT events in Azerbaijan, Nefes and the Dutch Embassy were accused of ‘hostility against Azerbaijan’. Therefore, Nefes released a statement in reaction to those accusations, which is reproduced here in full:
As a Nefes LGBT we are very concerned over society’s reaction on our activity 17th May, Day against Homophobia.
All the time we hear ‘We live in war conditions’, ‘Who will fight for Karabakh’ and the like. However, to be gay doesn’t mean to be feminine. Today there are ample gay people who serve in the army, they are ready to fight and sacrifice their lives by the order of Commander-of-chief of Azerbaijan Republic.
Unfortunately, head of Karabakh Liberation Organization Akif Tagi illiterately remarked his opinion on ‘march to Gobustan’ in media and blamed Dutch embassy for ‘enmity policy against Azerbaijan’. But he forgets that rights and liberties of a person cannot be restricted due to race, nationality, religion, language, sex, origin, political and social belonging (Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic, article 25) and in this case he must be punished according to Criminal Code of Azerbaijan (Article 154: violation of right to equality). If he knew our constitution, he would know that homosexual relations aren’t crime at all.
Society cannot come to terms that Azerbaijan is a democratic, secular, law-governed state (Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic, article 7.1), and religion is separated from state (Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic, article 18.1).
We understand that, believers in Islam prevail in Azerbaijan and we respect their beliefs. But it doesn’t mean, one can threaten, humiliate LGBT people or their supporters on the basis of their religious beliefs. Everyone has a right to live in this country, including LGBT people, along with religious ones and no one can prohibit this right.
Unfortunately, society thinks LGBT has obscene, lascivious lifestyle, but in reality it is not the case. What LGBT wants is just not to be discriminated. They have normal lifestyle and career as others do.
We also want to point out homophobic journalists and their bias in publications of materials on LGBT. Journalist ethics doesn’t allow them to express their subjective opinions or to use LGBT as a means of PR of their web-site.
Dear editors, don’t forget that your ‘callings on hate’ can deprive someone of his life. Therefore, we think they should pay attention while choosing headlines, pictures and overall information. Law-enforcement bodies also must be careful as the law requires it (Criminal Code, article 147), as some famous pages on social networks spread threat, bias and hate against LGBT, our organization and head of organization.