Anti-LGBTI protesters invaded and disrupted a May 17 celebration of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia.
The LGBTI rights organization Labrys reported that the hostile assault came from members of the anti-LGBTI groups Kalys and Kyrk Choro.
“The crowd of aggressive men threatened and insulted the activists. One of the participants of the event received injuries. A criminal case under article 234 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code has been initiated,” Labrys said. The following account is based on reports from Labrys and from Front Line Defenders, an organization that advocates on behalf of human rights defenders worldwide
About 30 people, including Labrys members and guests, had gathered in the private Astoria Garden cafe to celebrate IDAHOT starting at 2 p.m.
Soon Zhenish Moldokmatov, a leader of Kalys, and about 20 other men gathered near the café. At 3 p.m., they began to behave aggressively — to knock on the gate, shouting threats over the fence. One of the men jumped onto the railing and shouted, “You will not leave here alive! All you need to burn! We will not let you safely leave this room!”
At 3:15 p.m., the attackers broke the lock on the gate and broke through a door to enter the café. There was a scuffle. One of the girls participating was injured. LGBT activists called the police.
LGBT activists asked the members of Kalys and Kyrk Choro to leave the café and discuss matters outside. The attackers told the activists to halt the event; otherwise they would call for reinforcements, which would put the activists at risk.
Police then arrived, took statements from those present, and forced the LGBT activists to go to the police station. They were treated roughly — hands were twisted, hair was pulled — although they were supposedly going to the station as witnesses.
“We were crammed into cars as potatoes,” one of the participants said.
They were held at the police station for more than five hours without access to water, food, medicines or a toilet.
Police tried to make some participants show their genitals, in order to identify transgender people.
During their time at the police station, police officers swore, threatened the activists, and refused to introduce themselves.
The police treated members of Kalys and Kyrk Choro differently. They were allowed to stand up, move around the police station, eat and drink.
At 1 a.m. on May 18, the activists were released from the police station.
Their attackers are currently being prosecuted under article 234 (“hooliganism”) of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. LGBT activists intend to appeal to the Prosecutor’s Office to review the legality of the police behavior.
Kyrgyzstan is currently in the midst of legislative action on a proposed anti-“gay propaganda” law that would be stronger than the current anti-propaganda law in Russia. The bill passed a first reading in the Kyrgyz parliament in October. The bill would need to pass in two further parliamentary votes and win presidential approval before becoming law.
Observers say that debates over the bill have aggravated anti-LGBTI feelings in the nation.
“Not even a month ago Labrys’ office was damaged in an arson attack, signalling the rapidly shrinking space for LGBT civil society [in Kyrgyzstan],” noted Richard Köhler, senior policy officer at Transgender Europe, a non-profit organization working for human rights and equal treatment for trans people. “The debate of a homo- and transphobic law in the formerly liberal Central-Asian state is the breeding ground for hate and puts trans and LGBTIQ people’s lives at risk. The law proposal needs to be withdrawn immediately and Kyrgyz authorities need to assure credibly that homo- and transphobia has no space in Kyrgyz society.”
Alecs Recher, co-chair of Transgender Europe., said, “The attack is an unacceptable attack on the freedom to expression and peaceful assembly, the right to life and dignity, which all persons are entitled to. The behaviour by the police, siding with the aggressors, and denying the victims their basic rights is scandalous. Kyrgyz authorities and European institutions need to swiftly condemn the attack. The perpetrators amongst the attackers and law enforcement have to be brought to justice.”
Front Line Defenders condemned both the attack and the increased persecution faced by the LGBTI community in Kyrgyzstan. The advocacy group called for “an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack on the participants of the event organised by Labrys, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards” and to “guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.”
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