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Uzbekistan police blame victim after mob attacks LGBT rights activist

Uzbekistan’s Interior Ministry implied in a public statement that the victim of a brutal mob attack March 28 deserved his beating due to his advocacy for LGBT rights and for decriminalization of sodomy in the country, Eurasianet reports.

Human rights activist Miraziz Bazarov suffered a broken leg and fractured skull after being beaten by a violent mobin Tashkent, Uzbekistan. (Photo courtesy Timur Karpov/Fergana News)

Outspoken activist Miraziz Bazarov had become known for advocacy for LGBT rights on his Telegram channel, although he is not gay himself. He had recently released several videos critical of the government for refusing to decriminalize consensual sodomy during its ongoing review of the country’s Criminal Code.

The authorities say Bazarov, 30, was targeted by a mob of people who were holding a rally in Tashkent’s Amir Temur Square in favor of maintaining prohibitions on sodomy. It is not clear how the attack began, but Bazarov was left with a broken leg, a cranial fracture and several other serious injuries, according to Eurasianet.

Uzbekistan is located on the east shore of the Caspian Sea, north of Iran and Afghanistan, south of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. (Map courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin)

An unconfirmed local report suggests Bazarov provoked a confrontation by inviting a meeting of anime and K-pop fans via social media at the same time and place as the anti-LGBT rally. In Uzbekistan, Japanese animation and Korean pop music are frequently accused by conservatives of promoting homosexuality.

The report says the authorities intervened when the mob turned violent. Only twelve people, a small segment of the mob, were arrested. They were given the trivial charge of “hooliganism.”

Eurasianet reports that the Interior Ministry later released a video in which the arrested men, whose faces are blurred to preserve anonymity, confess and express regret for the assault. The video’s voiceover also lays blame on Bazarov for his activism.

“Bazarov has on previous occasions put out insulting and inappropriate public statements that are not in correspondence with our mentality. He put his bad manners on show on videos that he then disseminated,” the voiceover commentator states, as translated by Eurasianet.

The alleged attackers’ faces were blurred in a video released by the Interior Ministry which lays blame on the victim for promoting LGBT rights. (Still from Uzbekistan Interior Ministry video)

Consensual sodomy currently carries a three-year sentence under the Uzbekistan Criminal Code, and police have been known to use the discredited and humiliating practice of anal examinations in their investigations and prosecutions of men who have sex with men. While there was hope that the government would repeal the sodomy provisions during its review of the Criminal Code this year, the draft version of the new code that the government presented maintains the criminal sanctions as Section 154. A social media campaign using the hashtag #Repeal154 has arisen in hopes of convincing the government to change its mind.

In the wake of the assault, some in government and in media are instead urging to double-down on criminalization of LGBT people. Alisher Kadirov, leader of the second-largest party in the governing coalition and deputy speaker of the legislature, released a statement on Telegram in which he supported harsher sanctions on LGBT people and compared LGBT rights activists to terrorists:

“If the people of Uzbekistan do not want to live in the same state with people like you. It’s a very natural situation to reflect this in the law,” Kadirov said. “People without dignity, like terrorists, do not have a nation! WE REJECT YOU! We will do our best to make Uzbekistan a country where people like you cannot live.”

Kadirov wrote that the criminal code should prohibit “promotion of homosexuality, LGBT ideas in any form” with sanctions including “compulsory treatment, imprisonment, revocation of citizenship, and deportation.”

Written by Rob Salerno

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