Uzbekistan’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood says it’s dealing with growing threats and repression after anti-LGBTQ+ protests turned violent and new laws were passed this week banning the publication of content material deemed to point out disrespect for society and the state.
The laws, handed on Tuesday, makes it unlawful for the media or on-line commentators to publish content material arguing for the decriminalisation of sexual conduct between males, which is at present unlawful and punishable by as much as three years in jail. Uzbekistan – together with Turkmenistan – are the one post-Soviet states that prohibit sexual relations between males.
Anti-LGBTQ+ violence erupted in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, final weekend after heated social media debate round calls to reform the penal code on homosexuality. Two youngsters have been badly injured within the clashes.
Miraziz Bazarov, a well-liked blogger and critic of Uzbek conservative values who actively supported LGBTQ+ rights, was also beaten by a group of masked men and hospitalised. Three days later, his home was searched by the safety providers and paperwork and a pc confiscated.
Members of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood in Uzbekistan, talking to the Guardian on situation of anonymity, say that the protests and the publication of the images, names and addresses of LGBTQ+ folks on social media, together with requires violence, have left them fearing for his or her lives.
“Worry has appeared in my life. I’m afraid of dying right here and there’s nowhere to flee. Nowadays, many people are staying house out of concern,” mentioned Shukhrat – not his actual identify – a 20-year-old homosexual man.
“We solely need freedom and peace however it’s all acquired worse. Panic assaults, despair and a recurring thought that one thing can occur to me have returned. I don’t need to stay like this.”
One other man mentioned that many in his neighborhood have been scared that the violence would escalate within the coming weeks.
“I now really feel much more weak,” he mentioned. “Earlier than, we have been solely afraid of the regulation, now we’re additionally afraid of the radicals, and the federal government is formally on their aspect.”
Below president Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the previous 4 years have seen Uzbekistan transfer in the direction of a extra politically progressive agenda, but this has not prolonged to the nation’s LGBTQ+ inhabitants.
Latest amendments to the nation’s prison code noticed the federal government change the cost in opposition to homosexuality from “sodomy” to against the law in opposition to household, morality and kids, resulting in requires reform by human rights teams and LGBTQ+ activists.
“LGBT folks in Uzbekistan have been already weak to harassment, threats, abuse and violence, even earlier than the occasions on Sunday, given the criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct and widespread homophobia,” mentioned Mihra Rittmann, senior central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Now, with growing hostility towards an already weak group, and outward shows of intolerance and violence, it’s crucial that Uzbekistan’s management unequivocally condemn such violence, and for authorities to carry perpetrators accountable.”
Conservative bloggers have mentioned that the growing visibility of LGBTQ+ activists, and campaigns for the rights of sexual minorities, have been eroding conservative values.
“Our youth is being raised within the spirit of conservatism and respect for traditions,” mentioned Abu Muslim, an Islamic blogger. “Our society sees it as an assault in opposition to Uzbek spiritual values. It’ll by no means be accepted.”