Rights group urges US Secretary of State to support LGBT community in Tajikistan
Human Rights First on October 18 expressed alarm over reports that Tajikistani authorities have created a registry of gay and lesbian citizens and called on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to publicly raise concerns about this action.
The organization, in particular, notes that this registry could serve as a precursor to violence and discrimination against the LGBT community.
“Drawing up a registry of gay and lesbian Tajiks should trigger alarms throughout the region,” said Shawn Gaylord, who leads Human Rights First’s initiative to combat violence against LGBTI people globally. “The State Department needs to act quickly and decisively to ensure that Tajikistan does not become the next Chechnya.”
A statement released by Human Rights First says creation of the registry was ostensibly done under the auspices of protecting the LGBT community and cracking down on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the country. Last year Tajikistani authorities identified 319 gay men and 48 lesbians as part of two initiatives entitled “Morality” and “Purge,” ominously named projects which purposes have not been divulged by the Interior Ministry. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Tajikistan in 1998.
Reports of the registry continue a troubling pattern of persecution of LGBT communities in the former Soviet Union, the statement say, noting that the escalation is part of a broader pattern of organized persecution of LGBT people in the region that dates back to legislation targeting the free speech and expression of LGBT people in Russia.
“Tajikistani authorities can dress this up any way they want, but they are fooling no one. This is not an effort to protect the LGBT community, it is the first step in a broader scheme to persecute them,” added Gaylord. “The State Department needs to say loudly and clearly that attacks on LGBT Tajiks will not be tolerated.”
Human Rights First (formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan human rights organization based in New York City and Washington, D.C. It is governed by a board of directors composed of 67 members, including a 34-person Board of Advocates and a six-person Emeritus Board.