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Tajikistan Remains ‘Hell for Gays’

Gay issues are a taboo subject in Tajikistan. Although the country decriminalized homosexuality fifteen years ago, there is still very little tolerance toward sexual minorities within its conservative society. In addition to homophobic attitudes, those rare individuals who dare to disclose their ‘unconventional’ sexual orientation become easy targets of physical and psychological abuse, including from police (pdf). As a result, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community remains ”one of the most closed and secretive parts of Tajik society”.

A recent discussion in the country's blogosphere offers a rare glimpse into what it means to be gay in Tajikistan and how the country's people view members of the LGBT community.

‘It means PAIN…’

The discussion started after blogger Rishdor wrote [ru] about a violent incident at his university. Students there found out that one of their classmates was a gay. Rishdor writes [ru]:

Как-то все восприняли это как личную обиду. Гомика решили проучить. Человек 8 однокурсников избили его в туалете. Жестоко избили, у него все лицо и костюм были в крови…

For some reason, everyone took it as a personal offence. It was decided that the [gay] should be taught a lesson. About eight of our classmates beat him up in the bathroom. They beat him up badly; there was a lot of blood on his face and clothes…

Among many other comments under the blog, one reader suggests [ru] that the incident reflects a widespread popular attitude towards gays in Tajikistan:

[Д]умаю это не первый случай. Пока он в Таджикистане он будет с «этим отношением» сталкиваться. Каждый день. Когда он пойдет в правоохранительные органы за помощью, его выгонят издеваясь, везде его будут встречать с насмешкой, и толпа непонятных молодых людей будут всегда и везде его преследовать.

Мне искренне жаль его.

I think it is not the first time [that the boy was beaten]. As long as he is in Tajikistan, he will continue facing this attitude. Every day. And if he goes to [police] for help, they will kick him away, ridiculing the guy; he will face scornful attitude wherever he goes, and a crowd of young people will always be after him, everywhere.

I am truly sorry for him.

Another reader, Shakha, asks [ru]:

[П]очему в нашей стране сохраняется такое отношение к геям? Ведь быть геем это уже давно не преступление, за это не предусмотрено никакого официального наказания со стороны государства. И современная наука уже давно доказала, что гомосексуализм – это не какое-то психиатрическое отклонение, которое можно вылечить таблетками (или побиванием камнями, плетями)…

Why does this attitude toward gays persists in our country? Being gay is no longer considered a crime; the state does not officially punish people for this. And the modern science has proven that homosexuality is not some kind of a psychiatric aberration which can be treated with medicines (or through stoning or lashing)…

Responding to Rishdor's post, another blogger, Drugoi (Different) writes [ru]:

Вы знаете что значит быть геем в Таджикистане? Хуже ничего и не придумаешь!..

БЫТЬ ГЕЕМ ЗНАЧИТ, БЫТЬ НЕПОНЯТЫМ. Почти никем. Это значит, быть обреченным на одиночество и равнодушие даже родных и семьи, друзей, на их презрение и сожаление что ты такой. Попытки убедить тебя, а, скорее себя самих, что это лишь болезнь, как грипп и ее можно и нужно поскорей вылечить.

Это БОЛЬ, СТРАДАНИЯ, ОБИДА, ОДИНОЧЕСТВО, УНИЖЕНИЯ.

Do you know what it means to be gay in Tajikistan? Nothing worse that this can be imagined!..

BEING GAY MEANS BEING UNAPPRECIATED! By everyone. It means being doomed to loneliness and indifference towards you, even from your own family and friends; [it means] their scorn and pity about you being the way you are. [It means] their attempts to convince you, or convince themselves, that this is just a disease and that it should be treated as soon as possible.

It means PAIN, SUFFERING, INSULTS, LONELINESS, HUMILIATION.

In another response post titled “Leave Gays Alone”, blogger Fragaria urges [ru] readers:

Хватит лезть в чужую жизнь… Научитесь относиться к человеку как к человеку, а не как к девушке, парню или гею… Принимайте людей такими, какими они уже сформировались. Будьте толерантными. Какая вам разница, с представителем какого пола этот человек предпочитает секс?

Stop interfering in other people's lives… Learn to treat human beings as human beings, rather than as girls, boys, or gays… Accept people the way they have become. Be tolerant. Why does it matter to you whether a person prefers to have sex with men or women?

‘Hell for gays’

However, reader comments to this latest blog indicate that members of the LGBT community are not anyway near to gaining widespread acceptance in Tajikistan.

An anonymous reader comments [ru]:

Живём в среднековьи или в современном мире, всё равно запретное есть запретное. Не стоит продавать свою веру ради признания этих больных в обществе…

Whether we live in the Middle Ages or in the present time, what is forbidden is forbidden. One should not [abandon] her faith by recognizing these ill people as part of society…

Another blogger, Teocrat, argues [ru] that accepting the rights of gays is similar to accepting the rights of zoophiles and pedophiles. He also suggests that “if gays want to be treated as everyone else, they should behave as everyone else”.

Blogger Bachai Sako goes [tj] as far as denying gay men a place in Tajik society:

Гомосексуалисто на точик хастанду, на мусулмон. Онхо одамои касал ё хайвонот.

Homosexuals are neither Tajiks nor Muslims. They are ill people, or animals.

Under these comments, Mustafo writes [ru]:

Мне с гомосексуалистами в нашей стране как-то не доводилось встречаться. Но судя по коментариям Таджикистан ад для геев.

I have not had a chance to meet homosexuals in our country. But, judging by these comments, Tajikistan is hell for gays.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jasur.ashurov.9 Jasur Ashurov

    Interesting article. But I have an issue with the idea that the (very small) LGBT community in Tajikistan actually needs so much attention or special status or protection. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a homophobe or anything. But there are so many “minorities” in our country that require urgent attention and support. Some of them include ethnic Uzbeks, ethnic Arabs in the south who are almost forcefully “Tajikicized”, Pamiris, former members of the United Tajik Opposition, etc. These groups are numerically significant, they are increasingly sidelined, marginalized, and repressed. It is them who needs attention and protection, not gays. On the issue of LGBT rights, Tajikistan is where it is. As the author correctly puts it, we are a poor, conservative society, where people are resistant to the idea of special rights for “sexual minorities”.

    • http://twitter.com/du15yak30 Шапараки Овора

      Неправильно спрашивать: а что кроме проблемы геев в Таджикистане больше проблем нет чтоли? Нельзя какие-то проблемы считать первостепенными и решать их в первую очередь, а другие оставлять на потом типа решим со временем. Нужно все проблемы решать в комплексе, иначе они накапливаются, и неважные проблемы сразу становятся важными. Это может показаться глупым, но геи тоже граждане нашей страны, у них такие же конституционные права, свободы и обязанности как и у всех остальных. Поэтому им нужно обеспечить такую же жизнь как и всем остальным.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jasur.ashurov.9 Jasur Ashurov

        Vot imenno: takuyu zhe, kak i ostalnim! No problema ved’ v tom, chto takaya zhe zhizn’ im ne podoidet – ved’ esli vs euravnyat’ na zakonodatel,nom urovne, predrassudki i osobennosti mentaliteta vse ravno ostanutsa prezhnimi. Geev tak zhe budut unizhat’, izbivat’, izdevat’sa nad nimi. Poetomu mnogie advokaty prav geev schitayut, chto im nuzhna dopolnitelnaya zashita, osobiy status. Vot o chem ya pisal.

        • http://twitter.com/du15yak30 Шапараки Овора

          Я не думаю, что кто-то из геев просит для себя каких-то особых прав и привилегий, или же какого-то особого статуса. Здесь вы заблуждаетесь. Насколько я понимаю ситуацию, все чего они просят – это быть на тех же условиях, что и все остальные граждане, в Таджикистане и во всех остальных странах.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasur.ashurov.9 Jasur Ashurov

    And it is really funny how one of the bloggers says that gays cannot be Tajiks or Muslims. It is quite a common view in the country that LGBT is a “Western” phenomenon that arrived in Tajikistan with all the other bad things following independence. I guess someone needs to do research on gays in Tajikistan during the Soviet period – to break the stereotypes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/asodiqov Alexander Sodiqov

      That would make a very interesting research project indeed. In general, there is quite a widespread tendency to blame everything that we don’t understand, don’t want to accept, or find too threatening as “Western influence”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/harsavor Харсавор Харсаворович

    Interesno, kak u nas v strane lyubyat opredelyat’ kto yavlyaetsa tadzhikom i kto net. Teper’ vot i gei tozhe ne tadzhiki.

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