September 30, 2014 – Reported by iAfrica.com – A gay couple fled Azerbaijan after reports of their engagement sparked abuse and death threats in the tightly-controlled ex-Soviet country, one of the men said on Tuesday.
“We became targets for homophobes after media picked up from my Facebook page photos of a small engagement ceremony we held in Sumgait,” Javid Nabiyev told AFP.
Sumgait is an industrial city on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
After their photos went viral, “we started receiving homophobic insults and even death threats.
“Neighbours tried to break into our flat,” he added in emailed comments.
The 25-year-old said he and his partner had fled the country “in the dead of night” and are currently abroad, residing in a flat belonging to a gay rights group.
Nabiyev did not disclose their new country of residence, only saying they cannot apply for asylum there.
“Now we have to somehow get by in exile,” Nabiyev said,
Despite their treatment, he and his partner remain defiant.
“In the future we want to get married,” he said.
“Azerbaijan has no legislation to protect sexual minorities and our society is not ready to tolerate us.
“But I’ll keep fighting for gay rights in Azerbaijan.”
Homosexuality is stigmatised in Azerbaijan, a mainly Muslim but officially secular country of 9.5 million.
Many gays and lesbians say they experience harassment and attacks and are shunned by friends and family after coming out.
A leading Azerbaijani gays rights activist, Isa Shakhmarli, killed himself in January after writing in an online suicide note that he could not go on living in “this country and this world.”
The 20-year-old man reportedly hanged himself using the rainbow-coloured flag of the gay pride movement.