On September 22, a 19-year-old man, an aspiring fashion designer who currently works in a cosmetics shop, was walking in the center of Baku. Another man – young, good-looking and well dressed – approached him and tried to start a conversation.
“He pretended to be gay and told me he had an apartment nearby, and invited me there,” said the designer, who asked that his name not be used. “At first I tried to ignore him, but he was persistent and eventually I admitted that I was gay.” As soon as he did that, the designer recounted to EurasiaNet.org, another man appeared and the two grabbed him by the arms, pushed him into a car, and took him to the police station. After 12 hours of detention, he was forced to sign documents that he was not allowed to read, and to pay a fine of 150 manats (about $88).
Since then he stopped going to work and walking outside alone or after the dark. “The police warned me that next time they see me they’ll arrest me again,” he said. “I’ve become paranoid, if someone is just looking at me, I’ll walk the other way.”
Dozens of similar incidents have occurred in Azerbaijan since September 15, with gay and transgender people rounded up on the streets, in homes, and in bars across the city. Advocacy groups say at least 100 people have been arrested in the wave of raids. EurasiaNet.org was able to obtain information about at least 46 individuals who have been detained.