Authorities in Tajikistan have reportedly compiled a registry of hundreds of people in the country’s gay and lesbian community as part of a purported drive to promote moral behavior.
RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, reported on October 17 that the list drawn up by the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecutor’s Office comprises 319 gay men and 48 lesbians.
Ozodi cited law enforcement officials as claiming the registry was drawn up primarily to protect the people named on it and to monitor sections of the population perceived as being at greatest risk from sexually transmitted diseases. But rights advocacy groups are warning of the pernicious potential of such lists.
“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,” Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel for New York-based Human Rights First, said in a statement.
A Soviet-era statue criminalizing homosexuality was scrapped in Tajikistan in 1998, but social mores are such that gays and lesbians are often compelled to keep their sexuality secret.
Concern about the creation of a so-called LGBT register in Tajikistan comes against the backdrop of more aggressive campaigns to single out and persecute members of the LGBT community in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya and in Azerbaijan.
In Azerbaijan, dozens of gay and transgender people have been detained by police on the streets, in their homes and in bars since mid-September. As in Tajikistan, Azeri police have justified the raids by citing the need to protect public morality and isolating people with sexually transmitted diseases.
Earlier in the year, reports emerged from Chechnya that more than 100 gay and bisexual men had been arrested and detained without charge. People swept up in the wave of detentions reported that torture of detainees was commonplace and that up to 20 men may have been killed.
Human Rights First urged the US State Department to speak out against Tajikistan’s LGBT registry to ensure the country does not go down the same path as its post-Soviet peers.
“The State Department needs to act quickly and decisively to ensure that Tajikistan does not become the next Chechnya,” the group’s representative said.