Politics – Azerbaijan gay group forced to close over safety fears

Co-founder of Nefes committed suicide last year over persecution
Founder of Nefes Isa Shakhmarli committed suicide with a rainbow flag in 2014.

One of the only LGBTI rights group operating in Azerbaijan has announced it is being forced to close today (12 February).

Nefes (which means ‘Breath’) has said the increased arrests and persecution has forced them to make a decision:

They cannot risk the personal safety of its members any longer, and will close.

At the beginning of 2014, former Nefes leader Isa Shakhmarli hanged himself with a rainbow flag in his apartment.

‘I am leaving you. God bless you. This country and this world are not for me,’ he said in his suicide note. ‘This world is not colorful enough for my colors. Farewell.’

While the death was seen as a significant loss for the community, it helped kick start a new found passion among members of the group.

But then, once they renewed their campaigns, activists of the group reported they were subject to raids and travel restrictions.

And in September, one of Nefes’ founding members became a national target after news of his engagement to his male partner went viral in the press. It led to harassment and threats of violence.

The couple attempted to seek asylum in another country, but unconfirmed reports claimed their attempts to flee was blocked by Azerbaijani authoritities who allegedly confiscated their passports.

And earlier this year, their website was hacked by suspected religious extremists. A message stating ‘We Will Destroy You All’ ‘ was posted on the main page alongside an image of a jihadist flag.

Other members of Nefes have reported other incidents including hate speech, physical attacks and even torture.

In an interview published late last year, Shakhmarli said LGBT Azerbaijan people struggle because it is a homophobic, strict Muslim country and many cannot find a job. This means 90% are forced to remain closeted.

He also said his family could not accept his sexuality.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/gay-man-20-hangs-himself-rainbow-flag-azerbaijan230114#sthash.RVbI3WWG.dpuf

In an interview published late last year, Shakhmarli said LGBTI Azerbaijan people struggle because it is a homophobic, strict Muslim country and many cannot find a job. This means 90% are forced to remain closeted.

He also said his family could not accept his sexuality.

‘I want LGBTs to be brave. I live separately from my family in my own house, I have my own job, I can do everything myself,’ Shakhmarli said in the interview, his parting words to the world.

‘If you want, you can achieve.’

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/azerbaijans-only-gay-group-forced-close-over-safety-fears120215#sthash.mCYHRc8h.dpuf

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