Mourners at the grave of Azerbaijan gay activist Isa Shakhmarli
Azerbaijan Gay Activist Commits Suicide

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com January 25 2014 5:56 AM ET

A gay rights activist in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan was found dead this week, an apparent suicide by hanging, using a rainbow flag.

Isa Shakhmarli, 20, chairman of Azerbaijan Free LGBT, was found dead Wednesday in his apartment in the city of Baku, reports Agence France-Presse. He had written a note on Facebook saying, “I am leaving. Forgive me for everything. This country and this world are not for me. You are all guilty for my death. This world cannot handle my true colors. Goodbye.”

A video recorded at the scene showed a torn rainbow flag hanging from the ceiling as emergency medical personnel tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Shakhmarli, according to AFP.

Homosexuality remains stigmatized in the largely Muslim nation of Azerbaijan, as in many former Soviet republics, even though it has been decriminalized. Shakhmarli’s family had difficulty with the fact that he was gay, his friend and fellow activist Vugar Adigozalov told AFP. “The main reason for his suicide was that he had bad relations with his family,” Adigozalov said.

Watch a video of Shakhmarli’s friends mourning him below, via Radio Free Europe.