Pictured: President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
A local court in Turkmenistan, a republic in central Asia between the Caspian Sea and Afghanistan, has sentenced an unidentified well-known gay actor, his husband, and several others to two years in prison on charges of sodomy.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are the only countries in Central Asia where having same-sex relations is a crime.
According to Article 135 of the Criminal Code in Turkmenistan, sex between two men is punishable by up to two years in prison. A repeat offense can be anywhere between five to 10 years.
The total number of men who were arrested is unclear (though some outlets have reported it to be as much as a dozen). The men were taken into custody last month. According to Turkmennews.com, some were released after they reportedly bribed police or struck a deal to testify against others as witnesses.
The actor in question is reportedly the son of a diplomat, according to the Star Observer. He was unable to gain freedom through bribery or family connections.
The incident is the latest in a string of horrific stories coming out of Turkmenistan.
Last month, a 23-year-old gay man was reportedly beaten by police for being gay and HIV-positive. Pink News reported that the man was studying in Russia when he was deported back to Turkmenistan because of his HIV status, due to the country’s law that forces foreign nationals living with HIV back to their home countries.
The young man was later arrested in Turkmenistan after trying to access HIV treatment, and beaten by police when they discovered his status. He ultimately fled back to Russia and was able to seek refuge in an unspecified European country, thanks to assistance from an unspecified LGBTQ+ organization.
Last year, a gay man named Kasymberdy Garayev went missing in Turkmenistan after posting an emotional video directed at his family imploring them to “forgive him” if he is “forcibly taken away.”
“My dears, forgive me,” Garayev said in the video (below). I’ve caused you a lot of pain recently. I made you cry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. If I am forcibly taken away, know that I am innocent. Please forgive me. If I disappear, forgive me.”
According to Radio Free Europe, Garayev has disappeared twice in the last year and has since recanted his prior statement that he was gay, a move his friends believe is an attempt to protect himself from police.