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Gay Activist and Journalist Allegedly Stabbed to Death by Cousin

Activist and journalist Avaz Hafizli

The 24-year-old Azerbaijani activist was killed after he and his cousin got into argument, prosecutors say.

Authorities say Avaz Shikhmammadov -- better known as Avaz Hafizli -- was murdered on Tuesday by his cousin, Amrulla Gulaliyev.

A statement from the prosecutor's office said that the young man's cousin fatally stabbed him after an argument. The cousin had been under the influence of alcohol. Authorities said they are still investigating the case.

A friend of the activist told PinkNews Hafizli had his penis cut off. "It is safe to say that the act itself was directed to Avaz's identity as [a] gay person," the friend said.

"The whole queer community is in panic now, because this violence keeps being justified in the media and even praised by some politicians," another friend told the website.

Hafizli was an outspoken activist. He was also a journalist with the local news station 13Kanal. Last September, Hafizli chained himself to the fence in front of the country's Prosecutor General's Office while protesting the treatment of LGBTQ + people in the country.

International LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA Europe reported that Azerbaijan occupies the last place among 49 countries on the organization's Rainbow Index, a survey of LGBTQ+ protections and rights.

Global Voices notes the Azerbaijani government has increased crackdowns against LGBTQ+ people in recent years. Many LGBTQ+ people have been detained, tortured, or blackmailed.

Activists took to social media to voice concern over what will happen next, according to the website.

"LGBTQ people are of no importance to Azerbaijani law. They are not considered human beings, and neither the prosecutor's office, nor the State Security Service, nor any other body wants to move a finger to prevent mass killings," activist Gulnara Mehdiyeva wrote on Facebook. "The Azerbaijani government is directly guilty of legitimizing the killing of LGBTQ people at all levels."

LGBTQ+ rights activist Javid Nabiyev told Voice of America that any crime against a queer person in Azerbaijan is political.

"Hate crimes are political, because there is no mechanism. There is no protection mechanism. There is no awareness mechanism. There are no opportunities to work with the society. The reason behind the lack of these opportunities is the government. And that in itself makes any crime political," he explained.

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