Activists rallying in Kyrgyzstan on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on Sunday found themselves subjects of the very discrimination they were protesting when local police failed to prevent an assault and allegedly tormented the demonstrators themselves.
Trans advocacy group Transgender Europe posted an account of the alleged assault, which was reportedly followed by police misconduct against members of Kyrgyz LGBT advocacy group Labrys while the activists were participating in an observance of IDAHOT in Kyrgyzstan's capital city of Bishkek.
Labrys claims that after failing to protect the group from a physical assault by bystanders, police forcibly detained members of the group, then denied them water, access to toilets, and medical attention for their injuries while they were in custody. Labrys also alleges that police at the jail where its members were detained attempted to share their members' personal information with the alleged attackers.
"Participants were taken as witnesses to the police station [where] they were cramped into the police car, had their hands twisted and hair pulled," notes the Transgender Europe report. "Labrys reports they spent more than [five] hours at the police station without access to medical aid, toilet, water or food."
The police reportedly demanded several people "reveal their genitals," apparently searching for transgender people, alleges Transgender Europe. The LGBT activists were also reportedly denied legal representation or freedom of movement, while suspects -- believed to include members of well-known antigay nationalist groups Kirk Choro and Kalys -- were given food, water, and freedom to move around the police station.
Both nationalist groups have the reputation for bullying those they believe to be "foreign agents" until they leave the country, while Kalys has been condemned by Human Rights Watch for its violent acts of homophobia. After an antigay attack last year, Kyrgyz LGBT rights activist Ilya Lukash was so terrified of Kalys members and like-minded violent extremists that he fled the country.
Leaders at Transgender Europe noted that the IDAHOT incident comes less than 30 days after Labrys's offices were set ablaze.
"Not even a month ago Labrys' office was damaged in an arson attack, signalling the rapidly shrinking space for LGBT civil society," said Transgender Europe senior policy director Richard Kohler in a statement. "The debate of a homo- and transphobic law in the formerly liberal Central-Asian state is the breeding ground for hate, and puts trans and LGBTIQ people's lives at risk. The law proposal needs to be withdrawn immediately and Kyrgyz authorities need to assure credibly that homo- and transphobia has no space in Kyrgyz society."
The law Kohler refers to is one recently proposed in Kyrgyzstan that would criminalize any positive comments about homosexuality, "sodomy, lesbianism, or any other forms of non-traditional sexual behavior," made through any form of electronic or print media. Opponents have characterized the law as even harsher than Russia's notorious nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, which imposes fines and possible jail time for "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in venues accessible to minors.
A majority Muslim country, Kyrgyzstan was a satellite republic of the former Soviet Union and was once seen as relatively progressive compared to its central Asian neighbors. Transgender Europe offered this link to a "full accounting" in Russian, compiled by Labrys, to describe the attacks.