Uzbek authorities last week harassed an LGBTQ and intersex rights activist while he was attending a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting that took place in the Central Asian country.
Nezir Sinani, who is from Kosovo, is the co-director of Re-course, which is based in the Netherlands.
He said Uzbek police on May 17 “started harassing and intimidating me, stopping me from entering the meeting venue (in Samarkand) and confiscating meeting materials.”
“This included the Uzbek police calling the (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) security officer asking for my info details,” said Sinani in a tweet.
May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which marks the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. Uzbekistan is among the more than 60 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
Caspar Veldkamp, an EBRD board member from the Netherlands, on May 17 posted a picture of him with Sinani and two other activists holding Pride tote bags.
Sinani once he left Uzbekistan sent the Washington Blade a series of pictures that show security officials interrogating him outside the meeting.
He is holding Pride-themed tote bags in two of the pictures. Sinani said he and the other activists used them “to keep meeting files to distribute to EBRD counterparts we met.”
“Tote bags were not forbidden in the venue, but were still confiscated only because they were Pride-themed,” he told the Blade.
Veldkamp in an email to the Blade said he has “been in touch with” Sinani and “shared his information with the EBRD’s office of the secretary general, which gathers information regarding several incidents, including a similar one regarding my own staff.”
“They will follow up with the Uzbek authorities,” said Veldkamp.
Veldkamp told the Blade that Uzbek authorities have yet to respond.
The EBRD’s 32nd annual Meeting and Business Forum took place in Samarkand from May 16-19.
The State Department’s 2022 human rights report notes “at least four cases” of authorities forcing men to undergo so-called anal exams between 2017-2020. Anvar Latipov, a gay man from Uzbekistan who the U.S. has granted asylum, last month told the Blade during an exclusive interview in D.C. that a group of vigilantes broadcast online a video of a man they forced to sit on a bottle.
‘Criminalization and discrimination is completely unacceptable’
The State Department report cites other activists who said “members of the LGBTQI+ community in Tashkent (the Uzbek capital) were being harassed by both local authorities and private citizens and were on ‘red alert,’ and were seeking to avoid going out in public” after a group of men attacked blogger Miraziz Bazarov in 2022. Latipov told the Blade that transgender Uzbeks and people with HIV/AIDS face additional discrimination and persecution.
The Uzbek government previously kicked the EBRD kicked out of Uzbekistan after it criticized the country’s human rights record. Latipov noted to the Blade the EBRD now has $2.4 billion in 69 active projects in the country.
Latipov spoke with the Blade while he was in D.C. to lobby the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks to pressure the Uzbek government to stop its persecution of LGBTQ and intersex people. Sinani and two other activists — Irena Cvetkovic, executive director of Coalitions Margins in North Macedonia, and Amarildo Fecanji, the Albania-based executive director of ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans — were with Latipov.
“In Samarkand I attended the annual meetings of the EBRD with the aim of raising awareness on the brutal policies of Uzbekistan toward the LGBTI community,” Sinani told the Blade in a lengthy statement. “EBRD has a role to play to include the LGBTI community in its development projects to be able to fully deliver on its mandate.”
Sinani said he met with EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso, EBRD board members and management “as part of my engagement there.”
“The Uzbek police stopped me from entering the meeting venue following a speech I held at the main meeting of EBRD board of directors with the civil society representatives,” Sinani told the Blade. “The police confiscated tote bags we used to handout reading marerials to the counterparts we met. Materials raised awareness on the brutal crackdown of Uzbek government on the LGBTI community in the country.”
“The behavior of the Uzbek police is a reflection of the situation in the country toward the LGBTI community. In this case they harrased and intimated me for the sole reason of raising awareness on the situation on the ground. With the LGBTI community in the country they go harsh, way harsh. They imprison them after doctors establish their sexual orientation via anal examinations, which WHO regards as a form of torture,” he said. “Such criminalization and discrimination is completely unacceptable and EBRD, alone the other international finance institutions, need to condemn and demand from the Uzbek government to repeal the law that enables them to hunt down the LGBTI community.”
Source : Washington Blade