Uzbek LGBTQ+ Rights Activist Hospitalized After Violent Attack

Activist Miraziz Bazarov is currently in the hospital after he was attacked outside of his home on March 28th, 2021. Bazarov is a known blogger who often speaks out against the Uzbek government and advocates for the decriminalization of homophobic laws. Along with his advocacy work, Bazarov also organizes weekly gatherings for KPOP and anime fans every Sunday, which is believed to be connected to his brutal attack. During the fan meetup on the Sunday of the attack, several attendees were attacked by a group of anti-LGBT protesters, who believed the fans were LGBT themselves. 12 people were arrested in connection with the attack. Later on that Sunday, Bazarov was attacked outside of his home after he was approached by 3 men in masks, who proceeded to beat him with a baseball bat. Bazarov suffered a broken leg, concussion and internal bruising from his attack. According to The Guardian, Bazarov’s house was searched by security services three days after his attack and had his computer and several documents seized.

In response to the attack, the Uzbek Interior Ministry released a video statement in which they claimed that Bazarov, “acting with the assistance and support of destructive external forces and ill-intentioned international nongovernmental organizations, attempted to propagate homosexualism and similar evils, despite the fact that it is banned by Uzbek law, and created the atmosphere of protest and intolerance.” The ministry also went on to say, regarding the separate attacks from earlier in the day, “As a result, on March 28, a group of our citizens who considered [Bazarov’s] calls as an insult, gathered on Amir Timur avenue” and that it “created a situation compromising public safety by staging mass disorders.” As of April 11th, it is unclear if the individuals responsible for the earlier attack are also responsible for the attack on Bazarov.

Uzbekistan, a largely conservative nation, has seemingly had quite a bit of policy reform heading towards a more progressive direction since the induction of president Shavkat Mirziyoyev. It has seen less media censorship, apprehension of corrupt elites, and increased efforts to end forced labour to name a few. Despite this, Uzbekistan still has many anti-LGBTQ laws in place. Among the most extreme is the besoqolbozlik law, which prohibits consensual intercourse between 2 males, and those who violate the law can face up to 3 years in prison. 

Many LGBTQ people in Uzbekistan live in fear because of the violence that they face from the public and the minimal protection they receive from police. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Bazarov had been receiving many threats online for days before he was attacked. He had made complaints to the police regarding these threats; however, no action was taken. On September 12th, 2019, 25 year old Shokir Shavkatov was found stabbed to death in his apartment. Days before his murder, Shavkatov made an Instagram post in which he came out as gay. One man was arrested in connection to his murder.

The lack of protection of the LGBTQ+ community is extremely concerning given the mounting violence against them. According to several LGBT Uzbek residents speaking anonymously to the Human Rights Watch, they have had to go “completely underground,” stopping projects and eliminating online presence in fear of violence and discrimination. Some speaking to The Guardian claimed the people from the community have had their personal information, including their names, addresses, and photos posted on social media. All members of the community, regardless of sexual orientation, should receive the same protection that every citizen is entitled to.