Azerbaijan: This Man Says His Government Jailed Him And Tortured Him

A gay man who was arrested this month in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan told BuzzFeed News he was beaten and tortured with electric shocks while in detention for nine days.

The man, who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Xeyal, to protect his security, is one of dozens of LGBT people arrested in an unprecedented sweep in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Samed Rahimli, a lawyer who is helping coordinate defense for many of those arrested, says at least 60 people were arrested; 50 of these were held in detention for as long as 20 days.

But the true number of those caught in the sweep could be higher, since many of those arrested did not have access to an attorney. Xeyal is one of these — he told BuzzFeed News that he has been too frightened since his arrest on September 19 to contact a lawyer. He also fled his apartment and canceled his cell phone worrying he’d be arrested again.

“We were captives in our home country,” Xeyal said, describing his detention in “the cellar,” which is what he called the cell where he was kept for nine days in the Ministry of Internal Affair’s Main Organized Crime Department. His face and arms still showed signs of bruising, and he said he had been beaten with a baton on the head, knees, and arms. He also said electric shocks were applied to his head and body more than 30 times. During this torture, he was asked to reveal the names of former sexual partners and forced to sign documents without being allowed to read them. Among those interrogators were most interested in learning about: the members of the Azeri elite who had, in their words, “used their services.”

Others who have been caught in the sweeps describe similar torture, said an attorney representing some of the defendants. (The attorney asked not to be named, fearing clients could be in danger if the attorney was known to be describing torture to international press.) Read more via Buzzfeed