Gays Hide, Flee Ex-Soviet Republics As LGBT Crackdowns Turn Brutal

BAKU -- Niko, a 27-year-old gay epileptic from Baku, recalls being beaten, tortured with electric shocks, and raped by four police officers who detained him during a crackdown on homosexuals in Azerbaijan.

“They raped me anally and orally,” says Niko, who asks that his real name not be used because he fears for his life. “The police forced me to swallow their sperm.”

Then, he says, he was raped with a police truncheon.

“They rammed the truncheon in my anus and I had an epileptic seizure,” Niko says. “I don’t remember what happened after that. When I woke up, I wasn’t even able to walk.”

For the next 10 days, Niko remained in custody, where he says the torture continued.

After his release in late September, he spent nearly two months trying to stay out of the sight of police who knew about his sexual orientation.

But by mid-November, Niko says, he had been victimized four more times by police officers extorting bribes from him or forcing him to perform oral sex in order to avoid being charged again with "refusing police orders."

Still recovering from shock, he tells RFE/RL about his desperation to leave Azerbaijan and start a new life elsewhere.

International human rights groups say Azerbaijan’s crackdown echoes similar roundups during 2017 in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya.

In both places, suspected homosexuals were detained, brutally abused, and forced to name other gays who, in many cases, received similar treatment as the crackdowns widened. Read more via RFE