News Brief

Tajikistan Launches ‘Morality Campaign’ Against LGBTQ Community

The Tajik Interior Ministry has compiled a register of LGBTQ people as part of what it calls a country-wide “morality campaign,” according to RFE / RL.

Nearly 370 men and women it identified as gay or lesbian have been put on the list, first announced in a state newspaper, in the latest example of former Soviet states singling out the LGBTQ community for what appear to be political reasons.

Russia led the way four years ago by introducing a so-called “anti-gay propaganda” law, which led to a surge in homophobic rhetoric and attacks on the LGBTQ community.

Last month, Azerbaijan launched its own campaign, detaining at least 100 people it labelled as gay, transgender, or involved in sex work. As in Tajikistan, the authorities said the campaign was needed to protect public morality, and to isolate individuals with sexually transmitted diseases.

The Russian republic of Chechnya also targeted the LGBTQ community this year, detaining at least 75 people identified as gay by the authorities. One victim of the crackdown told Novaya Gazeta he was held for nearly two weeks by security officials and repeatedly tortured and humiliated.

Two Chechen men were killed by their own family members after their release, according to human rights groups, in so-called “honor killings,” and another man reportedly died as a result of being beaten while in detention.

Supporters of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law have said it was needed to protect the country’s traditional values against the influence of Western ideas. But it was also widely seen as Kremlin-backed disinformation initiative, aiming to rally public opinion around a manufactured threat to divert attention from genuine challenges.

After Kyrgyzstan introduced similar legislation, it led to a campaign of official harassment and intimidation against the LGBTQ community, as well as several cases of brutal violence.