Turkmenistan gay man goes missing after ‘coming out’ online


Kasymberdy Garayev from Turkmenistan is feared to missing after he made his sexual orientation public, Human Rights Watch said today.

“We are very concerned that KasymberdyGarayev is being held incommunicado in the wake of coming out about his sexual orientation,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

On October 21, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) published a narrative by Garayev in which he came out. RFE/RL told Human Rights Watch that Turkmen authorities started to search for Garayev after the story was published.

Garayev is a cardiologist who returned to Ashgabat in the summer of 2018 after completing medical studies in Minsk, Belarus. He told RFE/RL that while in Minsk, he “tasted freedom” and started to accept his sexual orientation.

On October 24, he told RFE/RL that he had been summoned by police for a background check. RFE/RL lost contact with him 30 minutes before he was due to appear at the police station and could not confirm whether he had gone to meet with the police and whether anyone has seen him since.

Turkmen police had detained Garayev previously, in 2018, after the authorities used proxies to lure him online into a date with another man. He told RFE/RL, “They used a stun gun, they demanded that I confess to the camera that I was gay.” Garayev was released without charge after several hours.

On October 31, RFE/RL published a video that Garayev had asked RFE/RL to release if anything happened to him, such as if he went missing. In the video, Garayev apologizes to his family and discloses his name.

The RFE/RL article said that Garayev decided to tell RFE/RL his story to push back against Turkmenistan’s extremely hostile environment toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and constant bullying by his family.

Adult consensual same-sex conduct is a criminal offense under Turkmen law, punishable by a maximum two-year prison sentence.

Turkmenistan has a highly repressive government. People who cooperate with foreign media outlets are often persecuted. More than 120 people have been forcibly disappeared either after being arrested or following a trial, and their families have no official information about their whereabouts or status. In this context, when someone who has been summoned by the police is reported missing, there is a real risk they could be the victim of an enforced disappearance. (Source: HRW)