The Expanding Insecurity of Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT Community
Bishkek, long viewed as a relatively liberal haven not only in Kyrgyzstan but within the largely conservative Central Asia region, has seen an increase in political and social hostility towards its LGBT community. As in other parts of Eurasia, Kyrgyzstan has witnessed a resurgence in far-right ultra-nationalism and an attendant conflation of LGBT rights with Western encroachment on Kyrgyz culture, leading to increased attacks on the Kyrgyz LGBT community. Similar to other Eurasian nations, legislation has been proposed to limit information access about the LGBT community, and the shuttering of Bishek’s last remaining gay club has left the LGBT Kyrgyzstanis with few opportunities for safe communal socializing.
“‘All of us will be victims at some point’: why Bishkek’s only gay club closed” (The Guardian | October 2017)
“Curtain Falls On Bishkek’s Lone LGBT Club Amid Worsening Atmosphere” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | June 2017)
Kyrgyzstan Parliament blocks bill targeting foreign NGOs for increased government oversight
- The controversial bill, modeled after Russia’s, originally sought to have foreign-funded organizations labeled “foreign agents” and increase bureaucratic oversight of international NGOs, deterring their operation in the country.
- International or internationally funded NGOs in the country support public health and human rights development—particularly for vulnerable minorities—and serve as monitors of government corruption.
- The bill had been revised to excise the “foreign agent” label and decrease financial reporting requirements, but the persistence of other large bureaucratic burdens led to the bill’s defeat as legislators worried over the bill’s impact on Kyrgyzstan’s international reputation.
“Kyrgyzstan: Foreign Agent Bill Nixed, NGOs Rejoice” (EurasiaNet)
“Kyrgyzstan scraps bill to bring NGOs under tighter control” (Reuters)
“NGOs Avert Russian-Inspired Restrictions in Central Asia’s Only Democracy” (Foreign Policy)
(Image Credit: Igor Kovalenko/EPA, via Foreign Policy)
Kyrgyzstan’s Anti-LGBT Vigilantism
Caught in the orbit of Russia’s anti-LGBT political campaigns, Kyrgyzstan has seen increases in the persecution of its LGBT citizens as the former Soviet state’s realignment with Russia has led to the adoption of some of its most socially conservative policies. Much as in Russia, nationalism and anti-LGBT sentiment have gone hand in hand, with LGBT rights construed by reactionary nationalists as Western encroachment on Kyrgyz values and sovereignty. Amidst a floundering economy, anti-NGO and anti-LGBT bills have found significant support in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, and though they have yet to be signed into law, police and citizens have used them as excuses to target the LGBT community and antagonize the few advocacy organizations that exist. Coda Story highlights Kyrgyzstan’s politicized homophobia and the stories of victims’ suffering under police extortion and indifference, sexual assault, and relentless threats.
“‘We’ll cut off your head’: open season for LGBT attacks in Kyrgyzstan” (Coda Story via The Guardian)
“Kyrgyzstan’s NGO and LGBT Crackdown” (The Diplomat, March 2016)
“LGBT advocates from Kyrgyzstan visit D.C.” (Washington Blade, March 2016)
“Kyrgyz Group Wrecks Day Against Homophobia” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 2015)
“Kyrgyzstan’s Anti-Gay Bill: Just Following in Russia’s Footsteps?” (EurasiaNet, October 2014)
(Image Credit: Andrew North/Coda Story, via The Guardian)
The Uphill Battle for Accessibility
Estimated to be 160,000 in strength, Kyrgyzstan’s disability community has long faced domestic confinement, public misinformation and shaming, and structural exclusion due to lack of governmental and business commitment to accessible spaces and protocols. Recently, around 300 took to the streets of Bishkek, the capital, for an annual march in support of increased accessibility in the country. EurasiaNet takes a look at the obstacles and initial victories that are driving the community to push forward.
“Kyrgyzstan: Disabled Battle for Acceptance and Access” (EurasiaNet)
(Image Credit: EurasiaNet)
Anti-gay sentiment in Kyrgyzstan has complex cultural and geopolitical roots in the evolution of Russian-Western relations
- Journalists, researchers, and advocates attempt to tease out the causes of expanding anti-gay sentiment in the country as Kyrgyz legislators debate bills looking to limit international influence and gay rights.
- Kyrgyzstan’s strategic location in Central Asia has led to an ongoing tug-of-war between the U.S. and Russia for influence in the region, with the latter’s hardline conservative stance against the LGBT community seen as influencing Kyrgyzstan’s current social landscape.
- Gay rights’ status as a symbol of Western cultural imperialism in the region has allowed for the marriage of anti-gay and nationalist interests, with “gay propaganda” serving as a catch-all for the influence of international interests.
“People are confronting a changing world, they can’t understand it and they respond by returning to the values of their grandmothers and grandfathers. … And these events around Russia the last year and half have only increased this sensation of unpredictability, tension. And, conservatism, reliance on patriotism, this wounded sense of pride, is a very convenient basis for political games.”
Read the full story at Al Jazeera America.
(Image Credit: Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images, via Al Jazeera America)
In the hangover following Kyrgyzstan’s interethnic violence of 2010, the Uzbek minority still smarts from persecution.
- While prominent Uzbek activists remain imprisoned from the period, few ethnic Kyrgyz have been prosecuted for their role in the violence that left more than 400 dead and 80,000 displaced.
- The government has been largely silent on ethnic segregation and discrimination, believing silence to be the road to reconciliation.
- Concern persists that political leaders will use nationalistic, anti-Uzbek sentiment to drum up support ahead of elections.
“The problem is not just residential segmentation, it is also cultural: apart from the bazaar, there are few inter-communal links between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.”
More on this story at EurasiaNet.
(Image Credit: David Trilling, via EurasiaNet)
The rise of the “others” in the UK, Lebanese immigrants’ success in Canada, LGBT anti-discrimination events in Kyrgyzstan, compulsory Chinese in Zimbabwean education, and more in today’s news rounds… Continue reading The Thursday Rounds →