In early 2013, shortly after the Russian Duma approved a bill outlawing what Russian officials described as "homosexual propaganda," I spent several weeks in Bishkek interviewing local LGBT and human rights activists. The aim was to discern how Kyrgyzstan had emerged as a bright spot for LGBT activism in a region well-known for intolerance of homosexuality and gender variance.
Vaguely worded anti-gay legislation in Kyrgyzstan could send a reporter to jail for discussing homosexual rights, force LGBT-rights activists underground, and encourage violence against the community, activists say. Some fear it amounts to re-criminalizing homosexuality.
The 19-year-old Azerbaijani man claims he awoke one morning in mid-August to the sound and feel of gasoline splashing on his body and his mother angrily screaming. Through a sleepy haze, he saw her burning a piece of paper. Suddenly, he alleged, his mother’s intentions became clear; he was about to be burned to death for being homosexual.
In the two-plus decades since the Soviet collapse, the Georgian Orthodox Church has emerged as one of the South Caucasus country’s most respected and influential institutions. But some observers and theologians now worry that ultra-conservative clerics within the Church are gaining too much power.
Georgia may be touted as the most pro-Western country in the South Caucasus, but the recent backlash against LGBT activists in Tbilisi underscores how wide the cultural divide is when it comes to defining democratic values.