Sending Office: Honorable Frank Pallone, Jr.
Sent By:
James.Johnson@mail.house.gov

Urge Sec. Tillerson to Stand Up for LGBTQ Rights in Azerbaijan

Endorsed by Human Rights Campaign, Council for Global Equality, and Human Rights First

Current Cosigners (9): Pallone, Cicilline, Higgins, Jayapal, Kennedy, Lowenthal, McGovern, Moulton, Norton

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in urging Sec. Tillerson and the Administration to condemn the recent crackdown of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in Azerbaijan. Several reports have estimated over 80 people were arrested and fined, while at
least 45 were detained, beaten and tortured. While the Azeri government has claimed arrests made over the past two weeks were not strictly targeting the LGBTQ community, local activists and rights groups say the raids only led to the arrests of gay and trans
people. According to activists, the government focused on “main streets, metro stations and LGBT-friendly places like clubs, pubs, and bars” as its main targets.

These abuses are part of an alarming trend that has seen the targeting and persecution of LGBTQ people in many countries around the world. As you know, Chechnya, Azerbaijan’s neighbor, recently arrested over 200 individuals and killed 20. And, in Indonesia,
two men were recently beaten in front a large, cheering crowd. Only by having countries like the United States speak out to condemn such actions can we pressure offending countries to treat all of their citizens with dignity and respect.

It is disappointing that the Administration has failed to provide a strong voice against these actions around the world. Please join us in urging Sec. Tillerson and the Administration to speak up sooner and louder to ensure that Azerbaijan – and other regimes
committing human rights abuses around the world – are not enabled to continue these terrible actions through our silence.

The deadline for signing onto this letter is Monday, October 16 at noon. For more information or to become a cosigner, please contact James Johnson at
james.johnson@mail.house.gov or 202.225.4671.

Sincerely,

REP. FRANK PALLONE, JR.

Member of Congress

 

FULL LETTER TEXT:

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We write to draw your attention to deeply concerning reports of a recent crackdown on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in Azerbaijan, and to request that the State Department take a stronger role on the world stage in protecting
LGBTQ rights.

According to numerous reports, over 80 people, mostly gay men and transgender women were arrested, while at least 45 were detained, beaten and tortured in the capital city of Baku. Authorities raided bars, clubs and apartment parties and confiscated detainees’
phones to find more suspected LGBTQ people to target and arrest. Legal experts have said this is one of the largest and most systematic anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Azerbaijan, but it is hardly unprecedented.

While reports have shown that all of these individuals have been released, Azerbaijani authorities continue attempting to justify these actions, with an Interior Ministry spokesman claiming that those arrested “demonstratively show a lack of respect for
those around them, annoy citizens with their behavior, and also those whom police or health authorities believe to be carriers of infectious diseases.” These claims have only further stigmatized the LGBTQ community as “diseased,” threatened further harm against
LGBTQ people, and undermined the effort to combat actual epidemics in the Caucasus region.

This crackdown also appears to be part of a frightening trend of persecution targeting LGBTQ people in many parts of the world. From Azerbaijan’s neighbor, Chechnya, where at least 200 were arrested and up to 20 were killed, to Indonesia, where two men were
recently caned in front of a jeering crowd, attacks on LGBTQ people now appear to be resurgent.

While we recognize that the State Department did eventually respond to the situation in Chechnya, and that you addressed your concerns privately with Foreign Minister Lavrov, we believe the response was too slow and too muted. A stronger response by you
and by President Trump might have put an end to these abuses more quickly, and ensured greater accountability by those responsible. 

This is also a matter of global security. As we have seen in countless cases, countries that respect the human rights of their citizenry are also more likely to have stable governments that avoid conflict with other countries and help to make their regions
more secure and peaceful. It not only makes them safer, it makes us safer as well.

We therefore urge you to speak out against the human rights abuses in Azerbaijan and against LGBTQ people throughout the world and to work with the Azeri government and others to ensure they are protecting all of their citizens, no matter whom they are or
whom they love. The U.S. must continue to demonstrate the human rights leadership we have shown for decades and not let dictators violate human rights with impunity.

Sincerely,

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