This time police grabbed a transgender woman, a hairdresser, who was walking back home from her work at a beauty salon together with her mother.
Police brutally arrested the transgender hairdresser right before her mother’s eyes.
At noon on Friday, Nabiyev and his friends, activists from Nefes LGBT Alliance were still looking for her all over detention centers around Baku and its outskirts populated with more than seven million people. “She is one of very few females among up to 100 gay males currently under attack from the government,” Nabiyev told The Daily Beast in a phone interview.
On Friday morning 10 gay and transgender detainees stood before the court in Baku arrested for disobeying police orders, without the authorities specifying which orders and what exactly they had done.
Most of them were in their 20s; they were stylists, hairdressers, shop assistants and sex workers. Police had shaved the heads of nine men; the transgender woman still had her hair.
“This is a shocking and very sad situation. The worst part is that all of the detained guys at court today have been forced to have HIV tests," Gulnara Mekhtiyeva, an LGBTQ activist told The Daily Beast, after she walked out from the open court hearing. “Officials tell us that they have found 16 cases of HIV positive people among the detainees but we are not sure that this is accurate,” the activist added.
“This is the biggest crackdown with discrimination motives in my six-year long experience of a defender,” attorney Samed Rahimli told The Daily Beast. Rahimli was one of several human rights defenders working with the dozens of detained LGBTQ people in Azerbaijan. “We often heard homophobic comments, but now this a large-scale campaign ordered from the very top of power."
Defense lawyers are appealing 47 court decisions to arrest LGBTQ people in Azerbaijan. Some have been under arrest for 10 days, others for 20 days, and others for 30 days.
Homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, but was ranked last year as the worst place in Europe to live as an LGBTQ citizen in a survey released by ILGA-Europe's Rainbow Index, according to a host of indices of discrimination.
Local LGBTQ people people told the Daily Beast that the police are extremely homophobic, especially when targeting gay sex workers as “immoral elements” of the society.
On September 26, the Interior Ministry of Azerbaijan confirmed the official decision to conduct raids and force the individuals who were “disrespecting the people around them” to undergo HIV tests.
The interior ministry's spokesman said that not all LGBTQ people were targeted, but only those "who health authorities believed to be carriers of infectious diseases."
“From what we gather from reports, these people are terrified, and now the roundups risk making the broader community of LGBTQ people in Azerbaijan much more vulnerable,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch told The Daily Beast.
Denber added that as the government of Azerbaijan was openly acknowledging the raids and the testing, it was a matter of getting all the facts about what was happening in detention, and comparing the stories.
Since September 15, when the arrests started, Nabiyev and his friends were trying to figure out what was going on.
“At first I thought there was a hand of Russia in it, that our president Ilham Aliyev had to demonstrate that he was ready to do this to stay in good relations with Moscow,” Nabiyev, who was now based in Germany, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview.
Nabiyev and his friends have also considered another explanation. They remembered that on September, 7 U.S. Senator Richard Durbin proposed sanctions against Azerbaijan. “Now we think that Aliyev is preparing the ground, so on the day the U.S. impose sanctions, he will say, 'See, they punish us for protecting out traditional family values, for not obeying their homosexual policies.'”
Many of Azeri LGBTQ people stayed at home this Friday, too lost and scared to go on dates or clubbing. Some of them tried to escape abroad to neighboring Turkey. “One more person from our community tried to leave the country for Turkey on Thursday but she was told she could not leave the country,” Nabiyev added.
His phone kept ringing with calls from LGBTQ Azeris.