On 15 July 2021, I wrote a letter to the Government of Kyrgyzstan regarding alleged surveillance and attempted break-in to the office of non-governmental organisation (NGO) Kyrgyz Indigo. We also raised concern more broadly about the alleged marginalisation of LGBT and gender-diverse people and human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz Indigo is a public association founded in 2009 that supports the LGBT community in Kyrgyzstan. Its activities are aimed at the protection of the rights of LGBT people, promotion of a healthy lifestyle, providing shelter, conducting training, outreach work, and peer-to-peer consultations.
The break-in at Kyrgyz Indigo
On 16 April 2021, two unidentified individuals tried to break into the office of Kyrgyz Indigo in Bishkek. After an unsuccessful attempt, they and several more unidentified individuals stayed outside the office in their cars and watched who entered and left the office.
On 21 April 2021, a video containing information about Kyrgyz Indigo and the personal data of its 16 employees was published on YouTube. Some of the employees concerned are Isa uulu Ilgiz, Adilet Alimkulov, Nurgazy Ernazarov, Rano Ibragimova, Belek Kurmantaev, Dastan Mambetaliev, Nadira Masiumova, Amir Mukambetov, Talant Talaibekov and Daian Zaripov. Employees’ personal data included their full names, dates of birth, photographs, sexual orientation and gender identity, and other information about their private lives. The disclosure of this information puts their lives and security at risk and may lead to discrimination against them. The video was allegedly made by law enforcement officers using data from the social fund and tax service of Kyrgyzstan.
On 30 April 2021, four unidentified individuals followed Nadira Masiumova, the Head of Advocacy and Human Rights Department of Kyrgyz Indigo.
Online threats on social media
Unknown social media accounts, known as “troll factories”, reportedly use fake accounts to spread false information about civil society activists’ sexual orientation and gender identity in an attempt to discredit them. They also reportedly disclose the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBT people without their consent.
The public use of homophobic and transphobic narratives
It is further reported that a number of public officials use homophobic and transphobic narratives to gain support for legislative initiatives limiting the civic space, discredit political opposition and civil society initiatives, while deflecting people’s attention away from the political and social problems.
Gaining support for legislative initiatives
In 2014, several members of the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament of Kyrgyzstan) initiated draft laws prohibiting “gay propaganda” and allowing the authorities to designate NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaging in vaguely defined political activity as “foreign agents”. The information campaigns supporting these draft laws portrayed LGBT and gender-diverse people as associated with “western” values which would be contrary to Kyrgyzstan’s. While neither of the laws were adopted, such narratives have further contributed to marginalise LGBT and gender-diverse people.
In 2016, then-President Almazbek Atambayev and his party and other allies pushed forward amendments to the Constitution. To increase the public support for the amendments, one of the newly included provisions specified that only a man and a woman could marry. This provision was then used to emphasise that the amendments were necessary to preserve the “traditional” family and prevent same-sex marriages. The constitutional amendments were eventually adopted by referendum.
In 2019, several members of the Jogorku Kenesh initiated amendments to the law on NGOs. This initiative was reportedly a reaction to the participation of lesbian, bisexual and trans* women in the ‘March for Women’s Rights’ that took place earlier that year. At least three initiators publicly mentioned that the amendments were aimed to prevent LGBTI activism. State media reportedly supported the anti-LGBT narrative and justified a more restrictive regulation of NGOs. On 19 April 2021, the Public Broadcasting Corporation of the Kyrgyz Republic issued a news report mentioning that some NGOs’ policies “do not correspond to the traditions and values of the Kyrgyz people and thereby adversely affect the youth”. According to the information received, the draft law is currently under consideration in the parliament.
Homophobic and transphobic narratives have also reportedly been used to promote the draft Law on the Protection of Children from MaliciousInformation initiated in 2019 and the draft Law on Manipulating Information initiated in 2020. Moreover, the draft Law on the Protection of Children from Malicious Information reportedly contains provisions that can be used against the human rights defenders working to protect and promote the rights of the LGBT –and gender-diverse people. For example, information that “denies family values” can reportedly be restricted. According to the information received, the draft laws are under consideration in the parliament.
In 2021, the new Constitution was approved in a nationwide referendum. The new provisions notably included Article 10 (4) which specify that activities “contrary to moral and ethical values and the public consciousness of the people of Kyrgyzstan” may be prohibited to protect the younger generation.
Discrediting political opposition and civil society initiatives
In 2019-2020, a series of “#ReAction” rallies demanded freedom of expression and a fair investigation of corruption allegations. It is reported that in an attempt to discredit the rallies, some provocateurs brought the rainbow flag to the rally and later distributed information that some LGBT people organised the rallies.
In October 2020, shortly before the parliamentary elections, bulk SMS messages were sent through mobile operators MegaСom and Beeline, spreading the information that the opposition Reform Party supported and promoted “LGBT rights”. The Reform Party denied sending the messages.
On 15 April 2021, an “I don’t want to be killed” rally took place in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Bishkek. The rally was sparked by the murder of a young woman abducted and killed in a case of “bride kidnapping”. At the same time, a rally against LGBT people and NGOs took place at the Ala-Too Square in Bishkek. The protesters from the Ala-Too Square then obstructed the
“I don’t want to be killed” rally, defamed participants and publicly threatened them in the presence of police officers who reportedly did not intervene. It is alleged that some plain-clothed police officers directed the provocateurs who obstructed the protest.
In the communication we expressed concern that the break in, surveillance and publication of personal data of defender of the rights of LGBT and gender-diverse people may be in retaliation for their legitimate human rights activity. We expressed further concern at alleged widespread use of homophobic and transphobic narratives that further marginalises LGBT and gender-diverse people and human rights defenders working to protect and promote the rights of the LGBTI people. Tin addition, the above-mentioned legislative initiatives could potentially be used to restrict the rights of LGBT and gender-diverse people and human rights defenders working to protect and promote the human rights of the LGBTI people.
Taken together such intimidation may discourage LGBT people from exercising their rights for fear of retaliation or harassment.
This is a shorter version of the original communication