Aizhan Kadralieva of Labrys Kyrgyzstan and Ruslan Kim of Kyrgyz Indigo met with Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry at the State Department. The advocates also sat down with Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, Arcus Foundation Executive Director Kevin Jennings and representatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Kadralieva and Kim met with U.N. officials in New York before they traveled to the nation’s capital on Feb. 24.
The advocates returned to Kyrgyzstan on Sunday.
U.S. ‘good example’ of equality and tolerance
The advocates’ trip coincides with mounting concern over a bill that would ban the promotion of so-called gay propaganda.
The measure has passed twice in the Kyrgyz Parliament. Lawmakers must approve it a third time before it goes to President Almazbek Atambayev for his signature.
“I’m hopeful that he will veto this,” Kim told the Washington Blade on Feb. 25 during an interview at Human Rights First’s offices in Northwest Washington.
Cicilline and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) are among the members of Congress who have urged Kyrgyz lawmakers to vote against the propaganda bill. The Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice, the European Parliament and the U.N. Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights have also indicated their opposition to the measure.
Secretary of State John Kerry last fall did not publicly discuss the bill during his trip to Kyrgyzstan.
“He was really careful,” Kim told the Blade.
Kadralieva made a similar point, noting the U.S. government supports LGBT-specific efforts and human rights in general in Kyrgyzstan.
“The U.S. is a really good example of nondiscrimination and equality and tolerance,” she told the Blade.
Advocates face discrimination, violence
Kyrgyzstan borders Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China. The Central Asian country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kadralieva and Kim told the Blade that nationalists and conservative religious and societal attitudes are among the challenges they and other LGBT advocates face.
Molotov cocktails were thrown into Labrys Kyrgyzstan’s office in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, last year.
Kadralieva told the Blade that a group of nationalists a few weeks later attacked an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia event that was taking place at a local cafe. She said the police officers who responded placed the victims in the same room as those who attacked them.
Kadralieva said they were inside the police station for seven hours. Kim told the blade that the officers were “having tea and nice conversation with the homophobes.”
“They were drinking tea at the same time our activists were sitting scared somewhere without access to water,” he said.
Kim told the Blade that he was attacked when he tried to help another advocate. He said the police officers who responded described Kyrgyz Indigo as a “fag organization” and pressured him to report the activist as a “pedophile.”
“I said I would never do this,” said Kim.
Kim and Kadralieva throughout the interview highlighted other examples of anti-LGBT violence and discrimination.
One such case involves a gay man who hanged himself after his parents found out he had a boyfriend and pressured him to marry a woman. Kim said the parents blamed their son’s boyfriend for his death and attacked him with a knife.
“We helped that guy,” he told the Blade. “Right now he’s in a safe place and he’s still alive.”
Kim said the family of an activist blamed him for the fire that damaged their apartment. Kyrgyz Indigo was able to find housing for the advocate through the summer.
“After this he will be on the street because of his activities,” said Kim.