one man threatens to behead LGBTQI+ community members in a TikTok video

A man named Roman Mammadov, 39, in a video he shared on TikTok, threatened to behead men who behaved like women. The video that was circulated on social media, alarmed LGBTQ+ activists in Azerbaijan who demanded the Ministry of Interior take action. Eventually, Mammadov was detained. According to the officials, the investigation is ongoing.

According to reporting by Azerbaijan service for Voice of America, the video was filmed at one of the Baku subway stations. In the video, the man appeared to be holding a tool, resembling an ax wrapped in a bag.

Such threats are not surprising in a country where there is no legislation protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and an environment of impunity said activists in interviews with Voice of America. The most recent example is that of Avaz Hafizli, journalist and LGBTQ+ rights activist who was personally targeted by Azerbaijani blogger Sevinj Huseynova. Huseynova openly made homophobic incitements targeting other members of LGBTQ+ community in the past but no measures were taken against the blogger despite criticism by local activists. Hafizli, was brutally murdered as a result of this targeting by a family member in February 2022.

In a Facebook comment, feminist activist Gulnara Mehdiyeva wrote she was personally told by the State Security Services that they don’t take interest in threats leveled against LGBTQ+ because there is nothing in the national legislation about them. “Maybe, the Ministry of the Interior is also going to say, that the man with an ax did not threaten anyone, because LGBTQ+ people are not considered humans.”

Speaking to Voice of America, lawyer Samad Rahimli said, “the criminal legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan does not contain references to hatred as a separate provision in an aggravating circumstance of murder or an aggravating circumstance of harming health. Therefore, committing a crime motivated by hatred cannot be described as an aggravating circumstance in Azerbaijan.”

Javid Nabiyev, an LGBTQ+ activist from Azerbaijan, shared the video of the man making the threat on Facebook and demanded authorities take action tagging both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ombudsman office. “I came across this video on Instagram. Although it was shared today, it is unclear when it was taken. But it is certain that right now, a man with an ax in his hand, walking around the city, and threatening to behead anyone he spots who have their eyebrows done and behaves like a woman [in the video, the man swears to God he would do that]. I am out of words. To the attention of the Ministry of the Interior, you have to find this person immediately before another hate crime takes place. You were powerless to take measures against blogger Sevinj who shared the same mindset. I hope this time you won’t say, “we can’t do anything because the law doesn’t mention LGBTQ+ people.”

Voice of America reports that the man was detained and that criminal proceedings have been initiated.

According to ILGA Europe, an international non-governmental organization advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms, Azerbaijan occupies the last place among 49 countries on the organization’s Rainbow Index. The community is not only targeted by homophobic narratives of the likes of Huseynova and Mammadov but also the state itself. In recent years, the authorities too have consistently targeted LGBTQ+ community with arrests, torture, and blackmail.