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Azerbaijani authorities remain silent over murder of trans woman 

22 March 2024
An Azerbaijani police officer. Photo: MIA.az.

Azerbaijani authorities have remained silent over the apparent murder of a transgender woman near Baku, failing to confirm if an investigation into her death was underway. 

According to local queer rights activist Alex Shah, the woman, identified only as ‘Aytan’, was found late on 12 March in Khojasan, on the outskirts of Baku.

A photo shared among the local transgender women’s community seen by OC Media showed her body beaten lying on the side of the road.

‘The photograph of Aytan’s body was horrific and you can easily see the marks of torture’, Shah (who uses they/them pronouns) told OC Media.

They said that after writing about the killing on social media and tagging the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they were called in for questioning by police. Shah said an investigator informed them that they would need more information before they could open an investigation.

‘He told me I should add information about where the criminal case happened and who she was, and I should tell them Aytan’s “real name” [as written] on their identity card’, said Shah.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anar Gafarov, told OC Media on Tuesday that the ministry had no information about the case, asking if details about it had been ‘shared on Facebook’. He insisted the ministry investigated all murder cases. 


A spokesperson for the General Prosecutor’s Office, Aysel Hasanova, did not return our calls.

Shah told OC Media on Thursday that he had received information that two suspects, Aytan’s partner and landlord, had now been arrested.

‘A person from the LGBTIQ+ community told us that Aytan was killed by her partner', said Shah. ‘Aytan screamed, and the neighbours heard her voice, so they called the landlord. The owner took Aytan’s body to the side of the Khojasan road and dumped the body there.’ 

‘Phobic silence’

Local queer rights activists have also noted the lack of media coverage of the apparent killing, despite details having been shared online.

‘The media is largely keeping silent, and we call it phobic silence’, Leyla Hasanova from QueeRadar told OC Media

According to Hasanova, keeping silent appears to simply be an absence of action, but in effect means that the media is actively contributing to the situation by not providing coverage or support. 

She added that Azerbaijani media also sometimes published material targeting queer people.

‘Ignorance [...] from journalists breaks the trust of the LGBTIQ+ community, too’, said Hasanova.

She cited QueerRadar’s 2021 and 2022 media monitoring reports, which analysed the tone of articles about queer people published in Azerbaijani media.

‘For instance, in 2021, we collected 501 news stories from 23 media outlets and 62.5% of these news stories were biased against LGBTIQ+ persons, and this percentage increased in 2022 to 77.1%.’ 

Trans activist and artist Vusala Hajiyeva told OC Media that the queer community and media were at odds because the media in Azerbaijan cover only negative news about queer people.

‘Sometimes the media covers the news forgetting about ethical considerations’, she said. ‘For example, many times, the media used the “dead names” to document the names of someone who is now a transgender woman.’ 

‘The situation can be changed promptly if the media takes this issue seriously’,  she added.

[Read on OC Media: The rise of homophobic hate speech in Azerbaijan]

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
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