Police Detain Some 30 Suspected Homosexuals in Eastern Turkmenistan

Around 30 men accused of homosexual relations are being held in the police cells in the city of Turkmenabat. Twenty of them figure in the same case, sources told turkmen.news.


A well known Turkmenabat hairdresser and stylist, who was arrested in August, is still being held in these cells, according to a source close to the law-enforcement agencies. Turkmen.news knows the identity of the hairdresser but is not making it public for ethical reasons. He is originally from Lebap region but had latterly been working in a beauty salon in Ashgabat, where he was hairdresser to the stars of Turkmen show business.

The hairdresser has lost a lot of weight. Bruises are visible on his body, and his lips and eyebrows are badly cut. He has a cellmate who has been accused under the same article. The cellmate’s psychological state gives cause for concern. He is always shouting that he cannot bear the shame and demands to be killed.

“They beat them mercilessly there, so that they admit everything and incriminate others,” the source explained to turkmen.news.

Some 20 men, accused of group sex, are also being held in the cells. Many of them work at the fire station. The police say they caught them in the act during a raid.

As well as the prisoners mentioned above, several other men assumed to be gay are being held in a different cell in the same block. There are around 30 men in all.

Article 135 of Turkmenistan’s Criminal Code carries a punishment of up to two years’ detention for consenting sexual relations between men. The article is a carbon copy of the provisions in the criminal codes of the Soviet republics. The act has been decriminalized in almost all post-Soviet countries. Uzbekistan is an exception, but the article is rarely enforced there; it is more often used as a method of blackmail and way to restrict the rights of specific individuals.

  • In 2020, Turkmenistan’s authorities said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council that Article 135 was rarely enforced in Turkmenistan and the possibility of its repeal was under discussion. But turkmen.news sources dismiss this. They say that mass raids are still being conducted actively against LGBT people. Suspects are not officially put on the wanted list, but there are tacit orders to arrest them as soon as they appear at their registered address. So, many have to go into hiding in other regions during raids.
  • In May 2020 famous performer G.S. was sentenced to two years’ detention in a penal colony under Article 135. Another man was sentenced alongside him. Those close to the defendants hoped that they would be pardoned straightaway in the amnesty marking the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). But they were not included in the lists. Sources explained later that gays are not amnestied now. Even the fact that his father is a well-known diplomat did not help G.S.’s case.
  • In 2019, a young Turkmen doctor, Kasymberdy Garaev, gave an anonymous interview to Radio Liberty in which he talked about his homosexuality. Straight after the interview, he disappeared. The radio released a video appeal by Garaev, which he had recorded for broadcast should anything happen to him. The story attracted interest in the foreign media. It emerged later that Garaev was at home. He was OK, but his family would not allow him to contact journalists. Up to December 31, 2019 Garaev posted seasonal photos on social media, then stopped. Nothing is known about his fate now.