Turkmen Doctor Goes Missing Again After Coming Out as Gay

Friends and acquaintances of Kasym Garaev, a young doctor from Ashgabat who came out to the media about his sexuality, are concerned because he has not been in touch for almost a month. The last contact with him was on November 7, when journalists from U.S.-funded Radio Azatlyk talked to him via video link. Since then, neither his colleagues nor his friends have heard from him.

Kasym Garaev

Though he seemed to be in a domestic setting when he spoke via video link, there’s good reason to think that after the conversation Kasym was taken to the police station again, and that the call between him and Radio Azatlyk had been set up in order to reassure the international community. After a radio report on October 31 that Kasym had gone missing, several international LGBT organizations launched a campaign to find the whereabouts of the Turkmen doctor and get him released. All this took place on the eve of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s visit to Italy, and several Italian politicians sought to defend Kasym as a result of the campaign.

Kasym has not turned up to work in the international cardiology center since the end of October when he dropped out of circulation after the Azatlyk publication. Turkmen.news tried to talk in more detail with his colleagues, but they refused point blank to discuss the subject. Kasym used to go to English classes after work a few times a week, but nobody in the class has seen him since then either.

Kasym’s friends abroad who spoke to Turkmen.news are sure that his life is in danger.

“He wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to get in touch, as he knows we’re worried about him,” Kasym’s friends said. “He knew too that after coming out anything could happen to him. That’s why he told us not to believe whatever he might say in future, not to abandon him, not to keep quiet about his fate, and not to stop raising the problems of Turkmen homosexuals.”

On November 29 turkmen.news got through to Kasym’s father – Maksat Garaev. Asked where Kasym was at present, his father refused to say.

“If you’re worried about him, you can start by correcting everything that’s been written there about him,” he said, refusing to specify exactly what should be corrected, however.

On October 21 Azatlyk told Kasym’s story (giving him the pseudonym Kamil); they reported on how the young cardiologist had been persecuted by the law-enforcement agencies and his own relatives for his homosexuality. The report said that Kasym had earlier fallen into police hands, and that his father and uncle, who works for the presidential security service, had tried to “cure” him through a mullah and a psychologist, and then twice tried to marry him off. Kasym had more than one beating from the police and from his relatives.

“Don’t stop raising this problem and if I disappear, talk about what happened to me. My uncle might force me to say that I didn’t do it, that I didn’t write anything to you […] Don’t believe anything I say under pressure. Keep our exchange of messages. The family is destroying me, let the whole world know what they’re like,” Kasym wrote not long before he disappeared on October 24.

Homosexual relations are a crime in Turkmenistan. Those found guilty of “sodomy” face up to two years in jail.

Turkmen.news will keep LGBT organizations supporting Kasym updated about his situation.

Update: On December 2, Radio Azatlyk managed to get a hold of Kasym Garaev.