A raid by Police on a LGBT community centre in Bishkek, the capital of the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, is unwarranted harassment and intimidation say gay rights groups.
On the evening of 8 April, three police forced their way into a building housing the group Labrys, which at the time was hosting a dinner for local and international LGBT groups.
Police threatened to arrest anyone who did not produce identification and searched private files at the social centre, which also serves as a shelter for transgender people and women who are victims of violence.
“It’s an outrage that police can barge into a building for no reason, threaten people, and search private files,” said Scott Long, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“Police should protect organisations defending human rights, not use their power to harass and intimidate them. The raid sends a chilling message to anyone marginalised or stigmatised.”
This is the second time police have raided Labrys without a warrant. On 4 June, 2006, police forced their way into the group’s office after verbally threatening that they would rape everyone inside.
Labrys was founded in April 2004 to assist and advocate for lesbian and bisexual women, gay men, and transgender people. It has been a legally registered nongovernmental organisation since 14 February, 2006.
Labrys’ community centre serves as a place for meeting and discussion, as well as shelter for victims of violence. It was created as a safe space for lesbian and transgender people in Kyrgyzstan to meet, free from the threats and stigma they often face outside.
Activists fear that the police raid will discourage many LGBT persons from accessing the centre’s services.
Kyrgyzstan was a republic in the former Soviet Union until the country declared its independence in 1991.