Turkmenistan is not a country for gay people, and we already knew it.
Life in Turkmenistan is extremely hard and threatening for the LGBT+ community, as gay and bisexual men can face up to two years of prison and where society is still living with a strong anti-gay and anti-queer feeling. This, anyhow, does not justify the horrific experience lived by a 23-year-old gay man, beaten by police, simply because he was HIV positive.
Maskat – this is the name of this young boy – spoke anonymously to RadioFreeEurope and told his story to all listeners on line in that moment.
Last December, Maksat visited a local HIV centre trying to access antiretroviral therapy. Nurses at the centre asked him to take a blood test and to return two days later, but when he went back to the centre, he found a bad surprise: two police officers were waiting for him.
“The officers asked me how I got infected and I told them I didn’t know,” – obviously Maskat was trying to hide his homosexuality as he in Turkmenistan being gay is illegal. He was kept in the police station for more than 24 hours, when three police officers turned up at Maksat’s apartment and hauled him in for questioning.
“First they questioned me. Then began to beat me badly. They told me: ‘We know where you got HIV. You’re gay.’ I told them that it was not true. But they kept beating me.”
Maksat was also forced to sign documents and declarations of his homosexuality, and even though he initially refused, police officers said they would out him to his family and friends, convicted him of intentionally infecting other people with HIV (this is punished with 5 years of prison in Turkmenistan) had he not complied to their request.
A horrible odyssey from Turkmenistan to Russia and now to an LGBT+ friendly country.
Maksat had always had to hide his sexuality in a country where being gay is crime, and at the age of 18, he went to Russia to study business management. Unfortunately in 2019, he was diagnosed with HIV, and according to a discriminatory Russian law that sends all HIV positive foreigners back to their home countries, he was sent back to Turkmenistan where he kept his HIV status in the closet till the day he started seeking for antiretroviral cures.
He is now claiming asylum in an LGBT+ friendly country in Europe, but he is still terrified that police could question his family trying to discover where he lives now.