Azerbaijan has never been a safe place for LGBTQ people. When I lived there, you could face discrimination and brutality in your daily life. You would get rejections from jobs, and be humiliated by family, neighbours, classmates. LGBTQ people would never go to the police for help – the police would not protect you. But that’s gone a step further with the recent police crackdowns in Baku. I left Azerbaijan in 2014 for the US. I came as a student and decided not to go back to a country where I’m not able to be myself. That became clear to me in the wake of Isa Shakhmarli’s death. After he killed himself using the rainbow flag, wider society became even more brutal about LGBTQ people. It was the first time there had been a public debate about the issues and it showed how dangerous people’s ignorance could be.
September 29 / The Guardian