LGBT-793x960Asia: Russia’s anti-gay stance has been sweeping through its borders and into neighboring countries of Central Asia, once part of the Soviet Union.

Russia recently passed a bill banning “homosexual propaganda,” meaning no one can talk to minors about the mere existence of gay people or hold pride parades and rallies. The controversial bill has elicited much outrage ahead of and during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

In the sphere of former Soviet states, Russia still wields a lot of influence.

Take, for example, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, both of which have Russia on their northern borders, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a pair of post-Soviet countries further south of Russia, writes Casey Michel  in

Earlier this month, Tajikistan’s grand mufti, the government-sanctioned leader of the nation’s massive Muslim community, singled out the LGBT community for its especial role in crumbling nations.

“I warn you against such sinful behavior. Each nation, who committed such sins, was punished severely,” independent Tajik agencies quoted the mufti as saying.

Tajikistan suffered a horrific civil war between Muslim rebels and the government from 1992 until a peace agreement was signed in 1997.

Not to be outdone, the grand mufti of Kyrgyzstan, Maksan Hajji Toktomushev, recently issued a fatwa against same-sex relations.

Kyrgyzstan police target gay and bisexual men in parks, gay clubs, hotel rooms, and on dating websites.

Human Rights Watch documented cases of severe physical violence against gay and bisexual men including punching, kicking, and beating with gun butts, batons, empty beer bottles, or other objects.

Several gay men also reported sexual violence by police officers including rape, group rape, and attempts to put a stick, a hammer, or an electric shock device in the person’s anus, as well as gratuitous touching during a search, or being forced to undress in front of police.

Isa Sahmarli, a leader of the LGBT human rights movement in former communist Azerbaijan wedged between Russia and Iran, succumbed  to anti-LGBT sentiment and rejection by his family.

After months of anti-gay propaganda laws, discussions on outlawing lesbianism, and continued votes preventing same-sex marriage, Sahmarli, one of the most prominent LGBT activists in Azerbaijan, was found dead in his apartment. He hanged himself with a rainbow flag.

Sahmarli, only 20 years old, served as the head of Azad (Free) LGBT, one of the few gay-rights organizations in the country.

One of Sahmarli’s friends, who lives in Azerbaijan and requested anonymity, told The New Civil Rights Movement, “He was repelled by hate. Any kind of hate.”

In Kazakhstan, a deputy in the lower house, Nurlan Abdirov, told the legal affairs committee that “special themed sessions and round tables” will be held regarding punishment for “lesbianism and other aspects of the sexual and gender sphere.”

Earlier, Deputy Bakhytbek Smagul also called for a similar Russian style propaganda-banning bill in Kazakhstan, saying, “This phenomenon [of homosexuality] damages the image of our country and its domestic policy.”

It remains obvious that Moscow doesn’t stand as the outlier in the post-Soviet region when it comes to LGBT rights. Rather, much as it does politically, Russia stands as the trend-setter for the bigotry of the former Soviet sphere, writes Casey Michel in

Central Asia includes the five independent republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan that emerged after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia assumed the Soviet Union’s rights and obligations and is recognized as its continued legal personality after the collapse. The central Asian republics are home to about 7 million Russians.