(Bishkek) – The Kyrgyz government should lift a ban on a documentary film about gay men in Morocco and allow the film to be screened in Kyrgyzstan, Human Rights Watch said today.
The film, I am Gay and Muslim, shows gay men in Morocco describing their lives and their religious views. On September 27, 2012, Kyrgyz authorities illegally confiscated one copy of the film the day before it was scheduled to be screened at a local cinema in Bishkek, the capital. The next day, police prevented film festival organizers from showing another copy at the same cinema.
“The Kyrgyz authorities have no legitimate basis for banning this film,” said Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Although not everyone in Kyrgyzstan may like this film or agree with its content, the authorities should respect free speech by allowing the film to be screened.”
The documentary is one of dozens of films included in the “One World” film festival, organized annually by local human rights groups for the last five years and shown in numerous cities across Kyrgyzstan.
In response to a complaint filed by the chief mufti of Kyrgyzstan to the General Prosecutor’s Office and the State Committee onReligious Affairs, National Security Service (KNB) officers on September 27 took a copy of the film from the Manas cinema in central Bishkek, where the film was to be screened the next day. Festival organizers informed Human Rights Watch that the KNB officials had no search warrant and provided no official documentation permitting them to confiscate the film.
The Kyrgyz State Committee on Religious Affairs assessed the content of the film and determined it to be “extremist,” “offensive to Muslims,” and “inciting interreligious hatred.” Citing this analysis and the Kyrgyz law on “counteracting extremist activities,” the General Prosecutor’s office ordered the film festival organizers to refrain from screening I am Gay and Muslim.
The festival organizers refused to comply and attempted to show another copy of the film at the Manas cinema on September 28, as scheduled. Over a dozen law enforcement officers arrived and prevented the screening. Police ushered members of the audience out of the theater after they were allowed to participate in a short discussion about the film with its director, Chris Belloni of the Netherlands.
The 59-minute documentary, released in March, has been screened in over a dozen countries, including the Netherlands, the United States, Ukraine, and Serbia.
Using “extremism” legislation to ban this film is a misuse of the law to stifle protected speech, Human Rights Watch said. Tolekan Ismailova, head of Citizens against Corruption, a local group and one of the festival’s organizers, told Human Rights Watch that government officials, journalists, and private individuals had pressured her, other festival organizers, and the Manas cinema director not to show the film. Unidentified people had also threatened to set the Manas cinema on fire if the film was shown.
Kyrgyzstan is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to free speech. Article 19 provides, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Free speech is protected in Kyrgyzstan’s constitution. Article 31 states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought and opinion,” and “Everyone shall have the right to free expression of opinion, freedom of speech and press.”
In respecting and protecting the right to free speech, governments have an obligation to refrain from censoring free speech, including speech that may offend.
“The authorities should in no circumstances harass or pressure people who wish to screen or view this film,” Reid said. “The effort to show the documentary as part of a human rights film festival should not be condemned, but rather welcomed. Like anyone else, LGBT people of faith have a right to be heard.”
Foto by ©2012 van Damme
OFFICIAL STATEMENT (Statement_eng.pdf)
Non-governmental Organization “Labrys”
Non-governmental Organization "Pathfinder"
Bishkek Feminist Initiative"SQ"
Bishkek, 4th of October, 2012
This statement is meant to express our support to the Human Rights Advocating Centre “Citizens against corruption” (“Граждане против коррупции”) in their dissent with banning the demonstration, distribution and storage of the film “I am gay and Muslim” on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and their decision to appeal against the exigency of the Pervomaiskiy court of Bishkek city.
First and foremost our opinion is based on the Article 1 of the Constitution of Kyrgyz Republic stating that our country is a “sovereign, democratic, legal, secular, unitary and social state” . This implies that the government of Kyrgyzstan should guarantee the rights of every member of the Kyrgyz society regardless of his or her belonging either to the majority or the minority. It also implies that “religion and other cults are separated from the state” , and therefore the government can not comply with norms and rules prescribed in any of the religious communities existing on the territory of the Republic.
Unfortunately, the decision of the Pervomaiskiy court of Bishkek on banning the demonstration of the documentary and human rights advocating film “I am gay and Muslim” issued on 28th of September, 2012, does not conform to the above mentioned norms of the Constitution of Kyrgyz Republic. Additionally it is worth of mentioning, that court decision was guided by expert implications which were not based on the secular juridical foundations, but on religious tenets having no juridical power on the territory of Kyrgyz Republic. The panels should have clear and accurately prescribed, approved and unified criteria of assessment in implementing expert reviews of similar kinds.
However, in accordance with the statement of the employee of the department of cinematography Urmat Aitaliev, the process on developing these criteria has just started. In return we are ready to render any kind of expert and consultative support to the government in spheres of sexuality, gender and human rights in regards of culture, media and ethics.
We are against negative attitude towards gays and towards Muslims; we support equal rights of gay Muslims and equal rights of heterosexual Muslims! We support equal rights of all citizens of Kyrgyzstan, regardless of their religious beliefs, or the absence of such!
 Non-governmental Organization "Labrys", Non-governmental Organization "Pathfinder", Bishkek Feminist Initiative "SQ" – organizations and initiatives, working in the sphere of advocating and advancing the LGBT rights in Kyrgyzstan
 Lee A. Ministry of Culture is not yet ready to ban the demonstration of films. Source: http://kloop.kg/blog/2012/10/01/minkul-tury-poka-ne-sobiraetsya-zapreshhat-fil-my-dlya-pokaza/#more-36569
The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights is in Kyrgyzstan!Two LGBT organizations ("Labrys" and "Kyrgyz Indigo") and the Bishkek Feminist Collective SQ have turned to her with a small message:
9 July 2012
We welcome your strong commitment to ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Welcome to Kyrgyzstan! Our government has been making effort to establish a dialogue with LGBT NGOs through cooperation with the Office of Ombudsman on the issue of violence against LGBT people and Ministry of Health to establish a simple procedure for transgender people to have their identities legally recognized. Unfortunately despite 5 years of cooperation and endorsements of the proposed legislation by of all Ministries of Kyrgyzstan, the Office of the Prime Minister returned the bill make a reference to changing another law which is irrelevant to the issue of legal recognition. Dozens of transgender people in Kyrgyzstan remain in legal limbo and are at risk each time when they encounter a situation where their IDs need to be checked.
We appreciate efforts of Kyrgyz government, yet we would like to update you about the situation of LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan and other countries of Central Asia and point out some of the priority issues for our communication with Kyrgyzstani government.
Currently we are investigating systematic cases of violence and extortion committed by law enforcement officers through using dating websites to lure gay and bisexual men. This violence and extortion is largely a leftover of Soviet regime that criminalized homosexuality and encouraged law enforcement bodies to record each person suspected as engaging in same-sex relationships. Despite decriminalization in 1998, the practice of police harassment of gay and bisexual men continues because police officers use gay men’s vulnerable situation in society to extort bribes. When we informed Ministry of Interior about most recent 14 cases connected to the law enforcement, we received a letter from the Prosecutor’s office about being unable to investigate these cases because the victims did not come forward with formal complaints. As the victims have been highly traumatized by their experience with the police, they are not able to formally file complaints. In this regard, we would like to see a thorough investigation of these cases and large-scale prevention efforts performed by the Ministry of Interior in cooperation with LGBT organizations.
During the first round of Universal Periodic Review Kyrgyzstani government accepted two recommendations related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Since 2010 we have been approaching different state agencies seeking information about how we could support the government with implementation of these recommendations. To this day, most of our communication ends in letters that state that yet another agency is responsible for implementation of prevention of violence against women based on the grounds of sexual orientation. When we contact that agency, we are referred to another one. Given the high level of systematic violence against LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan also mentioned in OHCHR’s first report on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, we would like to see more concerted effort from the side of Kyrgyzstani government in implementation of its international obligations.
Also mentioned in OHCHR report is “curative rape” of lesbian and bisexual women which continues to be an issue in Kyrgyzstan. LGBT people encounter violence from their natal families and on the streets and when we raise this issue publicly, the homophobic media blames rape survivors for not living their lives according to heterosexist traditions. In the past months LGBT organizations were targeted in the media for their efforts to raise awareness about these violations of human rights. The media also quote members of parliament that call LGBT people “sick” and do not support any organizing efforts on behalf of LGBT communities. We are worried that their reactions will cause further stigmatization and violence.
We hope that your visit and mention of LGBT rights in your communication with Central Asian governments and during your press conference, will help us prevent further violence and establish open dialogue with the government to improve LGBT people’s lives in the region.
Thank you, Madame Pillay!
Bishkek Feminists SQ"