Twenty-four-year gay journalist and activist Avaz Shikhmammadov, better known as Avaz Hafizli, was brutally murdered in Azerbaijan last month. 

Trigger Warning: This story has details of a brutal homophobic murder, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

Hafizli was an employee of the online news portal Kanal 13 and was a well known out journalist in the country.

In a statement, the prosecutor said that Hafizli was stabbed to death by his cousin due to a personal dispute and the police were investigating the case. Lili Nazarov, a fellow queer activist posted on Twitter that Hafizli was beheaded and his genitals were cut off by his assailant. 

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The journalist and activist was subjected to homophobia even after death. According to queer activist and journalist Ali Malikov, the police “refused to touch Avaz’s dead body because it was ‘dirty’”. His friends put his body in a car and took it to the morgue, reported OC Media

Death Blamed On Homophobia In Azerbaijan

The local LGBTQI community mourned Hafizli’s death blamed it on the pervasive homophobia and transphobia in Azerbaijan society and authorities failing to properly investigate hate crimes. 

“The culprits of this death are the society, the Azerbaijani government and state security agencies. Despite the fact that we reported every incidence to the police, they never considered the complaints, even terminating it arbitrarily, never punishing the perpetrator,” Nazarov posted on Twitter.

Hafizli Championed The Cause of LGBTQI Community

Hafizli was well known in the community for championing the cause of the LGBTQI community. Malikov in an obituary recalled that Hafizli’s reportage on the attacks on the trans community had helped focus the mainstream media’s attention on the issue. 

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“Without Avaz, stories of trans women would probably not have reached the media,” Malikov wrote, adding, “Avaz was directly involved in ensuring the safety of transwomen, helping them use the correct narratives and rhetoric and liaising with the media.”

Five months before his murder, Hafizli had chained himself to the gates outside the Chief Prosecutors’ Office to protest threats to LGBTQI community. Malikov said that Hafizli had even unfurled a rainbow flag in front of the Presidential administration.

ILGA-Europe has consistently rated Azerbaijan as one of the worst countries in Europe for LGBTQI rights.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

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