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Video Appears To Show Turkmen Police Shaming Transgender Woman

  • RFE/RL

"As a man, do you sell yourself for money?" a voice in the background can be heard asking. "Would you go with me? I'll pay you 20 manats [$6]," he asks.

The answers of "no" are not good enough for the interrogators, claimed to be Turkmen police, who call for the apparently transgender woman to be kicked in the penis and threaten to take her someplace where she will start talking.

The abuse, which also included a gender test and other forms of shaming, surfaced on May 16 in an undated, 90-second video posted by the Europe-based website Habartm.org. The independent website, which routinely publishes material critical of Turkmen authorities and is published in Turkmen, Russian, and English, claims that the interrogation was conducted by four male officers at an Ashgabat police station.

The unseen interrogators can be heard asking questions in Turkmen and laughing in the video, which is subtitled in Russian and English. The woman -- wearing a long blue dress, bright jewelry, and a hair-covering kerchief -- appears to be distressed and frightened.

At one point the subject of the interrogation is ordered to show her genitalia to prove her gender.

"Better undress him and see," a voice says, prompting a round of questioning focusing on whether the subject has a "best friend" or a "naughty friend" or whether she goes out alone.

"It's better for you if you tell us everything here, then we'll let you go," a male voice advises.

"I have no one," she answers.

The video fades to black and reemerges to scenes of the woman being ordered to pull her pants down.

She complies, but is ordered to hike her dress up and then to turn around and bend over.

"He *@%* in the *@##" declares one interrogator, before another concedes: "All clear, enough" and the tape ends.

RFE/RL cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the video, which Habartm.org says "has been sent" to the publication, without giving further details.

Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive states in the world and notorious for its abysmal human rights records, has long been criticized for its harsh treatment of sexual minorities.

Under Turkmen criminal law, homosexual conduct is considered sodomy and is punishable by up to two years in prison.

According to Human Rights Watch, "widespread prejudice leads to homosexuality being treated as a disease, including by medical institutions and judicial authorities" in Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan's "law enforcement officials and medical personnel subject persons detained and charged with sodomy to forced anal examinations, with the purported objective of finding ‘proof' of homosexual conduct," the rights watchdog said in its latest annual report.

Turkmen authorities have rejected calls by the UN human rights agency to decriminalize homosexuality, saying such a move would be incompatible with Turkmen culture.

"It contradicts Turkmen people's culture and mentality that is based on family principles, therefore such amendments to the law are not acceptable," Turkmen official Shemshat Atadjanova was quoted as saying in March.

Atadjanova, a high-ranking official of a state-run Turkmen institution for democracy and human rights, reportedly made the comment during a review of Turkmenistan's human rights situation at the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on March 8.

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