A chilling video that appears to show police officers beating up a transvestite is making the rounds on social networks in Uzbekistan, shining a spotlight on the homophobic attitudes pervading Uzbek society.
In the clip, which was reportedly shot last summer, several men can be seen raiding an apartment and bullying a man who is dressed in women’s underwear, as well as two other men.
The purported officers, one of whom wears a police uniform and a carries a gun on his belt, repeatedly insult their victims and threaten to take them to the police station.
They slap, kick, and bring the two other men to their knees before kicking the transvestite in the head.
The transvestite, who can be heard saying he has a family, pleads for mercy throughout the clip.
While homosexuality is still a crime in Uzbekistan, this does not mean that people who assault homosexuals are exempt from prosecution.
RFE/RL was unable to determine the identity of the victims or establish their fate.
A source close to police in the tightly controlled Central Asian state told RFE/RL that the incident took place in the capital, Tashkent, and that the assailants were all police officers.
According to the source, none of them had been charged over the assault.
Few homosexuals end up being prosecuted in Uzbekistan. Police officers, however, are known to capture gay men on video with the aim of extorting money from them.
Surat Ikramov, a prominent Uzbek human rights campaigner, believes homophobia will remain deeply rooted in his country as long as homosexuality is considered a criminal offense.
Ikramov says that even many of his fellow human rights campaigners in Uzbekistan were openly hostile toward sexual minorities. "Very few people understand that gays and lesbians should not be judged…that they bring no harm to people, to the government, to policies," he says. "But it will take years for people to understand this."
The video has been distributed widely on Facebook, the regional social-networking site Odnoklassniki, and the WhatsApp and Telegram messenger services.
It has generated more than 800 comments on Odnoklassniki alone. But the overwhelming majority of viewers condemn the transvestite, not the police.
"The police did the right thing," one viewer commented on Facebook. "People like this should be beaten to death."
"This is a disease, it must be stopped," reads another comment. "Beating them won't help put them on the right path. They need to be shot dead."