Human rights defender
Michael is an independent LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights activist who promotes rights and freedoms in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic in Central Asia. Michael participates in numerous projects focussed on the LGBT+ community,. His work includes counselling, HIV prevention and LGBT+ rights advocacy.. As an independent activist and drawing from his own experience, Michael also gives advice to young members of the LGBT+ community on how to deal with the police and public authorities. At the moment Michael is writing a project to help LGBT+ people in Bishkek (the capital) who are looking for shelter and assistance.
In Kyrgyzstan, the environment for members of the LGBT+ community is extremely hostile. The majority of people continue to see homosexuality as a disease that can be cured. Police abuse against LGBT+ people is a major concern and ranges from physical, sexual and psychological violence to arbitrary detention. Extortion under the threat of violence or of exposing victims’ sexual orientation to friends and family is also a common practice On 26 March 2014, Kyrgyzstan’s national parliament published a draft bill that imposes criminal sanctions for spreading information about homosexuality or LGBT+ issues, which is in clear violation of fundamental rights such as free speech and non-discrimination. The bill was justified by its authors “to safeguard and protect the traditional family, human, moral, and historical values of Kyrgyz society.” It has now passed the second reading in parliament and remains a subject of intense controversy, supported on the one hand by traditional members of society, on the other hand criticised by local human rights groups and international institutions.
In October 2010, Michael was arrested and beaten by the police. As he refused to give out the names of other LGBT+ community members a criminal case was brought against him and he was sentenced for 15 years, which he appealed against. Currently, Michael is under constant pressure and regularly receives threats of violence. He is known as an homosexual by the police and the public, as his name and photo were published in homophobic newspapers at the time of his arrest. His relations with his family and the church to which he belongs are also very tense. Michael wants to take the opportunity of his stay in The Netherlands to relax and regain his strength to continue to fight for human rights in his country. He also wants to tell his story whilst improving his English and other skills necessary for his work as a human rights defender. By sharing on the plight of members of the LGBT+ community in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere, he wishes to both inspire and be inspired by others.