Kyrgyzstan: Defamation Campaign And Threats Against Human Rights Defender Ms Tolekan Ismailova
Please take action on behalf of Kyrgyzstan human rights defender Tolekan Ismailova.
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Thank you for taking action on behalf of Tolekan Ismailova.
H.E. Mr Almazbek Atambayev
On 14 October 2012, TV channel LTR broadcast a program in which human rights defender Ms Tolekan Ismailova was depicted as spreading propaganda for homosexuality in Kyrgyzstan and being destructive to Kyrgyz values. Similar accusations were published in several Kyrgyz-language newspapers. Ms Tolekan Ismailova is the director of Human Rights Centre 'Citizens Against Corruption'.
These accusations refer to the documentary 'I Am Gay and Muslim', which was part of the human rights film festival Bir Duyno – Kyrgyzstan (One World – Kyrgyzstan), organised annually in Bishkek with the active participation of HRC Citizens Against Corruption. The documentary was scheduled to be shown on 28 September 2012 at the Manas cinema in Bishkek. The film explores the problematic issue of gay rights in the Islamic world, taking the example of Moroccan young men who speak about their sexual and religious identity.
On 8 October 2012, the HRC Citizens Against Corruption received a letter from their hosting company warning the human rights organisation about the possibility that its website www.anticorruption.kg might be shut down if it contained references or links to the documentary 'I Am Gay and Muslim'.
On 28 September 2012, the day of the screening, the festival organisers were ordered by the Pervomaysky district court of Bishkek to ban the film, following a complaint lodged by the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, which demanded that the film 'I Am Gay and Muslim' be recognised as “extremist, inciting religious hatred and aimed at dishonouring Muslims”. As the decision of the court came into force immediately, the organisers of festival were deprived of a chance to contest the ruling before the scheduled screening time. The HRC Citizens Against Corruption has since filed an appeal to overturn the court's decision.
The same day, at approximately 10.40am, a representative of the State Committee of National Security came to the office of the HRC to serve an official warning to Tolekan Ismailova as the festival director. The warning stipulated that “according to the decision by the State Commission of Religious Affairs, based on point 6.1 of Article 1 of the 'Law on Combating Extremist Activity', the film is considered 'extremist' and its diffusion and broadcasting within the territory of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan might encourage religious hatred and set the scene for mass disorder”. As a result of this, the film screening did not take place.
On 26 September 2012, the organisers of the festival had received phone calls and text messages threatening them with physical harm while the director of the cinema was threatened that the building would be set on fire unless the film's screening was cancelled.
I condemn the smear campaign and threats against Ms Tolekan Ismailova and the other organisers of the human rights festival, and am concerned for their physical and psychological integrity and security. I wish to emphasise the legitimate role played by human rights defenders and civil society organisations in the promotion of human rights for all, in particular the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and protection against homophobic hate speech and acts.
I urge the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to:
1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats received by human rights defender Tolekan Ismailova, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
2. Take measures to ensure that government officials or other public figures refrain from making statements or declarations stigmatising the legitimate work of human rights defenders;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.