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CAUCASUS > Azeri gay rights leader commits suicide

BAKU - Agence France-Presse

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A leading Azerbaijani gays rights activist killed himself after writing in an online suicide note that he could not go on living in "this country and this world", police said on Jan. 23.

Isa Shakhmarli, 20, chairman of Azerbaijan Free LGBT, a Baku-based gay rights advocacy group, was found dead on Jan. 22 after reportedly hanging himself using the rainbow-coloured flag of the gay pride movement.

"We received a call from his loved ones reporting a suicide," a police spokesman for the Yasamal district of Baku told AFP.

"Police officers found his body at the scene. An investigation into the suicide is being carried out," the police said. Homosexuality is stigmatised in the mainly Muslim but officially secular former Soviet country. Many gays and lesbians say they experience routine harassment and attacks and are shunned by friends and family after coming out. In an emotional farewell note, Shakhmarli asked friends to let his mother know he loved her and said that he had left the door to his flat open. "I am leaving. Forgive me for everything. This country and this world are not for me," Shakhmarli wrote in a message to friends on the social networking site Facebook. "You are all guilty for my death. This world cannot handle my true colours. Goodbye," the message said.

A video posted onto an Internet news site showed medics at the scene trying, and failing to resuscitate Shakhmarli as friends wept in the background. A torn rainbow flag can be seen hanging from the ceiling. Vugar Adigozalov, a close friend and former colleague of Shakhmarli at the gay rights organisation, told AFP that his family had difficulty accepting his sexuality.

"The main reason for his suicide was that he had bad relations with his family," Adigozalov said.

January/23/2014

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