Wyden, Toomey Call on State Department to Investigate Reported Persecution of LGBTQ People in Azerbaijan

Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan group of senators today called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to investigate news reports that authorities have conducted raids and detained people in Azerbaijan because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a letter to Tillerson, the senators, led by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., called for the investigation following recent news reports of raids conducted in September in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, when authorities detained more than 50 gay and transgender people.

“We write to share our concerns about press reports that Azerbaijani authorities have detained dozens of gay and transgender persons simply because they are gay or transgender,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to investigate these reports and, if they are credible, to publicly condemn these actions in the strongest terms and to push for perpetrators to be held accountable.”

The senators wrote that the United States’ partnership with Azerbaijan is important in part because of the country’s location between Russia and Iran, but that these reported human rights violations cannot go unaddressed.

“Indeed, U.S. foreign policy must promote both our values and our interests and any notion that the two are mutually exclusive is a false choice,” they wrote.

In addition to Wyden and Toomey, the other senators signing the letter are: Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Read the full letter here.