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September 27, 20191225

THE TORTURES OF A GAY MAN IN ASTANA: “THEY BURNT ME WITH AN IRON”

Editorial Warning: This material contains offensive language and graphic descriptions of brutal violence, sexual harassment and rape. The text was originally Russian and has been translated into English.

Ayan is 21 years old. He works as a teacher in one of the capital’s schools. He has always been a good son and a good teacher. He doesn’t stand out. He follows a healthy lifestyle. On July 28th, 2019 he was diagnosed with: “A closed fracture of the medial, intermediate sphenoid bone without displacement of bone fragments. Bruised left hand. Closed craniocerebral injury. Concussion. Bruised wounds on the head, face. Thermal burns of 1-2 degrees (from cauterization with an iron). Soft tissue injuries.” This is how it happened, as retold by Ayan himself:

No, You are staying!

In the evening of the 27th of July I met a guy on VK*. We talked, as usual, through our fake accounts, exchanged our pictures. By 10 o’clock he offered to meet, and asked for my phone number. We phoned each other and arranged a meeting. He promised to pick me up.

*VK is a social network app similar to Facebook. It is the main way for finding hookups in the country.

The person who came looked nothing like his picture. I wanted to leave, but he insisted I stay and talk. I agreed, thinking that I could just end the conversation whenever I wanted. He bought some beer on the way and drove to the Residential Complex “Makhabbat”. 

We went to his apartment. He poured himself and me some beer. I declined the drink. We started to talk. I told him that he was not my type, and that on the photo there was a totally different person. He started to get annoyed and said that guys are too picky nowadays, etc. I wanted to leave, but he said: “No, You are staying!” 

We argued a little, but I decided to stay to let him say his piece.

After a short conversation he offered to have sex, but I refused. He started to touch me, I fought back and said that I was definitely leaving now. He stopped harassing me, and asked me to stay, since his friend is coming soon to whom he needed to give money. I thought that I should have left, but I was afraid that he would take revenge on me by publishing my phone number or writing some nasty things about me or something similar. I stayed.

He asked me to take the beer and go to the kitchen, so I went to the kitchen. His friend arrived shortly afterwards. They talked for about ten minutes, then came into the kitchen. I had no idea who this second guy was. They sat in the kitchen and started to talk to me, asking “how are you” and other such small talk. Eventually, his friend asked, “are you a faggot?”

Now we will turn you straight.

I was very scared; my heart started pounding. I replied that anyone could be a fag no matter their sexual orientation. Then he asked if I had sex with men. He asked this, of course, in a rude manner. I refused to answer and collected my stuff to leave. I took my clothes, my phone and my charger. But when I approached the door, it was locked.

When I demanded to open the door, one of them said: “Where are you going? Now we will turn you straight!”. With these words he grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed me into the living room. I started to scream so that he would stop touching me. He started to punch me, but I quickly dodged and punched him.

After that he punched me hard in the ear, I hit the cupboard and sat down. He picked me up set me against the wall and began to beat my face, in the eye and nose. I sat down again. My vision blurred. Blood gushed out. My t-shirt was already ripped apart. He lifted me up again, and the second guy hit my ear two more times. My auricle was totally broken, my ear looked like it was crumpled. I hit the cupboard again and fell down while fainting. Then he stepped on my leg and broke it.

I came to my senses after the pain. I started to loudly shout at them. I was sure that other apartments could hear me. I don’t understand why no neighbor reacted to it. 

These creatures ordered me to shut up and take off my clothes. I started to shout even louder, saying that I would not take off my clothes, that I would force them to undress. In that moment I felt a mix of fear and anger, and had no idea what to do.

They forcefully stripped me. They turned out the pockets of my jeans – everything fell out, money, my phone, documents and condoms. They threw the clothes into the washing machine and poured the powder. Probably, they wanted to remove all of the blood stains from the clothes.

At that moment my head was already in serious pain. I couldn’t think straight. They took my belt, it’s very dense, with a metal buckle, and began to choke me.

I lost my consciousness, even had hallucinations. I believed that I was home and safe.  But they painfully brought me back to reality by hitting my head with the belt buckle.

I woke up sitting down near the sofa, and these freaks were standing above me. The friend that came over hit my head with a beer mug. And the one I met online held the belt and continued to beat my head with the buckle.

It was unbearably painful. I felt that over my neck, my shoulders and my back there were hot streams of blood. I realized that they broke my skull. 

Then one of them said: “hey, are you enjoying this?!”, and they began to kick me in the face. I kept falling from the blows, but they kept lifting me up and hitting me with the mug and the buckle. I couldn’t feel any more pain from the shock. But they kept hitting me over and over again. Now my whole head is in stitches. One eye is severely swollen, because they kicked it multiple times.

Call over the other fags, we will fuck them up too.

They began to torture me to know the location of the Astana gay-club. I thought it was weird for them to do all that violence to me just to know the address of a place, and said that I don’t know, since I haven’t been to any clubs for more than 3 years.

Then they demanded that I call the guys I know who are gay, and call them to the apartment. They said that they would also beat them. I declined calling anyone, was just sitting in silence. They started to kick me again, but I stopped feeling pain from the shock, just heard thuds and crunches.

Then they switched on the iron and said that they would force me to say the location of the local gay-club, and find them a person who would take them there. I gave him the middle finger and said “Here you go! No club!. '' Then one of them immediately burnt my forearm with the iron. Then I was hit on my head with it. They shouted in Kazakh “Say it, I ordered you!”. Then I replied in Kazakh: “Don’t eat my dick!”

I decided that I would stand it until I die, but I would not betray anyone, I would not let any other guy experience this same terror.

Then they would burn me again on the back, hit me with the iron on the back and side. They did not break my ribs, but left burn marks. Then they wanted to burn my penis, but I kicked one of them, and he dropped the iron. The iron fell on my thigh, leaving a bruise there. 

I started to shout: “What do you even want from me?!”. They threw my phone at me, said to unlock it, and started digging into my phone, found my dad’s contact and wrote him an SMS saying that I was on my way to some place called Burundai* and that I owe some money to a guy Marat, and for that I urgently needed money.

*Burundai is a village near Almaty

3 million tenge* in exchange for your life.

*Tenge is the currency of Kazakhstan. 3 million tenge is about 7000-8000 USD

When sending the message they asked: “can your parents pay a million tenge for your life?”. I said to them that nothing they would do would be successful, I started to threaten them by saying that I would I would find a way out of this nightmare and have my revenge even if I pass away. After they heard this, they beat me up again,  and I fainted again. They brought me back to consciousness by a punch and said that my parents should find 3 million tenge in a day as a ransom for my life. I replied that they would not receive anything. They said that they would bury me in the morning if that happened. I replied by saying that I did not care what they would do to me.

After that, the first guy who brought me there started to rape me. He raped me the way I was: all swollen, beaten down and covered in blood. 

You know, before that moment I never understood how raped women feltl… I felt so low, so miserable. It was as if I had lost my identity and stopped being human. I don’t know if I can ever have sex like I used to before. I can’t even think about it now.

After that they repeated their demands: “3 million tenge in exchange for your life.” 

I maintained that it would never happen. Then they started to burn me with cigarettes. One of them even dialed someone and asked them to come in the morning in a car to bury me alive, in a place where no one could find me. 

Then I asked them to let me shower so I could wash off the blood. They let me go, but forbade me from limping, even though they broke my leg. When I limped they would kick me in the leg again.

Suck it Fag!

I went to shower myself and tried to wash off the blood. But they still kept torturing me by switching the water from boiling hot to ice cold. They shouted: “fags like you do not deserve to live! They should all be killed!” 

I stopped responding to them since I didn’t want to be beaten again.

When I left the shower, the floor was slippery. They started to hit me again. I fell and could not stand back up. Under their beatings I crawled from the bathroom to the living room. I was already so crushed and exhausted that I had no hope that I could survive. In my mind I already said good-bye to all my friends and relatives. It was upsetting that I would have to die at the hands of these scum.

Then they threw my torn up t-shirt at me and forced me to wash the floor. They ordered me to make sure that not a single drop of blood left .It was next to impossible with the blood still oozing from my wounds. Sure enough, they saw blood and kicked me in the head. I fell once more. Blood began running from all of my wounds again and even stained the sofa. This made them even more furious and they started to hit me again. Then they forced me to wash the walls, since they beat me while pressing me to the wall. I used the same t-shirt to wash the walls, and washed it in the bathroom. The t-shirt stayed in the bathroom.

They demanded 3 million tenge once more. They forced me to look for guys who were queer, to lure them into the apartment. They gave me my phone so I would chat with some guys, and they set a timer for periods of 10 minutes, or sometimes 30 minutes, so I would find someone. I was faking the searches. They figured it out,, took my phone and started to do it themselves. They started to write to my colleagues offering sex on my behalf. They wrote to my relatives, friends, whoever they found in my contacts. They messaged through WhatsApp and all my dating apps. However, it was 4 in the morning, so no one answered their messages.

While the phone was with me I wrote an SMS to my dad, saying that I was being beaten and asked him to call the ambulance and police. I wrote a similar message to a female friend in a group chat with all friends. Unfortunately, I wrote the wrong house number. 

Then the guy who brought me into the apartment went to sleep. The second guy continued to beat me. At some point I requested to go to the bathroom to wash my face. I had trouble moving my lips, I continued to feel the smell and taste of blood and burning. I was getting sick because of these smells, however I couldn’t vomit since I was hungry and there was nothing to vomit.

When I washed my face I saw the second guy standing in the doorway. He pulled down his pants and ordered me to: “suck it, fag!”. He raped me orally, making me lick his anus. He even forced me to swallow his sperm.

If you move I will cut you up.

After that he took my phone and started taking videos of me. Before that he read all of my personal information in my documents. He forced me to tell all of my personal information, about myself, about people close to me: who I was, my name, where I lived, my sexual orientation, what I did, who my parents were and where they worked, etc. After shooting the video he said he would demand 6 million tenge as blackmail. If my parents couldn’t comply and send the money in a day he would upload the video to YouTube. This situation had no solution since my parents could not find so much money.

After that he ordered me to tie myself up with an extension cord. I know how to make fake knots, which look tight, but would easily untie if you knew the right technique. He did not suspect anything. He brought another cable from the balcony and tied my legs and hands behind my back. In such position they left me, naked and tied up, he left me lying on the cold floor. He then went to sleep with a knife lying near him, and if he saw me moving he would cut me up. The other guy was in his deep sleep for quite a while.

I was laying on the floor for one and a half to two hours. It was the morning of July 28th, about six in the morning. The bastards were sleeping. I tried to untie myself.

In my head I only had 2 desires: To jump off from the balcony or to stab them.

The first guy woke up and left to the kitchen. I understood that I had no chance to save myself, that I would be killed and buried. I started to panic. When I was beaten this thought never crossed my mind.

As it turned out the guy who left to the kitchen had fallen asleep there. I understood by his snoring. I had hope again. I continued to work with the ropes and finally could untie myself. My first instinct was to take the knife and stab them both. But then I accidentally hit the pillow. It fell to the floor, revealing the keys to the entrance door under it.

Run!!!

I took the keys, quietly, listening to the snoring, and went to the washing machine, took my underwear and pants, dressed hastily, threw a blanket over myself and ran out from the apartment to the staircase. 

The first thought I had was: Run! But how would I run, my broken leg was swollen and hurt severely. But I realized that I could just close the door from outside, locking them inside. I did not lock the door on the same floor, since I was afraid that they would wake up from the noise and just run away through the balcony. It was the second floor. If I jumped out, naked and beaten up, I would have easily died, but they were healthy and large. It didn’t cost them anything to jump down.

I could not go upstairs, so I went down to the first floor. I was crawling down the stairs on all fours. I knocked at the door of one apartment, no answer. Then I saw another apartment, which had its door slightly open and had some female voices coming out of it. I jumped to the door on one leg, looked inside the apartment and asked them to call the ambulance and police.

The women were shocked by my appearance. The called the ambulance and police. When two policemen arrived, I was in tears, unable to properly answer any of their questions. The women spoke with the policemen, suggesting they call in a whole division, for fear that the two men could be too dangerous for just two officers to handle. The division arrived, and I gave them the keys to the apartment. Soon enough, they went up and arrested the two assailants.

You are offering escort services?!

The ambulance arrived five minutes after the police. The paramedic told me to go downstairs myself, so they could offer first-aid there. The police wanted to do the identification right on the spot, so I identified the criminals.

The level of professionalism of the police, to put it mildly, was at zero. They tried to interrogate me on the spot, they did not let the medics reach me to provide me with first-aid, and one of the policemen said that I, apparently, work as an escort and was a victim of a violent client. I was shocked by such an assumption.

After that, the medics finally took me over from the police and brought me to the traumatology center at about half-past eight. There I was diagnosed with second grade concussion (later also a closed head injury), multiple extensive bruises and hematomas, I and II degree burns of 4-5% of the body, as well as closed fractures of the bones of the arm and leg. They stitched my wounds on my face and head, they also let out the blood from a large hematoma covering my eye: it was like a giant bubble filled with blood. All of these operations were done without anesthesia. It was excruciatingly painful. It was so painful that I puked my own blood, which I swallowed lots of that night.

After all the operations and examinations I was hospitalized. Immediately a case officer arrived, who asked questions such as: “why did you go there? You are offering escort services?!”

I was vocally appalled by the police. I was shocked that they were trying to frame the situation so differently from the reality. I felt humiliated..

The officer asked for the contact details of any relative, so I gave my dad’s phone number. My dad arrived immediately when I testified to the  investigator. He heard the reasons why and how I met the guy. He started to worry a lot and his heart began to ache, so he simply left and went back home.

Before leaving my dad told the policemen that if he had found out about it earlier, he would have personally executed me by hanging.

What, these fags still weren’t all beaten up already?

After that an investigator from a different district arrived. He needed to collect the evidence since the crime was committed in his district. I testified to him too.  During our conversation he received a call from, possibly, another policeman. The phone’s speaker was set to maximum volume, and I distinctly heard the person calling say: “what, these fags still weren’t all beaten?”

I made a remark to him saying that such moments bring disgrace to the police, the workers of which should know, follow and protect the law, while not violating it. I threatened that I would not leave it like this.

In the second half of the day I had a confrontation with my aggressors. They were brought to me, camera was rolling and questions were asked in Kazakh to me and them. The criminals admitted that they beat me, hit me with their hands, legs, belt buckle, that they choked me and burned me with an iron and cigarettes. However they refused to admit that they raped and blackmailed me. 

After the confrontation the forensic expert arrived. She took a swab to analyze. She also asked a few questions and left.

Overall I believe everyone was in shock when they heard what happened to me: the police, doctors and forensic experts.

When the criminals were taken away, I asked what type of punishment those bastards were going to face. He replied that they would face charges for the crimes of sexual violence, physical harm by a group of people and blackmailing. 

The next day my cousin brother contacted me and sent a lawyer to represent me. Of course I had to explain everything to the lawyer from the beginning. As a result, everyone in my family now knows about what happened, which was the last thing I wanted.

To be more specific, I did not want my sexual orientation to be known like this. These bastards had invaded my life and turned everything upside down. My sister stopped talking to me. My brother tries to ignore this topic. The relationship with my parents is very tense.

When I was discharged from the hospital I decided that I cannot return home and decided to stay at my girl friend’s place. However, my father found my friend’s address, went there and took me home. When I arrived home, all of my relatives were sitting there. They all looked at me with arrogant and contemptuous looks and began judging me. They asked tactless questions and said that they were disgusted by the thought that I had sex with men. Now relatives insist that I would be better off married. This pressure is very hard to fight. 

200 thousand tenge and a smartphone in exchange for forgiveness in court

Apart from having family issues I also had some financial issues. I can’t work because of my health issues. I can’t pay my credit loan. I do not even have a phone since it was taken as evidence along with the clothes. 

The scumbags were in the detention facility. The trial was to take place over a period of 2 months. The 28th of September will be exactly 2 months since that day. It turned out that the one who brought me to the apartment was already convicted before. His name is Zhuldybai. The second one’s name is Musa. I remembered his name well, since his cousin brother and twin brother Isa came to my hospital. They asked me to forgive that bastard. 

To be honest, I was shocked by their request. How shameless you should be to come with such a request. This is not just someone stealing a phone or a simple fight on the street. They even promised money, so during the trial I would say that I forgave him, so his term would be reduced from 20 years to just 5 years.

Ignoring my decision, my father demanded 15 million as compensation in exchange for forgiveness. He explained by saying that I would need money to run away from the city or even the country right after the end of the trial. But their relatives said that they could only give 200-300 thousand tenge and a new phone. 

I decided that I would demand through the court compensation for the medical bills, my inability to work and provide for myself. I live with my parents and they provide for me. 

My mom now constantly asks me when wI would start working again, but the fact of the matter is that I can't work. I cannot do it physically nor mentally. I was sitting at home, refusing to go out for more than a month. My wounds and burns only just finished healing. I cannot properly walk and still limp heavily. My eye still swells sometimes. Moreover, my job is related to people: children and parents. I am afraid that gossip will begin to stir. I cannot even present my situation as a fight, since my professional reputation will suffer regardless.

I won’t remain silent and will reach the end.

It is very hard for me and I do not even know what to do. I am thankful for the support from my friends, Astana LGBT-rights-activists, and the people who work with MSM. They morally support me and promised to come to the trial.

Despite how painful it was, I decided that I would not stay silent about what happened to me. I do not want the same thing to happen to someone else. I want to warn and protect other queer people. I was lucky. I survived. But how many people were less lucky than me? How many are killed every day? And those who survive, will they ever find enough strength to share what happened to them? Will they go to the police where they would be mocked and made fun of? And do they even reach a trial without agreeing for a miserably small compensation in hopes that they would receive just a small fraction of the justice they deserve?

I made a decision: I would no longer remain silent and will reach the end! We should not be silent when there is a crime committed against us. The police must fulfil their responsibilities, and not stand on the side of criminals.

But I really need the support of the LGBT community. It will be hard to do it on my own.

While those bastards were torturing me they said that there was a movement that they represent or are a part of. This movement is engaged in attacking homosexuals, beating and blackmailing them. 

Supposedly they did so with a guy from Shymkent*, beating, then killing him and burying his body so nobody would find him. Another guy was supposedly beaten down, but not killed in exchange for him paying them money so they would not kill or out him. All of that happened last year, and this year I was their first victim. They have not mentioned the name of this movement, and if they did I cannot remember, since I was dealing with other issues.

*Shymkent is a city in the South of Kazakhstan, which is much more conservative than many other cities in Kazakhstan.

I want to address the other victims of these scumbags. Guys, don’t stay silent. If you report the crime, these men will serve longer terms in jail. Going through all of this was a difficult decision, but we have been through so much already, that now justice is worth fighting for.


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