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23-Nov-2017 15:59

Yet there is internet that goes far beyond the borders.

There is no gay scene here as people live in paranoid fear of police intrusion into their personal lives if they step out of line and cause any social or political ruffle.

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One of the first things we noticed arriving in Tashkent were the numbers of policemen–on the streets, at subway entrances and down in subway stations (where photos are forbidden), in public markets, patrolling pedestrian underpasses of main roads, on major bridges over rivers, cruising the streets in cars and jeeps.

They mean business here since this is essentially a police state with zero tolerance for pushing back against political suppression or taunting the authorities with a flash mob rally for gay rights.

There is no visibility because there is no chance to be visible. One day as we sat at a cafe having tea and cake we were seated two tables away from a pair of policemen having coffee when suddenly they were alerted to a problem and sprang from their seats and ran off to deal with the disturbance. All policemen carry a hand gun and a phone device so if there is anything unusual a dozen policemen will be on the scene within minutes.

Suspicion and paranoia of ‘non-normative’ behavior, whether real or not, manifests today in the ever vigilant watch guards in public–not to mention covert surveillance by security forces This creates a milieu of fear that is unsettling for LGBT people.

If our (straight) driver was nervous about my taking photos of bridges or tunnels, at a long distance in a moving car where being seen as very unlikely, then being seen as queer is uppermost in the mind of every LGBT citizen living in Uzbekistan’s cities and villages.But I have read that police occasionally use internet sting operations to bust gays. During our three weeks of traveling around Uzbekistan (by car, train, bus and plane; sorry no camels) we traveled as a couple with no questions asked–that is, until one of our several designated tour drivers, Serge, a 60ish former officer in the army, chauffeured us to a historic site for viewing.