Rights activists in the capital city of Baku have held an online pride parade to mark the 50th anniversary of the world-wide march and support freedom for LGBTQ+ people in Azerbaijan.
The organizers created an open map on Google Maps and "marchers" marked neighborhoods where they live with rainbow flags. The organizers and marchers said that their aim was to bring attention to serious human rights violations in the country.
“We did not give up. We still thought we had a chance to march proudly. We found a virtual way to come together. Despite the obstacles, we embraced the feeling of pride," a parade statement reads.
More than 250 people reportedly joined the online march.
Each year millions of people come together to march for the annual pride parade and festival. Though this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic many anniversary festivals were canceled or drew little amount of crowd.
Coronavirus reached Azerbaijan late February. A month later a special quarantine regime was enacted in the country's larger cities. Residents are to stay at home and leave their household only with police permission.
Due to the rising infection rates and death toll Azerbaijan extended the special quarantine regime until 1 August. The penalties for violating the quarantine rules were doubled.
Vahid Ali, the organizer of the pride parade in Azerbaijan, said in an interview with Meydan TV that it would have been impossible for him to hold a rally even if the country had not been hit by the coronavirus.
"It is not possible for us to march in the streets," Ali said.
“Therefore, I took the opportunity to hold an online parade. I created a map on Google Maps and made it accessible to everyone. First, I told my friends and acquaintances, and then they told those around them. Then there were those who saw it on social networks and supported it. Thus, the location of more than 250 people began to be marked on this map,” Ali added.
Vahid Ali has already closed the map with a fear that the marked map could be erased.
In 2020, ILGA-Europe again declared Azerbaijan the worst country in all of Europe for LGBTQ+ rights.
LGBTQ+ persons face high rates of violence, harassment and discrimination in the country, the rights group organization said.