Isolation from society, sex work, threats…

Author: Aysu Ismayilova

My name is Aysu, I am a trans woman, and also forced to be a sex worker. Yes, forced to be a sex worker.

In this country, there is no job opportunity provided for trans women. That's why I became a sex worker to survive and meet the basic needs of my life. Some people may think that trans individuals live comfortably and make good money. The reality is different.

Since entering the sex work field, I have lost more than I have earned. First, I lost my family, then partially my freedom. I started to be isolated and distanced from society. When I walk on the street, I can feel the hatred and aggression in people's eyes.

If you can't see this transphobia and hatred, look at the news. In recent years, the number of hate crimes against the LGBTIQ+ community has increased in Baku. There is not a year without the killing of trans women, especially those engaged in sex work. There is always a constant threat of death hanging over their heads. Surviving from one day to the next is just a matter of chance. That's why I am afraid to accept clients into the apartment where I live. It is impossible to know in advance who is coming and what their intentions are. As sex workers, we deal with all kinds of people: drug addicts, alcoholics, and so on. We are forced to communicate and engage in sexual relations with such individuals.

Personally, I knew a trans woman named Aysun who was brutally stabbed six times in her own home by a client a few months ago simply because she was a trans woman.

Therefore, I am writing this blog to explain how difficult and unbearable it is to live as a trans woman in this country.

Image Caption: Protest slogan during the trial related to the murder of journalist and LGBTIQ+ activist Avaz Hafizli. July 4, 2022. Photo by: Ulviyya Guliyeva, VOA.


I was born and raised in one of the regions. I first came to Baku in 2013 when I entered Baku State University. It didn't take long for them to learn about my sexual orientation at the university, and I began to face unjust discrimination. My classmates, if not physically, were subjecting me to psychological violence, and the teachers remained silent on the matter.

Some teachers even spoke behind my back with students and mistreated me. Because of the difficulties I faced, partly due to financial problems, I had to drop out of university a year later.

I was looking for a job in a store; I started working as a salesperson there for a few months. But again, I faced the same attitude - insults and bullying, which eventually forced me to quit the job.

The next stop was a private postal company where I worked as a courier. I could only last with them for about four months. One day, the postal manager called me and said, "We are satisfied with your work, but we know that you are gay (at that time, I identified myself as gay), and this is not well received among the employees. Many say that you are disgusting and a dirty person, and they want you to leave," and they fired me.

Later, when I applied to other workplaces, I was not accepted.

My family already learned about my sexual orientation through the photos on my social media accounts. My parents came to Baku, forcibly took me back to the village I was born in, and kept me under house arrest for 4 months, not allowing me to leave home. Meanwhile, my father was trying to force me into a marriage.

Refusing to comply with my father, I had a confrontation with him, and one day, while everyone was at work, I fled home and headed to Baku. It was clear that I wouldn't be able to find a job easily, so I resorted to sex work to survive. This further strained my relationship with my family. After a year, neither my parents nor my brother spoke to me. Only my mother reconciled with me after a year, but the others still did not accept me.

September 2017

It was September 15th or 16th, 2017. Late at night, my friend and I were returning from the pharmacy when a police car blocked our way. When they asked if we had our identity cards, we said no. At that moment, they forced us into the car and took us to the police station. They told us that they would release us after clarifying our identities.

However, everything changed when we reached the station. This time, they told us that we had stolen from the house of a foreign citizen, and to investigate whether we were those individuals, we had to wait for that foreign citizen to come to the station.

Thus, we were told to wait, saying, "The person is on the way, coming."

In the morning, it turned out that there was no such thing. There was a mass raid against "sexual minorities" in Baku, and we were going to be sent to court. They forced us to write statements and took us to court. A swift trial took place, and the decision was made: 21 days in jail.

The insults, violence, and shaving our hair at the detention centre will never be forgotten. I witnessed them treating us as if we were not human, but rather like objects or animals. They behaved as they pleased, forcing us to clean the toilets and corridors of the institution and saying things like, "You are useless; you deserve everything I did to you today. If I had the opportunity, I would kill all of you right here."

They also brought food (if it can be said to be food) in 4-5 litre water containers and threw it on the table without bread and ordered us to divide it and eat it.

On the 18th day, in the cold weather, we were all released. After leaving there, I tried to escape from fear and stress by hiding in the house of a friend living in Hovsan for a few months.

A few months later, with the help of another trans friend, I was sent to Turkey. Because I thought it would be the same as Azerbaijan, I didn't try to find a job there. I started living in the house of an Azerbaijani gay acquaintance and engaged in sex work.

But one day, I fell victim to violence by an unknown person. He pointed a gun at me and said he would kill me if I did not do what he wanted. I experienced a nightmare that night. Within 4 hours, I was beaten with fists and kicks and subjected to continuous sexual violence without resistance.

In the end, he laughed and said, "You were born for this, you deserve everything I did to you today" and threw me out.

After that incident, I returned to Baku.

Difficulties and Aspirations

Continuing sex work in Baku forced me to close myself at home because neighbors complained to the police when they saw us leaving the house.

To prevent them from breaking up our home, I started living a closed life. Finding a place to live, establishing my comfortable life, and having my own home are distant dreams. I often have to change homes quickly. Because of the encounters with clients at the addresses I live in, there are frequent comings and goings to and from the building and my home, which attracts attention. When the neighbours saw me, they were worried that "petukhs" could not stay in their building, they should be removed from here as soon as possible. That's why they call the police, complain about us regularly, and kick us out of the house.

Many times, the police came to the addresses where I lived and threw me out on the street saying "the neighbours don't want you to stay here".

Tired of what happened to me, the way I was treated by my family and people because of my gender identity, I became depressed and attempted suicide twice.

I am currently 27 years old, and I spent 7 years as a forced sex worker. My youth is spent here and there, without belonging anywhere, in other people's houses and between four walls.

In the face of all these fears, dangers, threats, and deprivations, I continue to live with the dream that "one day I will have my own house and I will live my life as an ordinary woman, away from sex work."

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