A professional MMA fighter in Kazakhstan has unleashed attacks on LGBTQ people. Now a gay soccer player and her girlfriend are afraid for their safety.
Kuat Khamitov, also known as Naiman, attacked an LGBTQ-supportive video in Instagram, saying in the comments that LGBTQ people are “worse than dogs,” adding that dogs should be offended by such a comparison. His supporters followed up with comments about LGBTQ people being worse than pigs.
The video, created by the British Embassy in Kazakhstan to honor the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, featured messages of support for the LGBTQ community from many ambassadors, including the American ambassador appointed by Donald Trump, William Moser.
LGBTQ activist Nurbibi Nurkadilova responded with an open letter to Khamitov, criticizing him for his disturbing statement.
“Why do you compare my human rights, the rights of a citizen of this country, with those of a dog?” She asked. “Do you consider me powerless? Or do you compare my mental development with the canine? Or maybe you wanted to draw a parallel between the fact that we also need to put on a chain like dogs? I do not fully understand your ridiculous and stupid statement!”
Nurkadilova said the response from Khamitov’s fans and others in her home country has been swift and deeply disturbing.
“I have received thousands of messages with threats and insults,” she told Outsports in an exclusive interview. “They are all in Russian and Kazakh but say, ‘You’ll burn in hell,’ ‘I will kill you,’ ‘You’re worse than an animal,’ ‘I’ll rape you,’ ‘You don’t belong in this country,’ ‘Go to America,’ ‘You’re the shame of the country,’ and other ugly comments. A normal person would be shocked.”
Days after the controversy erupted, Khamitov posted an image of himself stepping on and burning a Pride flag, saying in the caption that LGBTQ people disgrace the nation.
For Nurkadilova, that image was extremely damaging.
“I believe that Kuat Khamitov should not be allowed to participate in world competitions after such homophobic statements,” Nurkadilova told Outsports. “This is humiliating for the entire community. It can be considered as an incitement of violence against the LGBT community. And the saddest thing is that he has a large number of followers. They are ready to kill us because we are different.
LGBT rights in Kazakhstan are virtually non-existent. While same-sex sexual activity is not criminal, there is no recognition of relationships and zero discrimination protections. A 2015 report published by the Human Rights Watch described “a climate of fear” for LGBTQ people living in Kazakhstan.
Nurkadilova told Outsports she is particularly afraid for her girlfriend, who is a soccer player who has represented Kazakhstan on the national team as recently as last year.
“I’m afraid for her,” she said.
Nurkadilova has reached out to Dana White and UFC for comment, but it is customary for professional sports organizations to decline commenting on incidents by athletes who are not competing under their banner.
However, she said the Kazakhstan Mixed Martial Arts Federation and International Mixed Martial Arts Federation have both responded assuring her that Khamitov is not a member of their organizations.
Khamitov fights on Fight Nights Global, a Russian promotion that’s more likely to embrace than reject his violent, demeaning anti-LGBTQ messages.
The two women live together and are engaged to marry, though same-sex marriage isn’t legal, and there are no indications it will be legal in Kazakhstan any time soon.
While they are together, they have no idea what the near future holds. And they are scared.
“Our faces are now known to everyone,” Nurkadilova said. “And like Kuat, his followers are very aggressive and cruel. The biggest problem for us now is just to live a normal life. I can’t even go to work right now. We stay home. I don’t know what will happen next. I’m even afraid to plan anything. No one knows what to expect from these people. They are so aggressive.”