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Stealing news from Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani Public TV channel Ictimai TV censored the question given by Reuters News Agency’s journalist to Loreen, Sweden’s representative for Eurovision.
The journalist asked about Loreen’s meeting with opposition groups, while the translator said she was asked about “how she feels after her performance”.
The Azeri version of the video can be found here.
On 28 June Diana Markosyan, photojournalist for Bloomberg, was held at Baku airport.
Emin Huseynov, director of Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, has been in contact with Markosyan, and tells AzadliqRadiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that Markosyan came to Baku in the early hours of 28 June, but was not permitted to go out of the airport. “Markosyan is dual citizen of America and Russia. She came to Baku with her Russian passport. Her documents are all in order.”
Elkhan Poluxov, head of the press office for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told AzadliqRadiosu that Markosyan did not have accreditation: “She sent her documents, presented herself. Bloomberg directors as well as Diana herself were told that her visit here would not be possible, the accreditation cannot go through – because problems may arise in accomodating her safety here. It was suggested that she be replaced by another journalist.”
Diana Markosyan told AzadliqRadiosu that she was told she will be deported to Istanbul at 8pm.
Photos taken by Markosyan have been published in newspapers such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
on 18 April 2011 Swedish journalists Charlie Laprevote, My Rohwedder Street and Charlotta Wijkström were held and deported from Baku, having come there to film a documentary about freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.
Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]
June 24 marks 56 years since the birth of Najaf Najafov – one of the leaders of the Azerbaijani national movement of the late 80s, founder and editor of the first independent newspaper in Azerbaijan today – “Azadliq”.
Najaf passed away on 17 December 1999, leaving a positive and bright memory in the minds of thousands of citizens of our country, as well as far beyond its borders.
Over the past 12 years many attempts have been made to assess the role and legacy of this man. It would be no exaggeration to say that Najaf Najafov laid the foundations of modern Azerbaijani journalism. He started these traditions during Soviet times, in the newspaper “Molodyozh Azerbaijana” (Youth of Azerbaijan) and continued them in “Azadliq” (Liberty).
This alone is enough to immortalize the name of this person. But perhaps Najaf’s biggest achievement was what he did to awaken our minds from totalitarian hibernation and transition them into values that are today known as universal and democratic.
“No man is a prophet in his own country” – the fate of this man just highlights the correctness of this expression and the principle of Thermidor, who was born during the French Revolution. He can also be compared to Gorky’s Danko, or the mythical Prometheus.
The fate of those who first think of others before themselves has many similarities. Such people rarely make a fortune, or live for their own pleasure. Their mission is self-sacrifice. Even if they try to be something different – pragmatic, shrewd – they feel uncomfortable. Self-sacrifice is a need, even a talent, for such people.
“The DNA carrier of integrity” – this is perhaps the best characterization of Najaf, by his colleague Israil Musaev.
I would characterize him as a passionary. Such people are rarely born, and their mission is to change the world (although passionaries are not often heroic characters.)
The philosophy of life and the world order are not built on the principles of justice and fairness. Passionaries and heroes stand at the forefront in difficult times, and are seen as holy and idolized. But difficulties pass and heroes become forgotten. Therefore, leaders and activists are often destined to imprisonment, persecution and suffering. Today’s political events are just more proof of this. The fate of Najaf is no exception.
Talented and gifted people are often born unnoticed and only when they part do we feel excruciating pain. The most common thought after that – how do we bring them back? Understanding that this intuitive sense is unrealizable, we recall what our mutual friend Hikmet Hajizadeh once said: “Najaf is gone, but one day a new Najaf will be born. This is the philosophy of life.”
Eynulla Fatullayev’s first published article since his release from prison.
I’ve been free for some time now. The idea of freedom seems far-fetched, strange, alien to my mind. I find it difficult to take freedom for granted, because my perception of it is still a struggle for freedom, which completely engulfed my consciousness in a place where there was no sun and moon, no sunrise and sunset, no life, no death…
I have lost all sense of time; it’s so hard, yet so easy for me to feel the call of the times again. Call of the times… I seem to understand that the primary blame is on the government. It took away my freedom. I fought for the future, they fought for the past – which always seems to be the present to them. Time and the burden of responsibility separate us, and between us is the deepest abyss: there lie the remains of our destroyed freedom.
Since the day I was freed, I have felt like the prisoner of some mythological, forced freedom. In my new life I am trying to find the answer to another question: can a person find freedom in an unfree country?
And how does someone who has found unexpected but sacred freedom continue to live in an unfree country? Maybe we are still unable to really grasp and understand freedom, the fundamental value of the grand old lady Europe, because we pine away and continue to suffer in the clutches of Asian rulers, armed as always with the Tatar Horde whip? But in our eyes, this bloody whip crackles and breaks up under the feet of Arab intelligentsia which, with a lungful of Europe’s freedom, decided to do away with the ghost of the despotic caliphate that once rebelled against the anointed lords, “saviors” and “liberators” of the enslaved peoples. So, it’s worth living and believing. Living and fighting. Maybe our faith will hasten the day of deliverance.
For now, we have the day of the deliverance of just one Azeri, one journalist, one person. From the day of my release, I have incessantly repeated this aphorism coined by Azeri dissidents:
“Unlike the European who continues to struggle for victory, the Azeri stops the fight after his first disappointment.”
We must learn from Europeans the philosophy of peaceful and nonviolent struggle for the triumph of our values – for someone who shares Azerbaijan and Europe is doomed to a terrible and monstrous oil curse.
I have been delivered and with a deep sense of gratitude I want to address my saviors – Thomas Hammarberg and Tornbornu Jagland, Miklos Haraszti and Dunja Mijatovic , Peter Semneby and Matthew Bryza, Amnesty International and the Norwegian Helsinki Group, and finally to all my colleagues from Western countries, and again I want to thank you – for helping me feel time, for helping me see the Sun…
Of course, had it not been for you, had it not been for the Council of Europe, perhaps someday, many years later, I would touch freedom. But with your help we brought that day closer – you did not let them erase me and turn me into dust. You turned a fairytale into reality.
So can a free man live in an unfree country? He can. If he believes in a fairytale where Evil never triumphs.
By Eynulla Fatullayev.
Original in Russian here [RFE/RL Blogs]
On 26 May president Ilham Aliyev signed a pardon decree. Editor-in-chief of “Realny Azerbaijan” and “Gundelik Azerbaycan” newspapers is among the 84 people on the list.
In an interview to Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service), Eynulla Fatulayev’s father Emin Fatullayev said how happy he was to hear that his son has been freed: “We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. We’re very happy. I will go to see him tomorrow.”
In an interview he gave to Azadliq Radiosu upon leaving prison, Eynulla Fatullayev said that he is still trying to process what has happened. He said that, considering the reality of the situation in Azerbaijan, the pardon is both miraculous and legally justified.
Fatullayev says that he did not address anyone for the pardon: “I never made a plea for a pardon, but two months ago I wrote a letter addressed personally to Ilham Aliyev. In that letter I mentioned our national moral values, and thought that he would release me after that. This is the first time I’ve spoken about this, and somewhere it prompted a reaction. In fact my release is a result of that immediate reaction.”
Eynulla Fatullayev thanked international and national organizations, journalists and public representatives for his freedom.
Upon being asked whether he will continue to be active as a journalist, he said that this does not depend on him: “If there is a guarantee on my life and activity, I will remain in Azerbaijan and work.”
Audronius Ažubalis (OSCE representative and Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs) and Dunja Mijatović (OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media) have welcomed the news of Eynulla Fatullayev’s pardon. Audroniuns Ažubalis said that this is an important signal to all countries within the OSCE, and called on all member states to comply with their commitments to freedom of the media and release all imprisoned journalists.
Matthew Bryza also phoned Eynulla Fatullayev to congratulate him upon his release.
Original in Azeri here [RFE/RL].
Last night Azerbaijan came first in the annual “money-spending” competition, EUROvision. I don’t want to say anything about the pair that represented the country. Good luck to the both of them.
10 million was spent on Safura last year. Those 10 million could have been spent on increasing teachers’ wages, or repairing orphanages. Even the crumbling walls, the wrecked toilets and the war-torn wards at Republic Hospital… Who knows how much they spent this year. How much they paid people to make sure Azerbaijan wins – that’s another question. Who gives a damn how much they spent anyway! As if the money would have been spent on us had it not been for Eurovision? It’s not like they ever increase wages or lay down pavements for the people’s welfare. Whatever they do, they do for themselves. The other day when I was going to Binagadi, about half way there (at that section of the road they were asphalting a road) a taxi driver said that a relative of Rovnag Abdullayev’s had died and was buried at Mehdiabad, and the last time he went to visit the grave he didn’t like the road the way it was and instantly said that it must be re-asphalted. Long story short, everything is for them.
I digress. The night they won, the streets of Baku were overflowing with people celebrating. People rejoiced, people cried. Some sent Turkish love songs to their high school sweethearts, with with whom they once shared a romantic Doner in the park; some called their mothers in tears of joy; but for the majority it was another night of hunger. Another night of falling asleep with the image of the shoes their father can’t, and never will, afford to buy them etched in their minds. Ilham Aliyev, on the other hand, rang Elik to congratulate him. As though in the last 8 years he has done everything but congratulate Elik.
If one day you tell those people who went wild on the streets, come – let’s demand out rights, they’ll look for a hole to crawl into.
Listening to interviews with people who took to the streets to celebrate these last couple of days confirmed that, the more you belittle them, the more you insult them, the better it is. There are some who say, “May we watch Eurovision in Shusha next year”, those who say “this is another step towards the liberation of Karabakh”… And there are those who say that this is a result of the successful home and foreign policy that Heydar Aliyev built and Ilham Aliyev carried through. I agree with the latter. This is the result of a successful home and foreign policy. This topic can be discussed for days on end, but it’s better if I leave it there.
Finally, our king managed to conquer Europe, too.
The saddest thing is that democracy was beaten by dictatorship… By monarchy…
Original in Azeri on Baxram’s Blog
Since the 2 April protest took place, Azerbaijani TV stations have incessantly been showing reports about the events. Reports that in no way reflect reality, but reports nonetheless. They show “ordinary citizens” (who are, in fact, members of pro-government ‘NGO’s) making statements about how wrong it is for Azeris abroad to call for protests, how un-Azeri, unpatriotic it is, and that we should all sit down and cry about Karabakh instead.
We see bandaged policemen in hospital beds, speaking with uncharacteristically fragile voices and pitiful faces, making generic statements about injuries and struggling to remember anything. Like scenes from a bad high school play.
Here is RFE/RL’s report about what the poor injured policemen had to say:
[Original in Azeri]
“They were shouting, beat the police! Hit the police! They had pieces of metal in their hands. They were out of control, attacking us.” Afat Nabiyev, sergeant of Nasimi district post patrol detachment, says he was injured during the 2 April protest organized by Ictimai Palata (Public Chamber, a coalition of opposition parties).
The sergeant refuses to consider that those who injured him were groups of saboteurs:
“No, no! There were even well-known people, you know, people we repeatedly see at these protests. They were at the head of this. Personally I have seen the person who hit me in the newspapers. I knew him. He was instructing people – beat the police, beat the public.”
Afat Nabiyev describes the person who attacked him: “He was bald, not too short, but not tall, normal [the interviewee says this and takes a deep breath – like a student who is having problems reciting the text he memorized]. They had broken glass, rocks in their hands. Metal pipes. They broke people’s shop windows, cars, with whatever they could get their hands on.”
A little later, Afat Nabiyev says that the person who attacked him was Arif Hajili, head of Musavat Party executive body. But he says this name laughing, so it is hard to tell whether he is joking or serious. The sergeant also does not know whether the person who beat him has been arrested or not.
Arif Hajili’s lawyer Asabali Mustafayev says that the policeman’s words are “inadmissible accusations”. According to him if Afat Nabiyev has any evidence, it should have been shown when Hajili was being arrested. Mustafayev adds that there was also no mention of this when Arif Hajili was being questioned in court. But Asabali Mustafayev does not rule out that his client could face more accusations:
“Arif Hajili was not part of the organizing bodies the protest. So it is ridiculous to accuse him of organizing it. Perhaps they want to change the charges.”
We ask the police sergeant Afat Nabiyev: “So how is it that the policemen are able to immediately catch all these protesters that were peacefully chanting slogans, but not those who attack the police or order people to attack them? How is it that this person was able to escape this encirclement of police?” The answer: “Nobody escaped us out of the people we detained. There was a big crowd. We couldn’t fight them all. It was a bit difficult.”
Afat Nabiyev recalls what happened: “I was injured during the unrest on the 2nd [of April]. They kicked me in my back, I was on the floor. Right next to the Conservatory, near the park. Where the crowd was gathering. That’s where they kicked me. My back was hurt. I fell to the ground. Seeing this, my coworkers took me away. When I woke up, I saw that I’m in the emergency room. My back was hurt, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t feel my legs.”
Elshan Nuriyev, operations representative of Nasimi district 22nd police station, says:
“On the 2nd, while I was on duty, someone at Fountain Square suddenly attacked us. As they attacked they shouted, the police have to be attacked, they have to be beaten. We were injured as a result of their attack, I mean a few policemen. And I was one of them.”
The police major cannot tell what he was hit on the head with: “It was a crowd. They had pieces of metal wrapped in newspaper in their hands. With a rock… They hit me on the head with something. But I can’t tell what with, exactly.”
Elshan Nuriyev also excludes any possibility that the attackers were saboteurs:
“It was an unsanctioned rally. There couldn’t be sabotage there.”
Sergeant Majid Yusifov, who is being treated in hospital, has an almost identical story: “There were about 30-40 of them, in front of “Nizami” theater. We were trying to stop it. As we entered the crowd, they hit us with something from behind. I didn’t even know what. When I woke up I was already at the hospital. My head was injured, I’ve had six stitches. I’ve been in resuscitation for three days now.”
On 2 April, 24 policemen went to the hospital at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 13 of them were hospitalized. Head of the traumatology department at the hospital Vitaly Maharramov told Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that two of them were in a serious condition and were taken into resuscitation and that the patients are now in satisfactory condition.
Head of the Azerbaijan Committee Against Torture Elchin Behbudov says that he followed the proceedings on 2 April along with his coworkers – at Nizami street, Fountain Square, and near the Jafar Jabbarli monument.
He says that during the monitoring, he only saw one policeman with injuries to the head, but did not see who injured the policeman.
Deputy head of Musavat Party Mehman Javadoghlu says that no calls were made on people to attack policemen or show resistance to them.
According to information given by Ictimai Palata, there were also plenty of protesters who were inured: Tofig Yagublu, Musafa Hajili, Ahad Mammadli, Tazakhan Miralamli, Tural Abbasli, Khalig Bahadir, Yashar Turkazar, Ramin Bakhish and others. A full list has not been prepared yet. But some of this information was registered at the temporary detention center.
Journalist from Azadliq newspaper Ramin Deko says that on 3 April at around 10am, three plainclothesmen took him to the Mashtagha area. He told Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that throughout the journey they were advising him to “be smart”. Later, he says, until 4pm he was held in an unknown house and had to listen to people praising the government’s politics. He adds that they mentioned his activeness during the opposition protests and advised him to stop taking part in this:
“They said to me that, we’re giving you advice: work for “Yeni Azerbaijan” newspaper, then good conditions will be created for you. They didn’t use physical force on me, but they pressured me morally. I was seated into a car – a 2107 “Jiguli” – as I was buying a newspaper from a kiosk, and my phone was taken away and switched off immediately.
Ramin Deko says that about six hours later he was released in the Binagadi area, out of a car of a foreign model: “They brought me in a black foreign car. On the way they said that, if you behave yourself, if you leave “Azadliq” newspaper, you’ll have a car like this too.”
He says he has not yet decided whether he will complain to human rights protection organs, but is preparing to address Rights Defense Institute.
Orkhan Mansurzada, Head of the Press Office department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, says that if such an incident occurred, the journalist must contact a local police station or call 102 so that an investigation is made.
Note: on the night of 25-26 March Seymur Haziyev, also from Azadliq newspaper, says he was kidnapped and beaten by 6 masked thugs.
Minister of Internal Affairs Ramil Usubov said that he would discuss the issue with the journalist personally in a meeting.
On his way home from work on 4 April at around 21:20 local time, Ramin Deko says he was beaten by two unidentified men near the National Academy of Science. He says he got injuries of various gravity, and was able to save himself by running away. He says that once again he was told to not participate in opposition protests and to “be smart”.
“My shirt was torn, they hit me in the face and kidneys. I saved myself from them by running away. I just returned to Azerbaijan publishing house, to Azadliq newspaper’s editorial office. I’m just sitting down waiting to see what to do, where to go, I don’t know.”
Azadliq newspaper’s website has been under a hacker attack.
Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL) got this information from the site’s web-editor, Ali Rza. He says that the server has been artificially overloaded.
An official from the newspaper says that work is under way to fix the problem. The hacked site redirects to porn sites.
After coming out of solitary confinement on 31 March, Eynulla Fatullayev wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov. His lawyer Anar Gasimov informs Azadliq Radiosu: “In the letter, Eynulla asks the minister for a helmet, a stab-proof vest, and a firearm. Basically he is asking the minister for a guard so as to ensure his safety.”
Anar Gasimov says that by staying in solitary confinement for a month, Eynulla was trying to protest the injustices against him, but this had no result. He adds that if Eynulla is not freed, he will petition for the court to allow him to serve the remaining part of the sentence with a light punishment.
Editor-in-chief of “Gundelik Azerbaycan” (AZ: Daily Azerbaijan) and “Realny Azerbaijan” (RU: Real Azerbaijan) newspapers Eynulla Fatullayev has been in prison for four years.