Article by Leyla and Arif Yunus.
June 28, 2018 was exactly 40 years from the date of our marriage. But we did not celebrate this date. We now live not in our native Baku, where we regularly arranged happy family holidays, celebrated anniversaries in the circle of loved ones where we could visit the graves of our parents … In April 2016 we were forced to leave our homeland to save our life and health so as not to leave our daughter Dinara orphaned.
We started to fight for human rights, for freedom even in the USSR: the KGB attracted Arif to justice back in 1976, and Leyla was a member of the underground “Movement of National Minorities Against the Bolsheviks”, one of the founders of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were full of hope that we will live in an independent and democratic Azerbaijan. But since 1993 the country was managed by the former head of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and General of the KGB of the USSR Heydar Aliyev. Relying on the old party nomenclature, Heydar Aliyev created a tough authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan. Having replaced his father in 2003 as president, Ilham Aliyev began to suppress even more cruelly the rights and freedoms of citizens by establishing a dictatorial regime in Azerbaijan. Every five years, Ilham Aliyev arranges performances called “elections” to be legally established as president for the next term. And from this year 2018 the Aliyev family will already rule for 7 years without number of times … In fact, as uncrowned eastern sultans …
What we, the citizens of Azerbaijan, have acquired for a quarter of a century of the Aliyevs in Azerbaijan – a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Complete lack of freedom of choice – all elections in Azerbaijan (presidential, parliamentary, municipal) are held in the same scenario. The results of the “election” of the president, or rather – how many votes were given to Aliyev and how many of his opponents are predetermined in the Presidential Administration. In the same place in advance determine the future lists of deputies of both the parliament and municipalities. The Central Election Committee fully controlled by the authorities only approves these “results”, and theatrical actions called “elections” are organized for international observers.
Complete lack of separation of power into executive, legislative and judicial. It is the absence of independent courts that ensures the “success” of political repression and increases the number of political prisoners.
Lack of freedom of speech – in 2015-2016. the last independent printed publications were closed. At the same time, they are punished and arrested for criticizing the policy of the authorities not only journalists, but also bloggers, as well as all citizens who allowed themselves to write criticisms on their Facebook page. It is noteworthy that even a special expression appeared in relation to these prisoners – “prisoners of facebook”.
But even with such complete suppression of all rights and freedoms, Azerbaijani citizens and civil society activists continued to work, cooperated with international organizations, sent reports with complete information about violation of the legislation by both national and international law enforcement and judicial bodies of Azerbaijan. Our Institute of Peace and Democracy (IMD) has been compiling lists of political prisoners since 1995 and is doing everything possible to attract international attention to the victims of legal arbitrariness. The draft resolution “Political prisoners in Azerbaijan” of the special rapporteur of the PACE, German deputy Christopher Strasser, was written on the basis of numerous facts and evidence presented to our IMD reporter. We were confident that after the adoption of this important resolution we will be able, based on it, to demand the release of our political prisoners
And suddenly on January 23, 2013 at the PACE session, the factions “Democrats of Europe” and “Left Europe” openly opposed the resolution of K. Strasser and stated that they would not vote for it. The Spanish MP Pedro Agramunt – one of the two co-rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Committee on Azerbaijan twice spoke at the PACE session against the resolution of K. Strasser. 125 deputies voted “against” the adoption of the resolution, 79 – voted “for”.
After the publication in April 2018 of the report of the independent committee for investigating the facts of corruption in PACE, we became aware of details of the bribery of the PACE deputies by the Azerbaijani authorities with the aim of failing the resolution of K. Strasser “Political prisoners in Azerbaijan”, a lot has become clear and understandable.
And then we were stunned by this failure of such an important resolution. In fact, PACE in January 2013 lit a “green light” the most brutal repression in Azerbaijan. Already on February 4, 2013, the leader of the opposition movement REAL Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu – a journalist and activist of the Musavat Party were arrested. Ilgar Mammadov continues to remain in custody at the present time. Despite the European Court’s 2 judgments on its immediate release
The fact that the PACE ignited the “green light” of repression was well understood in 2013, but we received only concrete information about the fact that this light was not lit for free, only five years later. Spending about 3 billion euros on bribing European politicians and deputies, the authorities were preparing for the most powerful sweep of the opposition, as well as institutions of civil society and dissenters.
The coming of 2014 did not bode well. In January, Ilham Aliyev spoke in Brussels at a NATO meeting and said that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The very next day our IMD held a press conference and presented a detailed report on the number of political prisoners and thus we showed the falsity of Ilham Aliyev’s statement. The dictator’s reaction was predictable-in August 2014 our names were on the updated list of political prisoners. Leila was arrested on July 30, and Arif on Aug. 5, 2014. For more than 30 years, we have been dealing with the problems of political prisoners and understood through what kind of trials we will have to go through in custody. However, to know and to experience is different things …
Like every dictator, Ilham Aliyev uses the image of an external enemy in suppressing the rights of citizens. Accused of spying for Armenia, it was in detention that we saw the racist (Nazi) face of the Aliyev regime. Every day on all channels of Azerbaijani television there were broadcasts about Arif’s presence of Armenian blood, showed his mother, an Armenian by origin, and called for our physical destruction as the worst enemies of the Azerbaijani people. We will not describe what violence and abuse Leila was subjected to after such broadcasts by criminals and with the assistance of supervisors. Especially cruel tortured Arif. He was imprisoned in a solitary confinement cell of the secret prison of the Ministry of National Security and for 14 months was deprived of any communication with the outside world. He received no information (neither newspapers, nor phone calls, nor visits to relatives) and was subjected to severe torture. During the first two months after the arrest, every night from 01 to 05 am he was taken from a single small cell (2 x 3 meters) and descended into the basement, where he was hung up and beaten, and subjected to other forms of torture. But we survived and were released due to the attention of the international community. However, they lost their health. Arif still suffers from the consequences of severe torture in the basement. To get rid of him, as indicated in his medical record, unexpected and unclear pain attacks (on the nape of his head (he was often beaten on the back of the head) by European doctors …
And what about those prisoners whose names are little known? How many years have they remained in custody? How many innocent people are killed before they are released? In our list of political prisoners there are people who have been sitting for 20 years, there are those who have been sitting for more than 10 years.
On July 7, 2018, the sister of one of the “Facebook prisoners” Ilkin Rustamzade, arrested in May 2013 and serving an eight-year sentence on fictitious charges, handed over his letter to the journalists. This letter can not be read without tears. Ilkin writes that at the 6th year of imprisonment, he first decided to write about the humiliations and tortures to which he has been subjected for the sixth year in colony No.13. In April 2018, in custody he was operated to remove the cyst from the spine, but after the operation he was not allowed to remain in the sanitary unit. Ilkin quotes the prison doctor: “I know that you were operated on and your condition is not good, but you were instructed from above: not to leave you in the sanitary unit”. Ilkin writes that he is not sure that he has a future.
And on July 8, 2018, the information of the wife of another “prisoner of facebook” Rashad Ramazanov, also arrested in May 2013, appeared on the website of the newspaper “Azadlig” (“Freedom”), banned for publication. and sentenced to 9 years in prison. The wife tells her husband what violence and torture he is subjected to in colony No. 2: beatings, deprivation of food and water and regular imprisonment in the punishment cell by order of the deputy head of the colony Shakir Ganiev.
Both Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustamzadeh are recognized by Amnesty International as “prisoners of conscience”. It is these honest, conscientious citizens who are killed in prison by the executioners of the regime.
We regularly delete from the list not only those who were released, but also those who died in custody. Most often they die from torture. When joining the Council of Europe in 2001, Azerbaijan took a special obligation: to punish the perpetrators of torture of law enforcement officers. However, over the past years, no law enforcement officers have been punished. And every year at least 5-7 people die under torture each year.
However, mass arrests and killings of citizens in May-July 2017 surpassed all previous crimes of the regime.
On May 7, 2017, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service of Azerbaijan issued a joint statement indicating the identification of a group of servicemen and civilians who transferred “military reasons” for military secret information to the intelligence and special organs of the Armed forces of Armenia.
Already on May 7, there were mass arrests in the front-line regions. At the same time, not only servicemen were subjected to arrests, but also local residents. Most of the arrests were in the Terter region of Azerbaijan. On May 7-8, the media received information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs about the number of people arrested: 47 people only during the day, without indicating the names of detainees. Later, the transfer of information about the number of arrested people in the media was stopped. According to unofficial data, up to 400 citizens were arrested from the frontline areas by May 17.
People were taken from home, from service. At the same time, none of the detainees (!) Was provided with a lawyer, there were no trials that passed a decision to select a preventive measure on officially charged charges.
On May 16, information was received about the first tortured to death citizens. IMD has accurate information about six citizens killed under torture without trial: Mehman Telman oglu Huseynov, Sakhavat Binnyatov, Saleh Sharif ogdu Gafarov, Elchin Guliyev, Tamkin Nizamioglu and Dayandur Azizli.
We talked with relatives tortured to death under torture. Parents of the 19-year-old D. Azizli told that they managed to see the body of their son. His face was severely disfigured after the brutal torture ….
On April 11, 2018, after another performance called “elections”, Ilham Aliyev was re-elected to a new, already 7-year term. And already in May, that is, only a month later, a new wave of repressions swept the country. From May 7 to May 25 there were arrests of citizens whose guilt consisted in collecting money to help political prisoners and organizing the transfer of food. Currently, more than 150 political prisoners continue to be in Aliyev dungeons. Families of many of them are deprived of any income due to lack of work. They can not bring food to their relatives in prison. For years these people are deprived of meat, fruits, vegetables … Therefore, representatives of civil society volunteer to help such poor families of political prisoners. And for this they were themselves arrested …
Arrested in May 2018, Salekh Rustamov, Vidadi Rustamov, Agil Maharramov, Babek Hasanov, Ruslan Nasirov are forced to give confessions in imperfect crimes. In their attitude, in violation of national and international legislation, a preventive measure was chosen – 4 months of imprisonment. During the brutal torture of 57-year-old Salekh Rustamov knocked out teeth in the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic. But, despite the torture, the arrested person refuses to sign the confession in a false accusation: “the drug trade in a large amount.” They continue torturing him ….
And on July 4, 2018, the police crossed all possible limits: the police themselves distributed on the social networks pictures of the lying on the floor in the blood, arrested on July 3 by Yunis Safarov. Y. Safarov is accused of attempting to the mayor of Ganja city, he was arrested immediately after the shots he had fired at the mayor of the city and his bodyguard (both were alive, having been injured). And the very next day after the arrest, the police themselves distributed photos of the brutally beaten Safarov in order to intimidate the population, to show how they treat the arrested …
However, the reaction from the public was not what the police expected. In social networks, which are currently the only opportunity for citizens of the country to receive and disseminate information, the attempt on the life of an official was called “the national hero-avenger”. Mayor of Ganja Elmar Veliyev repeatedly committed acts of violence against residents of Ganja and Safarov began to be called Azerbaijani Robin Hood and condemned torture by the police. The leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs hastened to say that the photos distributed in Facebook do not belong to Yunis Safarov. But quickly realized her mistake and the next day the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs published a statement that it was Y. Safarov in the photos, but … this criminal was beaten during detention, as he resisted.
Actually confirming the facts of torture, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stimulated the creation of a movement in support of Yunis Safarov. And then the authorities sharply changed their policy: on July 6 a joint statement of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service followed that a terrorist attack on the part of the radical Islamist Yuri Safarov was carried out in Ganja! At the same time, the leaders of the security forces made from Y. Safronov (who received a higher education in Moscow) simultaneously a Shiite who had taken special courses in Iran, and a Sunni who had managed to fight in Syria as part of IGIL. Moreover, the military prosecutor made a statement, pointing out that Safarov’s mother is an Armenian and, at the same time, an employee of the Russian special services!
Such behavior of the Azerbaijani authorities is very characteristic. They torture, beat a person, violate the laws of the country and international law. In order to justify this violence in the eyes of the international community, they call the victim of torture an Islamic terrorist. In order to get support from the citizens of Azerbaijan, they expose him as an Armenian … .. And this technique works …
And on July 9, 2018, two journalists who allowed themselves to write about the case of Y. Safarov on the websites (“criminalaz.com” and “bastainfo.com”) were summoned to the prosecutor’s offices for an initiated criminal case under Article 313 (official forgery, that is, deliberate publication false information) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Communications blocked four Internet sites.
A new wave of repression has begun: they began to arrest people throughout Azerbaijan, those who had ever met Safarov knew him. In one day on July 9, 11 people were arrested on criminal charges. Also during July 7-9, 30 citizens were detained, who discussed the case of Yu. Safarov on their pages in Facebook. 14 citizens were immediately convicted administratively for 10-25 days. And on July 10 in the center of the city of Ganja there have already been clashes of citizens with the police …
Innocent people, the best citizens of their country are taken away day and night, they are beaten, tortured and killed, and the dictator sanctioning these terrible crimes receives invitations from world leaders who warmly greet him, shake hands, conclude advantageous contracts, agreements ….
In the coming days, the dictator of Azerbaijan will be in Paris. He will be received at the Elysee Palace, he will be warmly smiled, firmly squeezed by his hands smeared with blood of innocent victims … ..
Yes, we survived. But we will not return to our homeland. Our Baku is under the occupation of the bloody Aliyev regime. And thousands of citizens flee the country every year in search of political asylum …
How can you resist this bloody dictatorship? What can you do in these conditions “real politician”?
Leila and Arif Yunus