“We will not be scared off by imprisonment or punishment. They may arrest us, but they can’t break us. Freedom of speech is our right, as it is the right of everyone. We will continue our struggle.” – Jabbar Savalan
Jabbar Savalan, an Azerbaijani student who spent almost 11 months in prison for a Facebook post, has been released! He was freed after receiving a presidential pardon on December 26th.
Obviously the release of a prisoner of conscience is always a cause for celebration. We are delighted for Jabbar and his family. It is important now that his conviction is quashed and his reputation restored.
His case was part of Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon, during which hundreds of thousands of people in over 80 countries come together and take action to demand that peoples’ rights are respected. Over one million appeals were made as part of the 2011 marathon prior to Jabbar Savalan’s release.
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When you log onto Facebook, you might expect to hear from long-lost friends or to see pictures from the latest family reunion. Maybe you follow Amnesty on Facebook or Twitter, read and comment on this blog, or keep a blog yourself.
But when you log off at the end of the day, you probably don’t expect the police to come knocking on your door. For people in some countries, that’s exactly what can happen. A 2011 study by Freedom House examining 37 countries found that 23 of them had arrested a blogger or internet user for their online posts. These encroachments on internet freedom – regardless of laws – come at a time of explosive growth in the number of internet users worldwide. Governments are clearly terrified because they know that information is power.
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Remember how everyone sent birthday cards to prisoner of conscience Jabbar Savalan when he turned 20 in September? We’ve continued campaigning for his release, and the cards were intended to remind him that although he is in prison serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on trumped-up charges to punish him for his peaceful anti-government activities (using Facebook to call for protests against the Azerbaijani government), he is not alone.
Well, tomorrow (October 18th) Azerbaijan celebrates its own 20th birthday, of independence from the former Soviet Union, so we’re stepping up with a new action to remind the authorities they can’t suppress peaceful protest through bogus charges and jail sentences. We know from our Twitter action for Eynulla Fatullayev that we can have an impact in Azerbaijan and our messages will be read.
So today we’re starting a global twitter action with several other Amnesty sections calling for Jabbar Savalan’s release. Send a message to the President of Azerbaijan – @presidentaz on Twitter. Here are some sample messages for you to use:
I’m calling on @presidentaz to release #Jabbar Savalan, locked up in #Azerbaijan for a #facebook post!
@presidentaz, Please release 20-year-old #Jabbar Savalan, arrested for using #facebook to call for peaceful protest in #Azerbaijan!
Then please send this tweet to share our twitter action with your contacts:
Join @amnesty in calling for the release of 20-year-old #Jabbar Savalan, jailed in #Azerbaijan for a #facebook post!
Don’t have a Twitter account? Why not join Twitter and give our action a try? You’ll also find it’s a great way to keep up-to-date with our campaign work!
Alternatively, you could share the message above on President Aliyev’s public Facebook page. Copy the text from the sample tweets above and add it as a comment to his latest update.
For more detail on Jabbar’s case, and to keep up to date with new actions in the campaign for his freedom, visit www.amnestyusa.org/freejabbar or join the Free Jabbar Savalan page on Facebook.
Jabbar Savalan behind bars after making a comment critical of the government on Facebook
Back in February, we told you about 19-year-old Jabbar Savalan, a student activist from Azerbaijan who had been arrested after he posted on Facebook calling for protests against the government.
In May, Jabbar Savalan was convicted on bogus charges and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
This Sunday, September 4th 2011 Jabbar will turn 20 years old in prison. On his birthday we want Jabbar to know that he has the support of people all over the world.
Send him birthday cards showing your solidarity or post a birthday greeting on our Facebook page that we’ll deliver to Jabbar. Let Jabbar know that he’s not alone and that we’re taking action to ensure he won’t have to spend another birthday behind bars.
You can also send a message to the President of Azerbaijan urging him to immediately and unconditionally release Jabbar from prison.
Join the “Free Jabbar Savalan” Facebook page
Eynulla Fatullayev © Private
Just days after Amnesty activists organized a mass social media push to free imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev last month, he was finally freed on May 26th.
Eynulla wanted us to pass on this letter to everyone who worked for his release to express his deepest thanks for your support.
To all Amnesty International activists
I am a former prisoner of conscience – Eynulla Fatullayev. The other day I regained my cherished liberty, thanks to the efforts of the international community. I’m absolutely confident that it was your support and tireless struggle for my rights that enabled me to return to my life.
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Azerbaijan’s pardoning of its most celebrated journalist behind bars and Armenia’s release of all of its jailed oppositions is good news. But both ex-Soviet countries have a terrible record of women’s rights, and things seem to be getting worse.
Zaruhi Petrosian, a victim of domestic violence in Armenia
Armenia, for one, is the only country in the South Caucasus (which is made up of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) without legislation on domestic violence. An ongoing trial of a man who murdered his wife is still being dragged while the woman’s mother-in-law, reportedly also involved in the killing, is free.
In November 2008, Amnesty International issued a report on domestic abuse in Armenia stating that more than a quarter of women in Armenia have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members. Many of these women have little choice but to remain in abusive situations as reporting violence is strongly stigmatized in Armenian society.
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Just days after Amnesty activists organized a mass social media push to free imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, he was released on May 26th!
An outspoken Azerbaijani journalist, Eynulla has long been targeted by a government intolerant of dissent. Despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that found Eynulla wrongfully imprisoned, he has been jailed since 2007 on a series of trumped up charges, including defamation, terrorism and incitement to ethnic hatred.
Amnesty activists around the world have taken many creative approaches to pushing for the release of Eynulla Fatullayev. But this past week, we tried something new–we joined a global Amnesty Twitter action for Eynulla. Activists took to Twitter with photos and messages aimed at the President of Azerbaijan with the message “Free Eynulla Fatullayev!” (or in Azeri: “Eynulla Fatullayevi azad et”).
Sample tweet to free Eynulla
Although we welcome the news of Eynulla’s pardon and release, we have to see how the government follows through and we remain concerned about his safety and the safety of other journalists in Azerbaijan. We’ll keep you posted.
Thanks again for all of your actions on behalf of Eynulla!
Amnesty supporter participates in Eynulla Fatullayev Twitter campaign
An outspoken Azerbaijani journalist, Eynulla Fatullayev, has long been targeted by a government intolerant of dissent.
Despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that found Eynulla wrongfully imprisoned, he has been jailed since 2007 on a series of trumped up charges, including defamation, terrorism and incitement to ethnic hatred.
Fatullayev is not only a prisoner of conscience, but also a defender of human rights and a peace activist. He is one of a few Azerbaijani citizens to call for dialogue with Armenians of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
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Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan has again denied international access to the site where the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery, Djulfa, existed until 2005.
“On his first official trip outside Baku in his current position,” informs the US Embassy, “Ambassador [Matthew] Bryza sought to travel to Djulfa to investigate the cemetery where Armenian Khachkars were reportedly destroyed in 2005, an act that has prompted protests by the European Parliament, international archaeological bodies, and civil society organizations.” The ambassador’s request to visit Djulfa was denied.
Despite video and satellite evidence of the deliberate destruction of the sacred graveyard, Azerbaijan maintains that ancient Armenian khachkars – intricately carved burial monuments, were not destroyed or that they didn’t exist in the first place.
The craftsmanship of Armenian khachkars is a UNESCO intangible heritage tradition. The largest assemblage of khachkars was at Djulfa, an area now part of Azerbaijan. Every single Djulfa khachkar was reduced to dust in December 2005 to purge the symbol and proof of ancient Armenian heritage there. My Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan blog series discussed the scope of this human rights violation in Azerbaijan.
While the world’s attention is on the continuing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan is intensifying its oppression of dissent. In the words of our latest release:
Ahead of a 2 April protest organized by opposition political parties through Facebook, the authorities have today detained at least 11 prominent political activists, echoing the pre-emptive methods they used to suppress protests on 11 and 12 March.
The wave of arrests began on 29 March when Nazim Abbasli from the Azerbaijan Democrat Party was arrested and given five days’ administrative detention.
Today two members of the youth wing of opposition party Musavat, Elchin Salimov and Rauf Mammadov, were arrested today by police and questioned about the 2 April rally. Elchin Samalov was sentenced to seven days administrative detention.
Police have also questioned the family of Musavat member Idris Emiraslanli in an attempt to ascertain his whereabouts.
Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ilham Huseynli, APFP members Karim Mehdiyev, Mehdi Mehdiyev and Nemat Aliyev, Classical Popular Front Party member Yagub Babanli, and youth activists Khalid Amanli, Rovshan Nasili, and Tabriz Qasimov were all arrested today and remained in custody this evening.
In the meantime, pro-government figures held a spontaneous rally outside the home of opposition leader Ali Karimli. They chanted that he was a traitor and a homosexual, while police stood by and watched.
While there are a number of detained and imprisoned activists in Azerbaijan, the case of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev stands out for priority campaigning. His articles have landed him charges of terrorism and treason, while he courageously continues his fight behind bars. Please click here for a sample letter to support prisoner of coscience and human rights defender Eynulla Fatullayev.