Eynulla Fatullayev Pardoned!

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!

Tweet to Free Eynulla Fatullayev

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.


More Arrests 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.

Azerbaijan Doesn't Like Your Facebook Status

Jabbar Savalan has been jailed for two months pending trial on drugs charges © IRFS

The three-week grassroots protest in Egypt that brought down thirty years of autocracy in the land of the pyramids has authoritarian Azerbaijan, among others, worried.

Amnesty International’s latest statement on Azerbaijan – which, ironically, has a statue of Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian-Azerbaijani Friendship park in capital Baku – details the arrest of a youth activist:

Jabbar Savalan, a 20 19-year-old student, was arrested [on his way home from a political meeting and charged with “possessing narcotics with intent to supply”] in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan, after his Facebook status called for a “Day of Rage” in Freedom Square in Baku, echoing the calls for protest in the Middle East.


On the evening of 5 February he was interrogated without a lawyer, in violation of Article 19 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Procedure Code, and pressured into signing a confession which he has since retracted…. Police reportedly told him that his punishment had already been decided “at the highest level”. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Let the People Speak

This post is part 3 of 3 of Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan series

“A medieval cemetery regarded as one of the wonders of the Caucasus has been erased from the Earth in an act of cultural vandalism likened to the Taleban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan,” reflected the London Times after independent journalist Iddrak Abbasov in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan confirmed in April 2006 that the world’s largest historic Armenian cemetery had vanished.

When Mr. Abbasov returned to the exclave of Nakhichevan – where Djulfa existed – to investigate other human rights violations, he was interrogated, harassed, accused of being an Armenian spy, and instructed never to return to the region. Abbasov’s interrogation was mentioned in our 2009 “Azerbaijan: Independent Journalists under Siege” report. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Breaking News: Let the Satellite Stream

This post is part 2 of 3 of Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan series

When reports emerged in December 2005 that Azerbaijan was deliberately destroying (see the tape) the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery at Djulfa with its intricately carved burial stones called khachkars, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev said the news was “an absolute lie.” Five years later, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released before-and-after satellite image analysis which states that the “the entire area [of the cemetery] has been graded flat.”

Below are top ten reasons why you should take action to tell UNESCO – the international body charged with protecting world heritage – to hold Azerbaijan accountable for Djulfa’s destruction:

Satellite data showing the Djulfa cemetery partly destroyed in 2003 (left) and “graded flat” by 2009 (right); read the complete study on the AAAS website.


Let the Stones Scream

This post is part 1 of 3 of Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan series

One of many snapshots from a video taped at the Iranian-Azerbaijani border in December 2005, this image shows a truck dumping deliberatey destroyed celebrated khachkars of the Djulfa cemetery into the River Araxes

Five years ago this month an ancient cemetery in a remote region of southerwestern Azerbaijan was wiped off the face of the earth. The unique and intricately carved tombstones of the cemetery known as khachkars, literally cross-stones in Armenian (the craftsmanship of which is a UNESCO Intangible Heritage tradition), were seen as the latest victims of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict materialized in the early 1990s war over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But their destruction was also a broader violation of human rights – not only against ethnic Armenians but all citizens of Azerbaijan who were denied a chance to explore and appreciate an often inconvenient history.

While the Karabakh war, ceased in 1994, destroyed thousands of lives and damaged cultural monuments on both sides (each side equally denying their own responsibility in the casualties), the destruction of the Djulfa cemetery in December 2005 was unique because it took place after the war in a region called Naxçivan (or Nakhichevan) where no skirmishes had taken place (and where ethnic Armenians live no longer). The deliberate destruction of Djulfa was more like a war against history: a calculated act of ruling out a future return of the Armenian heritage by denying its indigenous existence in the first place.


Azerbaijan: Both 'Donkey Bloggers' Are Free!

It is rare to have back-to-back good news on human rights from Azerbaijan. This week is an exception, though. Remember how the Amnesty International USA intern, born in Azerbaijan, shared her happy tears with us about her friend Adnan Hajizade’s release yesterday? Well, there is more cause for celebration – Adnan’s colleague and fellow digital dissenter and prisoner of conscience Emin Abdullayev Milli is also a free man.

‘Donkey bloggers’ Adnan and Emin reunited after release (via Global Voices Online)

While Adnan’s and Emin’s release is great news, Azerbaijan has a long way to come clean with the oppression of dissenters, including that of the ‘Donkey bloggers.’ The young bloggers’ fabricated conviction of hooliganism (which was actually for a YouTube video in donkey-suit mocking corruption in Azerbaijan), for one, must be overturned. And, most urgently, Azerbaijan must release imprisoned journalist and human rights defender (I would also add, peace activist) Eynulla Fatullayev.

Azerbaijan: Blogger and Prisoner of Conscience Released!

Adnan Hajizade, a blogger imprisoned in Azerbaijan, is now a free man! Shabi, an Amnesty International USA intern who was born in Azerbaijan, sent out the following email this morning:

I am from Azerbaijan and the main reason behind my choosing to do internship at Amnesty was that my two friends – Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli had been prisoned last year because they had criticized the government and Amnesty was one of the few organizations, which did research on them and called them ‘prisoners of conscience.’ So, I have wonderful news!!! Adnan Hajizada was released from prison today!

So I thought I should share these great news with you and it’s worth sharing it with all the activists, who have been taking actions in this case. I am just happy to tears and I pray for each prisoner of conscience to be freed just like this.

Thank you so much for all your work!!!

While this is positive news, Adnan’s fellow digital dissenter Emin Milli is still in prison. So is Eynulla Fatullayev who remains in prison despite a reluctant Azerbaijani Supreme Court dropping most of the fabricated charges against him this week.

Thank you for taking action for Adnan.

UPDATE: Emin is also free!!!