Unsilence Azerbaijan's Donkey Bloggers!

A satirical YouTube video showing a press conference by a blogger in a donkey costume was meant to make a point in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan. Instead, it got the activist and his associate behind bars. Now in jail and convicted of “hooliganism,” youth activists Emin Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizade hope that an appeals court will overturn their sentence next week. Both men (adopted by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience) can really use your help. Take action now!

A Voice of America editorial summarizes the case:

Human rights monitors and many members of the international community are concerned over an Azerbaijan court’s decision to imprison Azerbaijan youth leaders Emin Milli [Abdullayev] and Adnan Hajizade to prison terms of 2-and-a-half years and 2 years respectively. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijani journalist: "They could not handcuff my tongue"

Released Azerbaijani journalist Mirza Sakit Zahidov
Image source (edited)

After three years of prison, famous Azerbaijani satirist and poet Sakit Zahidov (aka Mirza Sakit) is free.

In the words of an Amnesty International USA press release:

…Sakit Zahidov was pardoned under an amnesty act passed in March by the country’s parliament, the Milli Mejlis.

Serious doubt had been cast on Sakit Zahidov’s conviction and imprisonment after the authorities’ failed to clarify ambiguities in the evidence and irregularities in trial procedures. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.


Reporters Without Borders has hailed the release:

“This is great news. It is a significant development for press freedom in Azerbaijan, a country ruled by President Aliev with an iron hand. We share the joy of Zahidov’s family, lawyers and support committee, who had been awaiting his release since last month, and we urge the authorities to free the three other journalists still in prison. They include Zahidov’s elder brother Ganimat, who was given a four-year sentence in March 2008.”

In an interview, Mr. Zahidov said:

I was really nervous, when they handcuffed me. But they could not handcuff my tongue. It is clear that it was instruction from the “top.” But the administration had a headache after that during a long period of time.

Talking about his future plans, he added:

I am going to publish my poems. There are also some plans, which can be carried into life through electronic media. I would like to say that it is not a tragedy to get into prison, but release from prison is not happiness, either. However, I feel happy, because I am free today and because I was in jail yesterday

In the words of Reporters Without Borders:

The three other journalists still in prison are Ganimat Zahidov of Azadlig, Eynulla Fatullaiev of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan and Mushfig Husseynov of Bizim Yol. Azerbaijan was ranked 150th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Aliev is on the organisation’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”

Azerbaijan: “Unlimited Presidency” Approved

If you thought that the democratic situation couldn’t get worse in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, you have been wrong. The oil-rich country has voted – according to the government – to eliminate presidential term limits.

An expatriate Azerbaijani child in the US protesting unlimited presidency in her homeland

On March 18, 2009, voters approved all the 29 ballot issues, including institutionalizing unlimited presidency, reports the Russian-language Day.az.

One Azerbaijani told Reuters: “We can write, we can read, we can watch. But we have no voice.”

Or, “We can vote, but we have no voice.”