Archive for July, 2009

Fighting mirrors

What do you see when you look in the mirror?



You see yourself, just the way you are. Your life, parts of it you are ashamed or proud of, your choices.



You see people you love, admire, respect or hate – those who define you.



***



Several months ago Emin and Rashad called me to say they’re having fun at the anniversary party of Dalga (Wave) youth movement and invited me to join. I was bored and decided to go but didn’t expect much from this party.



I was so wrong. The moment I entered the place I was shocked. I couldn’t understand if I was still in Azerbaijan or not, if these people are real or I’m just dreaming.



It was a rock party. A real one. And people… Youth wearing colorful and to-be-discussed-by-neighbors clothes, drinking, having fun, dancing, singing together with the band (that’s when I heard OZAN for the first time). Dalga, OL! everyone was there.



I was standing at the balcony watching them and feeling the spirit of real freedom and unity for the first time in my life in Azerbaijan and felt like falling in love with the whole crowd.



Later that evening when we were about to leave, some guys including a girl with crazy hairdo named Vafa were discussing the afterparty. “Let’s go to my place and gather at my kitchen, as we always do”, she said. And then she turned to me, looked up (as I am significantly taller than her… and 80% of Azerbaijanis), thought for several seconds and said: “You can come to my kitchen too, if you want”.



This is how our friendship began.



Several months ago a young activist, member of Dalga Parviz Azimov wrote an article about Lankaran State University he studied at. He told about the corruption, the condition of the building, dishonest teachers and deans. Later, he has been expelled. He did sue the university and is expecting a court decision at the moment.



On May 10, 2009 76 people got arrested and kept in the police stations for hours. Although no charges were pressed, we were asked to write an explanation for our behavior.



“Welcome to Azerbaijan – the land of no rights, only duties”, I thought leaving the 22nd Police Station.



Tomorrow, we’re presenting our new project – the Youth Rights Protection Movement, which will provide the support for people like Parviz, Adnan, Emin and hundreds of others who either have no idea about rights they’re supposed to have or need help defending them.



***



What do I see when I look in the mirror?



I see a person I am about to become.



I see people leaving me, forced by fear of unknown and those who stay and hold my hand no matter what.



I see a short girl with crazy hairdo, two guys – one in suede jacket and glasses, one with a backpack and camera in his hands.



I see brave, colorful and free youth, a crowd I am proud to be standing with – the definition of a person I’ve always wanted to become.

Welcome to the World, Kid.

I have a new desktop picture – Emin waving Azerbaijani flag in front of the UN building in New York. The flag of the country he has been working and living for, the one he dreams to be liberated of corruption and dishonest politicians, the one he came back from New York for, the one, he and Adnan will spend at least two months of their lives in jail for..

***

July 13th

I was about to become an aunt, sitting in front of the hospital watching my brother neuroticly shaking his leg, smoking cigarettes one after another. Two of my friends were waiting there with us to take me and my family home after my nephew’s born, although it was 3am.

And yet, I was thinking about Emin’s wife not being able to contact him and Adnan who has to spend his 26th birthday in prison.

“Being a dissident is an honor” said one of my Georgian friends, when I told him the whole story. That’s pretty much what Emin would say, I thought. And then, imagined what he would do if one of us would get detained.

***

During last three days we’ve been trying to attract as much attention as we can using contacts of everyone we know.

We’ve launched a campaign, created a committee and a movement, sent uncountable amount of e-mails, slept less, worked more. Embassies and international organizations make statements, media sources post articles, unexpected people offer help. A lot expected to happen on Monday.

Web page http://www.adnanemin.com where everyone will be able to find information about this case, activity and biographies of Adnan and Emin, all the articles, pictures and videos, made during last days, is to be launched shortly. There’s also an online petition which you can sign here and groups to join here, here or here (English, Azerbaijani and French versions). We will appreciate any support you can show.

***

They say “You can imprison my body, but not my soul”. Indeed, they can take away Emin and Adnan but the love we have for each other will never fade away, no matter what. The purest, unconditional, can’t-buy-for-oil-money love, that makes my friends wait for me to become an aunt and make sure I get home safely, the one that made 50 people sing Azerbaijani anthem in front of the Sabail Court. The kind of love, that encourages people all around the world forget about the fear and fight for the freedom of our friends whatever it takes.

July 13th
I became an aunt on Adnan’s birthday.

United we stand!

The Point of No Return

Two days ago I was hanging out at the roof party hosted by our friend, drinking wine, chatting with my friends, enjoying weather and life in general. “I love Baku in summer”, I said. And really felt happy about living in this city once, for a long time.

Today everything seems different. Weather is annoying, trees are too green, people are meaningless and two close friends of mine are beaten up, detained and pressed charges in something so obviously set up.

Seven hours in front of the police stations, three hours of sleep hugging laptop and anger, screaming inside of me.

They were having dinner in one of the downtown cafes – 7 youth activistivists, talking about life, ideas and plans. Two sporty guys entered the cafe, sat near them, ordered drinks but didn’t even touch them.

Some time later they came up to Adnan (OL! Youth Movement) and Emin (AN Network) cursing them. According to Emin, he didn’t even have a chance to say something back – the fight started. No, not the fight – the beating. Two sporty (obviosuly professionals) guys beat Emin and Adnan while others tried to interfere and failed.

Adnan – broken nose, minor injuries.
Emin – cut foot, bruses on the face, minor injuries.

They went to the police station to open the case and write explanation. Police would fool them around for 7 hours during which Emin was asking us to go home, saying it’s okay and they’ll be out soon. Especially, taking that the sportsmen were already set free.

Their friends and parents, attorney, journalists, everyone was downstairs waiting for them to come out. Untill, Adnan called to say he’s been pressed charges and to be detained for 48 hours untill the trial. Emin refused to leave without him and was detained as well.

We saw them leaving the building, beaten and handcuffed, placed in the police car to be taken to the jail. This was the moment when Adnan’s father came a bit closer to the car and said loud and clear: “Adnan, mohkem ol!” (Adnan, be strong!). And us? We were applauding. Realising how badly it can end we were applauding, cheering the heroes the system has created itself. By the stupidity and injustice of its actions.

Today there was a meeting in support of Adnan Hajizadeh and Emin Milli with representatives of all the embassies, international organizations, Human Rights attorneys, politicians, journalists, youth activists. Everyone was there, making statements and speeches, signing petitions.

“We will not give up!” said Adnan’s father.
“They’ve been beating and fighting us for 20 years, now they’re fighting our children. But they’ll not be alone in this battle, we’re standing behind them” said Isa Gambar, Secretary General of Musavat party.

Couple of hours before the spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs made a statement saying Adnan and Emin were the ones to beat up poor sportsmen. And where are the sportsmen? Released with no charges.

The trial’s gonna take place tomorrow.

Four years ago I would get shocked hearing similar stories about injustices in Turkmenistan from a friend of mine. Today I’m living my worst nightmares, fighting for the freedom of two of the best Azerbaijanis, I’m proud to be friends with.

I’m exhausted, worried and angry.
Ask me if I love Baku in summer now.

We will not surrender.
God help us.

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