Thursday, March 21

"Freedom fighters"

I wrote this short piece for WEast Magazine in the light of recent events back home. I thought I share it here on my blog as well.

A story of us…

Who are we? Where do we come from? What do we do? The answers to these questions are fairly simple. In some countries these questions would not even be asked. But in the country where I come from, these are very important questions. Sometimes your background and your status are more important than who you truly are in this society. Oh yes, don’t be surprised. It is simply a fact of life in a small country known to the rest of the world as Azerbaijan. We are the young, educated, intelligent, active, engaged citizens of Azerbaijan. We are the 20 something, 30 something, and 40 something citizens who still envisage Azerbaijan to be a better country for its citizens. We all come from Azerbaijan, from the beautiful North, from the colourful South, from the middle, from the top. Some of us saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of us remember those days through stories told by our parents. Some of us never saw the Union, and were born after independence. We work, study, try to make our home a place we are proud of. That is all… But then, that would be too simple an explanation in an overly complicated world of politics, dirty games and – what many often underestimate – selfish leaders.

Things are tough here. Being outspoken, having an opinion, being an individual with a set of ideals and knowledge is not something that one can be proud of. These things might cost you a lot, above all- freedom. And this is not just about physical freedom but a freedom of mind.

Recently one such free mind, known to many of us here and friends around the world, was detained unlawfully. He was taken away by plain-clothed men without explanation, right in front of his work place in bright day light. Ruslan Asad didn’t do anything wrong. He rightly used his right to think, to act, and to say what he thinks is right. But that is of no value back home- unless your mind acts in a “certain” way. He was released after a few hours, but there is a chance he will be called back in for further questioning on his workplace- the National Democratic Institute (the director of which allegedly asked Ruslan to resign after March 10th, when Ruslan was detained during peaceful demonstrations against hazing and abuse of conscripts in the Azerbaijani military service. This rally as all the other “unsanctioned” rallies was dispersed by the local police using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons), and the relationship between NDI and youth organizations. The interest in the youth organizations is a result of a recent article published by journalist Eynulla Fatullayev holding NDI responsible for investing $2million in what Fatullayev calls a “Facebook Revolution”. Needless to stay, the allegation was dismissed by NDI.

Ruslan wasn’t the only young Azerbaijani detained that day. Rashad Hasanov, another activist and a member of one of the youth organizations- N!DA Citizens’ Movement, was also detained. He remains in custody. According to his lawyer Asabali Mustafayev, the young man is facing charges of possession of illegal weapons. If found guilty Hasanov faces up to 8 years in prison.

Surely these arrests were politically motivated. Prior to protests held on March 10, three other members of N!DA were arrested. According to local police records, Molotov cocktails and drugs were found in their apartments and they were accused of plotting a revolution. A video of the three admitting their “crimes” was aired later in the day though their lawyers and families say this was all staged and the three were forced to confess.

And so, we are the people who are harassed, arrested and detained, simply because someone can do this to us. But despite everything, we are hopeful, I am hopeful that things will change in our homeland. Because we deserve change. I deserve change. Ruslan deserves change. Rashad deserves change. Azerbaijani citizens deserve a better place to think, to write, to share and to live. And one day, our leaders will understand the importance of this necessary change. Because we cannot afford any more generations lamenting the decay in rights, freedoms and morals…

By Jahangir Yusif
By Jahangir Yusf

1 comment:

Letizia said...

Thanks Arzu, this was great to read :)
A wonderful reminder of who are we. Citizens.