Thursday, February 26

Celebrating 20th birthday behind bars!

Today Omer Mammadov turns 20 years old. But unlike many 20 year olds he wont be celebrating his birthday with friends and family. He will be celebrating it in jail, behind bards, with his cell mates. This is how President Aliyev and his government is punishing its active, educated and bright youth. By locking them up in jail for extended sentences and keeping them there for as long as he can.

Mammadov, was sentenced in May of 2014 to five years in prison. His crime? Using his right to free speech and association calling on the people of Azerbaijan to come together and stand up against authoritarian leadership of Aliyev and abuse of conscripts in the army.

Mammadov isn’t the only one sentenced that month. Together with six other members, he received a lengthy sentence, the longest being 8 years. Along with the rest of the group Omer, was arrested in 2013. All men represented N!DA youth movement – a civic movement founded in early 2011 by young people calling for democracy and social changes in Azerbaijan.

There was one more activist, whose trial took place together with N!DA activists. Ilkin Rustamzade, was member of another youth movement but joined N!DA following his arrest.

Amnesty International recognized all eight arrested men as prisoners of conscience.

In October 2014 two of them – Shahin Novruzlu and Bakhtiyar Guliyev were pardoned in a presidential pardoning decree. In December 2014, two more – Uzeyir Mammadli and Zaur Gurbanli were released.

The rest, including young Omer remain in jail. 
Thank you Mr. President! You really do value your youth! 

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