19-year-old student in Azerbaijan may be deprived of the right to study for civic activism
Azerbaijani activist student deprived of the right to education
Rustam Ismayilbeyli, a student of Baku State University, is being persecuted by the country’s law enforcement agencies. The last time the 19-year-old man was sentenced to one month of administrative arrest for alleged violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules. Thus, his right to study is grossly violated.
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Today I will tell you about a rather unusual story, even for today’s Azerbaijan, in the center of which is my son, Rustam Ismayilbeyli, born in 2002.
The path of Rustam Ismailbeyli – the begining
Rustam was detained by law enforcement agencies for the first time when he was 17 years old – for participating in a protest in the city center. Due to the fact that he was still a minor, then a first-year student at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the Baku State University he was released in peace. Such several-hour-long detentions continued for a year and a half. During this time, I had to travel up to 100 kilometers twice to pick up my son from deserted places far on the outskirts of Baku. The law enforcement bodies of Azerbaijan call such expulsion from the city limits “distancing a person from the place of the event”.
As soon as Rustam Ismailbeyli turned 18, he was arrested for 15 days. It happened in June 2020. Rustam, who studies free of charge (at public expense), addressed the Minister of Education of Azerbaijan with a request to make education free for all. He was detained in the building of the Ministry of Education and accused of violating the quarantine rules (although he was wearing a mask and did not break any rules) and… resisting the authorities.
This arrest took place during the exam period at the university, and Ismailbeyli was forced to miss several exams – he simply could not attend them because he was “otherwise occupied”.
Making up for lost time
For this reason, Rustam had to strain and, together with the next exams, pass those which he was not able to attend. In parallel with this, the 19-year-old began to study English intensively in order to obtain a master’s degree abroad.
But the plans of the law enforcement agencies of Azerbaijan were somewhat different.
A protest was scheduled for December 1, 2021, right in the center of Baku – on the Fountain Square. A few days earlier, the event was announced on social media, making it easy to see the organizers of the protest and those wishing to attend it.
For several reasons, Rustam decided not to participate. Firstly, his lessons began in the afternoon and took place during the time of the protest. Secondly, the time was critical for him – another arrest would destroy all plans of going to study abroad.
Thus, on his Facebook page, Rustam told his activist friends that he would not participate in the protest. Moreover, being in a lesson at the university, he wrote to me in a messenger that during the lesson (when the protest rally gained momentum and the detentions began) the deputy dean of the faculty came to their office (unofficially supervising an activist student) and made sure of his presence at lessons.
After the protest ended and dozens of its participants were detained by the police, my son and I managed to discuss what we saw live on social media. Having learned from the bitter experience of life in Azerbaijan, I asked my son not to appear in the city center for the next two or three hours. But he trusted the decency of law enforcement officers more than me and still went to the city after his lessons ended.
As soon as Rustam appeared in the city center, he was detained by the police and taken to the police station. It was too unexpected because the protest had long been completed by that time, and Rustam was not detained at the Fountain Square.
What happened next can be safely called the “theater of the absurd”. The 19-year-old student was kept at the police station for exactly 21 hours without any reason. The next day he was taken to court.
Despite the exhaustive facts of Rustam Ismayilbeyli’s absence from the protest, one of the witnesses – a police officer – called him “the organizer of the action” – despite the fact that the real organizers were known and they were released on the eve of Rustam’s trial.
Ignoring the facts, the judge of the Sabail District Court of Baku city sentenced Rustam Ismayilbeyli to one month of administrative arrest. He was accused of violating sanitary and epidemiological rules, although it is impossible to break these rules on the street in Baku now. There is no requirement to wear a mask, nor any other coercion. As for Rustam himself, he even managed to get vaccinated with a booster, the third, dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Hope for justice
In these minutes and hours, starting from December 1, when the police detained Rustam Ismailbeyli, his rights to study were immediately violated. So, his absence from lessons for a month will lead to a denial of exams in January. This means that a 19-year-old boy will be deprived of the right to complete his studies at the university and receive a diploma on time. This can also be postponed for two years, because Rustam, who did not receive a diploma, will be drafted into the army.
While in an administrative detention center, Rustam, through his lawyer Zibeyda Zakariyaeva, wrote a statement to the rector of the Baku State University with a request to create conditions for continuing his studies after his release.
On social media, action is being held to collect signatures under a petition demanding to ensure the right to study for Rustam Ismailbeyli. In two days, over 1,300 people signed the petition.
So far, the leadership of Baku State University and the Minister of Education of Azerbaijan have not responded to these appeals.