Activists who wanted to draw attention to events in Soyudlu at US embassy handed over to police
Events in Soyudlu
The events taking place in the village of Soyudlu in the Gadabay region of Azerbaijan continue. Residents report that the police keep the village on lockdown. Arrests continue. The police arrested activists who drew attention to the events of the Union with a peaceful rally at a reception at the US Embassy in Azerbaijan.
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Scandal at US Embassy
On June 23, activists Gulnara Mehdiyeva, Sanubar Heydarova and Narmin Shahmarzade, who participated in a ceremony organized on the occasion of Independence Day at the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, held a peaceful rally to draw attention to the protesting residents of Soyudlu and those arrested for these events. They drew a black choking hand around their necks and symbolically expressed that all freedoms in Azerbaijan are being suppressed. They broadcast live from the event and talked about what happened in Soyudlu and about those who were arrested.
Later the embassy staff asked them to stop the action. The activists left the site and the head of Abzas Media, Ulvi Hasanli, were handed over to the police. After a while they were released.
“Today, representatives of the government and opposition of Azerbaijan arrived at an event organized at the embassy on the occasion of the Independence Day of the United States of America. Me, Narmin and Sanubar were also invited and we came to the event with a picture of a hand squeezing our throat. At the event, we took off our headscarves in front of Azerbaijani officials and politely declared that we symbolize the events of Soyudlu.
We could not celebrate the independence of another country with wine in our hands while there was harassment of people in the village of Soyudlu, violence against journalists who covered the events, the disappearance of another journalist and the arrest of two activists.
When Ulvi Hasanli started filming us, the embassy security service forcibly took him out of the territory, twisting both of his hands, and we were politely removed and all four were brought to the 21st police department. We were released after being asked for our personal information. There were no incidents at the police station,” Mehdiyeva wrote on her Facebook page after her release.
On June 20, residents of the Soyudlu village of Gadabay region protested against environmental problems. They said that the Azerbaijan International Mining Company operating in the area is trying to create a second lake in the village, where harmful chemical waste will be dumped. Residents who protested against this were subjected to police violence. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used against them.
During the protests, five people were detained and sentenced to 20 days of administrative detention, and one person was fined 1,500 manats [about $880]. Arrests continued after the action, and it is reported that the number of arrested reaches ten people. The Interior Ministry does not disclose how many people were detained in the village.
Also, two activists were arrested – Elmir Abbasov and Giyas Ibragimov, who criticized the police and authorities for violence against residents of Soyudlu. They received 20 and 30 days of administrative detention respectively. Giyas Ibragimov went on a hunger strike.
Prime Minister Ali Asadov created a commission to monitor the lake.
Journalist who covered the rally in Soyudlu detained
Journalist Elmaddin Shamilzadeh, who covered the protest in Soyudlu village of Gadabay region on June 23, said that he made a film about what happened there and distributed a promotional video of this film, was detained by the police in Baku.
Elmaddin Shamilzade shared a post on his Facebook account with one word – “torture”. After a few minutes this post was deleted and it was not possible to contact him. Later several other posts criticizing the police in connection with the events in Soyudlu were also deleted from his account.
Elshad Hajiyev, head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs department, confirmed the fact of the journalist’s detention. However, he did not say why he was detained and where he is being held: “This will be reported.”
The journalist was also wanted for mobilization
On June 22, Elmaddin Shamilzade was summoned to the Lankaran branch of the State Mobilization and Conscription Service.
In this regard, the journalist said that, since he studies at the university, he must submit a document on his studies to them every year.
According to Shamilzade, he is a second-year student at the Faculty of Energy Systems Engineering at Muğla University in Turkey. The journalist said that he had to submit to the service a document on the transfer to the next course: “If they complicate the matter, I will talk to my lawyer.”
According to him, he was unexpectedly called to the service due to a message that he distributed on June 21 from the village of Soyudlu in the Gadabay region. “A day ago, I filmed and posted the faces of the police officers beating the villagers. Probably that’s the point. Because a few hours after the publication of these posts, I got a call from the military registration and enlistment office. Although for more than a year I have not been asked about the document. Moreover, when I entered the university, I submitted documents to the military registration and enlistment office confirming that I would study for four years. Now they somehow suddenly remembered the document,” the journalist told his colleagues before the arrest.
While the article was being prepared for publication, at about 10 pm, the journalist wrote on Facebook that he had been released.
Current situation in Soyudlu
“Last night, when my youngest son was driving a car, they stopped him at the checkpoint and said: “We were looking for you. Four or five police officers beat him with batons. My son managed to escape. During the action, the police shot him in the leg with a rubber bullet. And now they are threatening to arrest him.”
Aida Abbasova, a resident of the village of Soyudlu in Gadabay region, told Abzas Media that the police keep the villagers in fear. People who talk about the problems of the village to journalists are either arrested or threatened with arrest.
After the protests, a commission was set up to investigate the lake, but police operations in the village continue unabated.
“They say that paradise is under the feet of mothers, but in the village of Soyudlu, Gadabay region, mothers are under the feet of policemen. Now everyone in the village is afraid of being arrested and taken away. I don’t know how long we’ll live here in fear. How long will they threaten to arrest the villagers?! The head of the district says that the police protect people. How it protects, there are shots, all women are beaten. He says: “The lake has existed for 11 years, why have you been silent until now?”. They were silent, because the illiterate villagers living in the distance, did they even know what cyanide was? People woke up when they saw that their livestock was dying, even the birds did not fly to the lake, diseases became more frequent in the village, and then they realized that the lake was poisoned. Everyone who has died in the last month has died of cancer.”
According to Aida Abbasova, Joshgun Musaev was detained in the village today.
“It is not known where he was taken. He has two children”.
The villagers say they have two demands: the release of those arrested and a halt to the creation of a second toxic lake.