Azerbaijan: two girls commit suicide in one week to avoid forced marriages
Two 17-year-old girls committed suicide in Azerbaijan in the past week.
A preliminary investigation into their deaths shows that they likely committed suicide because their parents intended to forcibly marry them off.
These cases have done more than capture the public’s attention, which is actively discussing the issue of early and forced marriages.
Two identical suicides
The first girl, 17-year-old Gülyar Ismayilova, took her own life on July 30 in the village of Aliabad – in northern Azerbaijan. She hunger herself in a barn in the courtyard of her home.
On July 6, 17-year-old Aysun Hajiyeva also committed suicide by hanging in the village of Aliqasimli, in southeastern Azerbaijan.
In both cases, the prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case under the article “bringing to suicide”. If it is proved that the girls committed suicide due to the threat of forced marriage, their parents may face three to seven years in prison.
A traditional problem or a problematic tradition?
The official age of marriage in Azerbaijan is 18 years. But in fact, many girls (especially in the southern provinces) get married at the age of 15-17, and often against their will.
Typically, such marriages are not officially registered, and are limited only to a wedding ceremony.
Early and forced marriages are a common problem in Azerbaijan – and affect everyone, not just girls and women. More in our article: without the right to choose – when men in Azerbaijan are forced to marry.
Elgyun Safarov, member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, says that these cases also fall under the criminal article “forcing a woman to marry”.
True, this article has never been applied.
“As long as there is no struggle in society, such problems will arise,” Safarov says.
Meanwhile, MP Ayten Mustafazade hopes that the guilt of the parents will be confirmed, that they will be criminally punished and all this will serve as a lesson for other parents.
This topic has caused very heated discussions on social media. Users are divided into two main camps.
One group says that the suicides point to the continued pattern of discrimination and sexism against the rights of women in Azerbaijan.
The other say that forced marriages are ‘no reason to put one’s head into a noose’, and that the true cause of these suicides must be sought elsewhere:
Some typical comments:
“No need to advertise all these suicides. Young people with an unstable psyche are more susceptible to such negativity”
“On the contrary, it is necessary to [report on this issue]. This is a problem, and it exists, it must be solved, not hushed up!”
“These girls must have been in a sect of some kind, we need to check their phones and computers”
“We live in the 21st century! What kind of middle ages is this?! Such parents must be held accountable.”