Azerbaijani student sentenced to 400 hours of corrective labor for ‘expressing doubt in feat of national hero’
An Azerbaijani court has sentenced Narmin Shahmarzade, a psychology student, to 400 hours of corrective labor for a post on Facebook, in which she expressed doubt in the feat of a national hero of Azerbaijan, Mubariz Ibrahimov.
The post, written in December 2018, caused a flurry of public indignation in society. Many demanded she be punished, and MP Musa Guliyev proposed to bring her to trial.
The court received several complaints, but in the end they accepted the complaint only from the mother of Mubariz Ibrahimov and launched the case against Shahmarzade, who lodged an appeal but was refused.
Who is Mubariz Ibrahimov?
From 1991 to 1994, there was a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh – an administrative part of Azerbaijan, populated mainly by Armenians. In 1994, the war ended, Karabakh remained under the control of Armenia, and the conflict is considered frozen. At the same time, the front line has been preserved and periodically shootings take place on it.
Mubariz Ibragimov was a contract serviceman of the Azerbaijani army. He died in June 2010 near the front line in the Terter region of Azerbaijan. The circumstances surrounding his death have not yet been disclosed.
According to the Azerbaijani version, Ibrahimov died in battle, repelling the attack of the Armenian side.
According to the Armenian version of events, he crossed the front line and killed several Armenian soldiers.
Mubariz Ibrahimov was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Narmin Shahmarzade – persecution and glory
Narmin Shahmarzadeh studies on the faculty of psychology of Baku State University. She kept a video blog, but before the scandal, few people knew about it.
On December 5, 2018, in one of her Facebook posts, Narmin wrote:
“… But if you kill someone outside the battle, and there is no danger of losing your homeland, loved ones or your life, then, from my point of view, this is cruelty. Perhaps the Armenian killed by him was born after all these processes, was not a bit guilty of anything, but being at the front, he felt fear and counted the days before returning home. Perhaps going to bed, he thought about the fact that another day had passed from those remaining before his reunion with his family. But someone killed him, accusing him of what he did not do. Moreover, if Mubariz had survived and returned back, then, most likely, a war crime case would have been opened. Because he crossed the border [ed. meaning the frontline] without an order. In fact, the man we call the hero has endangered public policy.”
This greatly outraged the patriotic part of Azerbaijani society. Insults and threats rained down on the girl. Although there were those who stood up in her defense as well.
After some time, Narmin asked the parents of Mubariz Ibrahimov on social media to forgive her if she offended them.
Over time, the hype around this incident abated, but Narmin gained some fame and even popularity. Since then, she has written provocative statuses several times, although not on military topics. She also engages in gender activism.
“It’s not shameful to sweep the streets”
Narmin Shakhmarzade was first charged with defamation but was acquitted and instead sentenced to 400 hours of corrective labor on charges of insult.
When it comes to women, correctional work in Azerbaijan usually means street cleaning.
Narmin Shahmarzadeh herself considers the verdict unfair. She recalls that two previous judges suspended the case, and suggests that the verdict was ultimately the result of public pressure on the third judge.
She intends to challenge the decision of the court in all instances up to the European Court of Human Rights, “because this is a restriction of freedom of speech.”
“If the verdict remains valid, and if I am asked to choose the type of correctional work, I will choose street sweeping. Because sweeping the streets is not a shame. To consider this something shameful is to humiliate the work and person of janitors,” Narmin wrote on her Facebook wall.