Azerbaijani women's rights activists detained, beaten up in police department
Azerbaijani feminists and journalists who covered a peaceful rally were subjected to police violence.
On August 4, a group of feminists organized a peaceful protest in front of the building of the police department of the Khazar district of Baku following the murder of Sevinj Maharramova by her husband the day before. Activists poured red paint on the entrance of the police headquarters, symbolizing blood, and holding up posters with the slogan “Femicides are political”.
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After the police seized the phones of the journalists who were broadcasting the protests live on social media, activists Gulnara Mekhtiyeva, Sevgi Ismailbeyli, and Narmin Shahmarzade, as well as journalists Ulviya Ali, Elnara Gasimova, and Nargiz Absalamova were forcibly brought to the police station. They were held there for about an hour and subjected to physical and psychological abuse.
Reason for protest
Sevinj Maharramova, a 23-year-old mother of two, killed by her husband on August 3, asked women’s rights activists for help in March 2021 after she was physically abused. Then it became known that Maharramov was married at 18 to Fizuli Garayev, who was twice her age.
The girl did not have an identity card, and for this reason, there could not be an official marriage with her husband. During the period of cohabitation, she gave birth to two children from her husband. From the first day of her marriage, Sevinj was periodically beaten by her husband. In March 2021, Fizuli Garayev beat her with a log, and the young woman ran away from home, asked for help from women’s rights activists.
According to women’s rights defender Gulnara Mekhtiyeva, the fact that the woman was physically abused was confirmed by photographs and the conclusion of a medical examination. She was provided with a lawyer, and the young woman, for the first time in her 23 years, was able to obtain an identity card, after which she turned to law enforcement agencies about her husband’s violent actions. Despite the fact that a criminal case was opened in the police department of the Khazar region of Baku, Fizuli Garayev was not detained. In addition, Garayev hid the children from his wife and began to manipulate her with them in order to have her return back home.
On May 4, Sevinj Maharramova returned home to her husband and was killed by him two months later. Gulnara Mehdiyeva says that the head of the Khazar district police department and the officer of the department directly involved in this criminal case not only did not detain Garayev, although there was plenty of evidence against him, but they did their best to persuade the woman to return to her husband.
“The law enforcement agencies, and the head of the Khazar district police department, as well as an employee of this department, refused to arrest the man, refused to confiscate the children from him and forced the woman to live in the same house with the rapist. Today this woman was killed, her head was cut off, she is in the morgue”, Gulnara Mehdiyeva said.
Violence against protesters
Women’s rights activists organized a peaceful protest in front of the police station shortly after the murder of Sevinj Maharramova.
After the detained protesters and journalists were released from the department, they spoke about what they had to endure inside the police building.
“Two policemen tried to take my camera and phone away. I tried to resist, did not let go of my gadgets. I repeated several times that I am a journalist. They did not pay any attention to this, they took away the camera and inflicted minor injuries on me. The camera was also damaged. The police forcibly dragged us to the administration building. There was no violent action against me inside, but I saw how Narmin Shahmarzade, Gulnara Mehtiyeva, and Sevgi Ismailbeyli were subjected to violence. Everyone was insulted with obscene language and psychological pressure.
When the policeman tried to take a picture of me backed up against the wall, I refused and turned away. As soon as I was facing the wall, he said, “you are used to showing off your butt”, journalist Ulviya Ali writes on her Facebook page.
Gulnara Mehdiyeva noted that they were put in different offices. According to her, two police officers punched her on the head, held her by her hair and dragged her across the floor, and insulted her with sexual expressions.
“One of these policemen is named Elmir Ibragimov, the other is Parviz. Elmir himself showed me his documents and said that I could not do anything to him. And I heard the name of Parviz when someone accidentally called him”.
According to Mehdiyeva, the police threatened that they would make her use her tongue to lick the paint that was poured over the entrance to the police building and clean it all with her shirt. But at this time, the head of the department suddenly found out that the protest was broadcasted on social media and the public was already aware of what had happened.
“It seemed to them that all the materials were only in our phones and cameras. He got a call that the video had spread on the Internet. Lord, after that he almost beat up his employees. The walls of the office shook with his angry voice. He immediately ordered them to let us go. And they immediately turned into lambs”, Narmin Shahmarzadeh wrote on her Facebook page.
“In the office, I was subjected to physical and psychological abuse. We were exposed. It is strange to be beaten over the protest against the murder of a woman. If such violence had been rendered against the rapists, then I am sure that the murders of women would not have happened.
The killings of women are political. And the Istanbul Convention must be signed immediately”, said activist Sevgi Ismayilbeyli.
Activists and journalists, who have been subjected to violence by the police, intend to report it.