NIDA public movement – ‘a new kind of youth’
In 2009, Iran was overwhelmed by protest rallies of people discontent with the outcome of the presidential elections. The authorities dealt brutally with the protestors, killing at least 11 people. You probably wonder what this has to do with Azerbaijan.
There was a young lady killed by a sniper named Nida.
Vandals or drug dealers?
The youth organization NIDA was founded in Baku two years after these events.
According to various estimates, there are about 100 political prisoners in Baku and NIDA members account for the highest portion of this figure. They have seized drugs, weapons, explosives etc from members of the organization
For example, two NIDA members, Amid Suleymanov and Anar Abdulla, were arrested the end of last month. However, the most highly publicized arrest took place on May 10.
On the night of May 10, someone left an inscription the monument of ex-President, Heydar Aliyev, that read: ‘Qul Bayramınız Mübarək!’ and ‘F… the system!’ Gül Bayramı is the Flower Festival held on May 10, the birthday of former President, Heydar Aliyev. Parks, sports and entertainment facilities, as well as the airport and even a mosque have been named in his honor in Azerbaijan. The suspected authors of this inscriptions, two members of the NIDA organization, Qiyasaddin Ibrahim and Bayram Mammadov, were arrested the following day.
The word ‘Qul’ means ‘slave’. Each mark omitted over the ‘u’ cost each of these young activists 1 kilo of heroin. That’s the amount of it police officers found in their apartments the next day.
On May 16, the two men arrested made a statement in which they described in detail how they were being tortured in the police department. The police tied up their hands and feet, beat them with their batons, kicked them, punched them and humiliated them.
After this came out, officials from the Azerbaijani Ombudsman’s Office met with the arrestees in prison and reported that ‘no traces of torture could be observed on their bodies’.
Meanwhile, Elchin Sadygov, a lawyer, claims that he personally saw multiple wounds on their bodies with his own eyes. In addition, Ibrahim and Mammadov have not been able to meet their relatives so far. “This is a violation of Article 15 of the Law on the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights (”Həbsdə saxlanılan şəxslərin hüquqların müdafiəsi”), says Sadygov.
What NİDA represents
NİDA became known to the broader public in spring 2013, due to the youth mass rallies against the increasing number of non-combatant deaths in the army. They held three mass protests in the city center. Dozens of activists were arrested during their last rally. 9 of them, Zaur Gurbanli, Uzeyir Mammadli, Bahtiyar Quliyev, Shahin Novruzlu, Rashadat Akhundov, Mahammad Azizov, Ilkin Rustamzade, Rashad Hasanov and Omar Mammadov, were sentenced to 6-8 years in prison. A great variety of things were found in their apartments, ranging from heavy drugs to ‘Molotov cocktails’.
March 10, 2013, a protest rally against non-combatant deaths in the army
Some NİDA members managed to avoid long-term imprisonment by writing confession letters. For example, as Elsevyar Mursaliyev stressed in the petition for his pardon: “I renounce my memebrship in the NIDA civil movement and the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan. I wish to be excluded from the so-called political prisoners’ list and my picture be removed from the pages of the Azadlıq newspaper [Radio Liberty – edit.]. Mr. President, I support the domestic and foreign policies pursued during your leadership, and I promise that I will be a worthy citizen of Azerbaijan. If necessary, I stand ready to go into combat on an order issued by you, the Supreme Commander, and fight against the enemy for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Let me express my gratitude to you on behalf of me and my family.
When the persecutions started in summer 2014, they were mostly against the new youth movement. When calculating the the number of NIDA-members who were sent to prison in the past two years, it exceeded that of any other existing party in the country.
Sadly, they are not as famous as journalist Khadija Ismail (an author of numerous highly-publicized journalistic investigations into cases of corruption) and the human rights activists Leyla Yunus and Intigam Aliyev.
NİDA members are very reluctant to give interviews, even the ones that live abroad. It’s quite understandable because they are ‘at risk’. And not just them, but also their relatives, who remain in Azerbaijan. One of the former members of the organization, who now lives abroad, expressly told our correspondent, he couldn’t give any interviews until he took all of his relatives abroad.
A new kind of youth
“NİDA members are subject to severe reprisals in Azerbaijan, and the reason is that this organization is considerably active, says Rasul Jafarli, a former political prisoner and human rights activist. “It is comprised of young people who, often behind their leadership’s back, hold rallies and clearly understand what will happen to them for it. In his words, since the day this organization was founded, NİDA members have been arrested more frequently than other groups. However, only four of their members remain in custody. “We, as human rights activists, do our best to make our names known to the world community, said Jafarli. “This is why the world’s leading human rights organizations recognized Ibrahim and Mammadov as prisoners of conscience.
“NİDA is part of our present-day youth that is more active than it was 10-20 years ago, said Hikmet Hadjy-zadeh, a co-founder and president of the Far Centre for Economic and Political Research. “The world has changed and people’s priorities have changed, too. People from previous generations recall with satisfaction how they bravely sang in the kitchen, accompanied by a guitar and how they read Sartre. NIDA is a group of young people with a greater sense of civic awareness, a new kind of youth.
Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, as well as some other organizations and politicians regard the members of NIDA as political prisoners.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani authorities have a different position on this. As Zakir Qaralov, the Prosecutor General, told the Trend news agency when commenting on their arrest, these individuals charged with a gross violation of the public order should realize that Azerbaijani youth cannot go against the state. “Sooner or later they’re going to understand that they went down the wrong path.