Azerbaijani activists complain of blackmail, harassment by authorities
An Azerbaijani women’s rights activist and municipal council member Vafa Nagi says she is facing pressure from the government since she has demanded access to certain financial reports.
At the same time, Amina Rustamzade, wife of activist and former political prisoner Ilkin Rustamzade, tried to commit suicide due to the constant pressure and she faces from law enforcement agencies.
Compromising beach photos
Vafa Nagi was elected to the municipal council of the village of Khol Qaraqashly, which is in the Neftchala region in the central part of the country, in December 2019. This was the first time that a representative of the feminist movement (or any activist) was elected to a municipality in Azerbaijan.
A few days ago, Vafa reported on social media that some “colleagues” in the municipal council started harassing her. They printed out photos of Vafa taken from social media and hung them around the village. These photos were nothing more than ordinary pictures taken at the beach and in similar situations, but by the standards of a conservative Azerbaijani village, they were considered “compromising evidence” of her “indecency.”
Vafa Nagi believes that the reason why she is being bullied is because she demanded that the head of the municipal council show her financial reports that he does not want to provide, and is trying to run her out of the village.
“We all know very well that not everyone in the villages have the same views. I have my father, brother and other people close to me here. But not everyone in this village is open-minded. I don’t consider this a defeat, and I don’t feel ashamed either, I’m just upset that my rights are being infringed upon!” explains Vafa Nagi.
Nagi turned to the police, but they have not yet taken any measures, and simply say that “an investigation is underway.”
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“If Ilkin does not stay silent, history will repeat itself”
Ilkin Rustamzade, an activist from the NİDA movement, served six years on charges of organizing riots and was released in 2019. At the moment, he is actively criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities on social networks.
Ilkin says that in order to silence him, the authorities began to harass his wife. For example, they posted her contact information on sites providing escort services.
On the morning of June 17, Ilkin wrote on his Facebook page that Amina attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills.
“Three days ago, a representative of the Ministry of the Interior, who had been blackmailing her before, warned that ‘if Ilkin is not silent, history will repeat itself,” writes Rustamzade.
Ilkin says his wife is now in intensive care.