Homophobic statements made by oppositionists provoke another scandal on Azerbaijani social media
Another scandal erupted within the Azerbaijani opposition, this time due to homophobic statements made by members of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF). A fragment of an online meeting was uploaded on the internet where members of the NCDF scolded and scoffed at journalist Ismail Djalilov’s sexual orientation.
NCDF is an alliance of opposition parties which includes the Popular Front Party, as well as members of other parties and several independent opposition activists – in particular, former MP Gultekin Hajibeyli, who started the scandal.
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Ismail Djalilov is an Azerbaijani journalist living in the United States. He is openly gay and has his own political blog on Facebook, which often criticizes not only the government, but also the opposition in Azerbaijan. Because of this, he is in constant conflict with both those groups and others.
Gultekin Hajibeyli also became the object of Djalilov’s criticism. While discussing this with other NCDF members during an online meeting on ZOOM, she spoke rudely about Djalilov’s sexual orientation, and some other members supported her.
For example, Rafik Manafli, a board member of the Civil Unity Party, said that “it’s a pity that Hitler did not wipe out all gays in his time.”
Some of the insults were also directed at opposition parties Musavat and the Republican Alternative, which are not part of the NCDF.
They have nothing to do with the Djalilov scandal, but these parties often have confrontations with the NCDF. Moreover, the most recent of these also involved the topic of homosexuality – one of the members of the NCDF gave which was veiled, but with a clear intent, “accusing” a member of the “Republican Alternative” of homosexuality.
Discussions on social media
It is unclear who leaked this portion of the online conference on Facebook and why, but it immediately became a scandal.
Most opposition activists, journalists, and social media users who are simply interested in politics joined in the discussion of the incident.
Many were outraged not only by the homophobic statements, but also by the fact that they came from people who claim to be democrats.
Journalist Khadija Ismayilova:
“Such people do not even deserve the common courtesy of a ‘hello.’ Let the chairman of the NCDF Jamil Hasanli try to clarify the words and viewpoints of his associates. While he’s at it, he can explain why he sat calmly and listened to all of this.”
Former political prisoner and activist Ilkin Rustamzade:
“I felt ashamed watching that video. I think that the Popular Front party should introduce the idea of expelling these people from the association to the NCDF, or leave the association themselves.”
Human rights activist Bashir Suleymanli:
“These people are talking about someone else’s personal life, justifying fascism, and yet consider themselves champions of alternative thought. It’s a disgrace!”
However, there were also those who sided with the NCDF, arguing that “no parent wants his son to be gay.”
Apologies and accusations from the NCDF
After this incident, the NCDF was forced to give an explanation.
The first to do so was Gultekin Hajibeyli.
“Ismail Djalilov has written many negative posts about me, insulted me, slandered me, yet I haven’t reacted. I agree that what I said was rude, but these emotions arose as a result of a prolonged and unjust attack on me and my friends. If someone perceived the words I said during a closed meeting as a show of disrespect towards a certain group of people or minority, please accept my sincere apologies,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
At the same time, Hajibeyli believes that the video was illegally recorded and posted on the Internet by the country’s authorities. In addition, she complains that the authorities have been hacking her social media accounts for two days, posting her photos and contact information on sites that offer sex services and waging a “virtual war” against her.
Later, the NCDF Chairman Jamil Hasanli made an official statement. He also believes that the video was posted on social networks by the authorities and perceives this as a cyber crime and extra evidence that the government is spying on the opposition. And Hasanli calls those who share this video on their pages and continue to spread it the accomplices of the regime and accomplices to the crime.
As for the NCDF members’ homophobia, Hasanli says that:
“If the rest of this video had been shown, it would have been clear that these inappropriate statements were met with immediate backlash. Those who made the statements were immediately told that they went against the principles of the NCDF. The National Council of Democratic Forces protects the right of all citizens without exception, regardless of their national, religious, gender or other affiliations. And I would like to remind people that a few years ago, when the police began to prosecute the LGBT members of society, the National Council stood up for this community with our open protests against the police’s actions.”