Quarantine in Azerbaijan: suicide, sexual harassment by police and other consequences
The second strict period of quarantine regulations in Azerbaijan due to the coronavirus has already lasted more than a month, and its extension until 5 August has caused major stress among the populace.
In just the past few days, there have been multiple scandals, including suicide attempts and sexual harassment by the police.
Following the implementation of a strict quarantine regime in Azerbaijan on 21 June the regulations were relaxed once again. Since 20 July it has been possible for citizens to be outside for three hours a day instead of two, and hair salons have begun working again.
However, stores and businesses remain closed, as do borders. Travel between regions within the country is only possible with special permission.
369 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Azerbaijan on 20 July, with the total cases since the beginning of the pandemic amounting to 27,890. 363 people have died, while 19,490 have recovered.
Quarantine in Baku and various other regions of the country has been extended until 5 August. The borders were to be opened on 31 July, along with transportation between regions of the country. However, this date has now been postponed until 31 August.
The summer is very hot, but the beaches, pools, public baths, and gyms are all closed. Shopping centres aren’t working either, with only the grocery stores and pharmacies being an exception.
The populace grows restless and incidents continue to occur.
- “Autumn will be even worse” – journalist’s letter criticizing gov’t response to pandemic causes stir in Azerbaijan
- Georgia in no rush to reopen. How this could hurt the economy
Suicide stunt over quarantine regulations
On the night of 17 July, when the government was still only hinting at the possibility that the strict quarantine would be extended, the activist Elmaddin Shamilzade wrote on his Facebook page, saying that he intended to end his own life if that actually happened:
“This is my farewell letter. Everything is over. Let’s make up and say goodbye under this post.”
The next day the extension of the strict quarantine until 5 August was announced. Immediately afterwards the police arrived at the activist’s house and took him to the police station.
After two hours of discussion with the police, Shamilzade was released. In a new post, he explained the detention as being related to his work for the independent internet television channel Toplum. He said nothing more about suicide.
Theft of personal information, sexual harassment by the police
Going outside in Baku is only possible after receiving special permission by text message from the government. This means that the police may stop anyone at any time to check if they have this permission. Breaking quarantine carries a fine of 200 to 400 manat ($117-235).
In the media and on social networking sites it is said that the police use these ubiquitous checks to force women into an intimate situation.
The scandal became public when a police office stopped the activist Sevda Mahmudova, checked her ID card, and then used that information to find her Facebook page and write her personal messages.
Sevda Mahmudova responded by submitting a formal complaint to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The comments on her indignant Facebook post were filled with dozens of similar stories.
Another activist, Mehriban Abdulla, wrote the following:
“These things are happening to a lot of women. How often do the police cat-call women walking past their cars? They’ll come up to them and say, ‘Hey, I like you, can I get your number?’
A lot of women are afraid to complain, because of course, this is the police, and in the end the complaint may be used against them. But we have to complain about every single one.”