‘Perhaps that’s why people commit suicides’
There was no sensational news that day, nor any work. Thus, I was looking forward to the end of the work day so that I could go home. But then a report came through, and moreover, it was the public’s favorite theme – sex scandals.
My acquaintance, who is an NGO head, called me and said that there was a woman who needed assistance.
Ziyafet Nabieva, an English teacher at school #45, didn’t refuse to name herself, which was quite unusual in such cases. But she refused to meet me, since she still did not have enough courage for that. So, we talked on the phone; at first she was babbling, so I had to wait quite a long time for her to calm down.
“I’m 50. I’ve been working as a teacher for many years. I have never experienced such a shame before. They claim that they possess a video record, which I’ve seen myself. It’s a 50-second video. There is nothing unusual there, and there other children in class, too.”
In Ziyafet Nabieva’s words, the video features a former student, Adilya*, who comes to her and kisses her on the cheek. The girl’s parents handed the video to the school principal, claiming that the teacher and their daughter were engaged in an intimate relationship. Nabieva saw no other way out of this situation but to appeal for assistance to NGOs and the press.
“Adilya attended our school, she loved me as a teacher and I loved her equally as I loved the rest of my students. Whereas now, we are blamed for having a relationship that never even would have occurred to us. The principal suggested that I swap schools, but why should I leave the school because of some wrongful accusations?”
Ziyafet Nabieva doesn’t rule out the possibility that the school wants to hire a new teacher in her stead.
I called the school principal and requested to see the video, but I got a flat-out refusal. Nazilya Mammadova, the school principal, said she had sent it to the Ministry of Education and the Baku Education Department. When I tried to find out how the case was going on, both agencies said ‘the inquiry is underway’.
Months passed, but we eventually couldn’t get a concrete answer from the official agencies with regards to the outcome of the inquiry. Nabieva accepted an offer to transfer to another school in order not to further aggravate the situation and asked us not to disturb her anymore.
The very first scandal
Sex scandals in Azerbaijani schools have either become more frequent recently, or the press has been focusing more on them. In view of the schools’ traditional reluctance to ‘get things out in the open’ and traditional unwillingness of the victims to report to the police, it could be said that not all rape or harassment cases turn into scandals.
The first clamorous scandal happened 7 years ago. In 2010, Shahin Yusifov, a teacher at public school #294, was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He raped his student at home, right in front of her brother, and recorded it on a cell phone.
A 15-year old student had a baby from her teacher
Last year was particularly ‘prolific’ for such kind of unpleasant scenarios.
In Pirbehli village, Shamakhi province, Elnur Ibragimov, a school teacher, was engaged in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. As a result, the young lady gave birth to a baby and immediately abandoned it. The baby was taken to an orphanage. Elnur Ibragimov and his family claim that they were slandered.
Under Shamakhi district court ruling, Elnur Ibrahimov had his teaching license revoked for a period of 2.5 years and was deprived of liberty for 5.5 years.
Malakhat Nabieva, a lawyer, explained that sexual intercourse or other acts of sexual nature committed with a person under 16 are punishable by the restriction of liberty for up to 3 years. If a victim is under 14, a custody period may range from 3 to 6 years. For kindergarten and school teachers, as well as doctors, a custody period is longer, ranging from 4 to 7 years.”
Nabieva says that victims rarely turn to the police: “A victim of violence is primarily afraid of public censure. First of all, she doesn’t talk about her problem in fear of reaction from her environment, relatives and colleagues. They go to the police when publicity is inevitable and the problem can’t be ignored. For example, in Shamakhi, everything came out after people had learnt about the student’s pregnancy. Another reason is the attitude of the police to the issue in such cases. In other words, a victim doesn’t expect any understanding on part of the police officers.”
Teacher’s psychological test ‘stalled’
The Education Ministry responds to the cases of violence and school sex scandals either by dismissal of the person at fault or his/her transfer to another school. In response to our inquiry the ministry officials answered that every incident is investigated by a corresponding agency and relevant measures are taken.
Kyamran Asadov, an expert in the education sphere, sees a way out of this situation by introducing psychological tests for teachers and principals. Such a project was proposed by the Baku City Education Department back in 2006. It was submitted to the Ministers’ Cabinet and got stuck there.
The State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs also responds in standard wording: ‘The relevant agencies (Education Ministry, Prosecutor’s Office) inquire into those issues.’
‘Girls won’t be allowed to go to school’
Mehriban Zeynalova, the head of the ‘Təmiz dünya’ (‘Clean World’) organization says:
“Such ‘news’ from schools may result in parents being afraid of sending their daughters to school. And that’s in addition to the early marriage problem.”
The community is generally concerned. “What’s that if we can’t let our children go to school,” says Sevda Jumayeva, who has 2 daughters.
At the same time, the community, as a rule, censures the affected party. For example, the most recent high-profile case occurred in Beylagan, where a 17-year-old girl was blackmailed by her friend and forced to have sexual intercourse with him, and then with three more people. The guy recorded everything on a cell phone. Later, this video somehow got into the press and caused a great scandal. It was accompanied by fierce debates on social media. On a side note, it turned out that there were quite many skeptics who claimed that it was the girl and her family who blackmailed the abusers, and the video came out just because ‘they were not paid enough’.
“One way or another, this publicity made the authorities come to grips with this case: two suspects now remain in custody and two more are under police surveillance,” Shahin Ismayilov, Milli Majlis (Parliament) member from Beylagan, reported.
Adilya, the girl who was allegedly engaged in an intimate relationship with her teacher, has already graduated school. Although there was no violence in her case, just slander and suspicion, those developments resulted in serious trauma for her: “I could have hated everyone. It’s good that they believed me. Otherwise, it’s frightful even to think what could have happened to me. Perhaps that’s why people commit suicide.”
“I’ll go now,” she said and left without waiting for the cup of tea that we had ordered. It will probably take her quite long to forget all that.