Well-known Azerbaijani investigative journalist asked to leave theatrical performance
Khadija Ismail, a well-known Azerbaijani journalist and author of several scandalous exposés about the business of President Aliyev’s family, was forced to leave a theatre after receiving a note warning her that the performance would be disrupted if she was among the spectators.
Ismail was invited to the premiere of ‘Of Mice and Men’ based on the story by the American writer John Steinbeck. The play was staged in honor of the first anniversary of the Esa theatre which is known for primarily casting actors with disabilities (the word esa translates to crutch or ‘invalid stick’). The US Embassy in Azerbaijan was a sponsor of the performance.
However, a note containing a warning that the performance would be canceled if she was in the audience was waiting for the journalist at the entrance of the theatre. Ismail wrote on her Facebook page that the message came from Yusif Mammadaliyev, the assistant to Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva and the First Lady of Azerbaijan who was also among the spectators. He noticed Ismail when she got out of her car.
Leyla Aliyeva, the eldest daughter of the President of Azerbaijan was also invited to the same performance.
“I didn’t want to disrupt the event, so I decided to leave the theatre. Several of my colleagues followed in solidarity. I would have invited them out for a cup of coffee, but I was afraid that the café would get shut down afterwards due to our presence there,” she wrote.
The American Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Robert Sekuta, called Ismail and said that he was very disappointed by the incident.
Actor and director of Esa theatre Orhan Adigozal told meydan.tv that he was unaware of the incident:
“I’m very upset. It’s not clear to me why this would happen.”
When asked whether she blamed the theater for what happened, Ismail said that she didn’t blame them for anything.