Letter from Intigam AliyevPublished: Apr 28, 2016 Reading time: 5 minutes
I greet all of you.
I’m sorry for not being there today. But I’m grateful for my friends who helped me to communicate with you through this letter which will be read by my son Necmin. Many became familiar with Necmin only after my arrest but now his circle of friends is even larger than my own. In one of my recent phone calls with my dear friend Florian Irminger, he called Necmin “small Intigam”. But if it continues like this, they will soon call me “big Necmin”. I will be very happy that day. I’m also very happy that children of both my Azerbaijani and foreign friends follow in their parents’ footsteps. The number of young people who join the human rights movement have been increasing these days. This is a very encouraging development. Our children are smarter, more energetic and more insisting in their desire to live in a free society.
But at the same time, I am also sad that advocating for human rights have become very risky in many countries. They face many challenges, sacrifices, arrests and even more dangerous threats. My country is among them and dozens of people are being arrested just because of their views. They are very honest people and their only guilt is their willing to live in a free and fair society.
I was in Brussels three years ago to attend this film festival. But I could not attend the next ones because of the reasons you know. I had been arrested and sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison. Three weeks ago, after the long efforts of conscientious people inside and outside of the country, I was released on probation after a year and 8 months in prison. According to the decision of the court, I will not be able to leave the country for 5 years while I’m on probation and I will not be able to run for public office for three years. The reason why I cannot attend the festival today is because I’m not allowed to leave the country. I’m not the only one in this situation.
In fact, the civil society of Azerbaijan has been eliminated by political repressions that have been going on for a long time and have intensified in the last 2-3 years. Azerbaijan is one of the leading countries in the world for the number of political prisoners. Today, dozens of NGO leaders, journalists, politicians and youth activists have been banned from leaving the county. Their names are mentioned in court cases that have been launched two years ago against civil society and international organizations. Bank accounts of dozens of NGOs and their leaders are still frozen. They have illegally been ordered to pay large amounts of tax fines. The current legislation and socio-political situation in the country makes it impossible for NGOs to operate, especially in the fields of democracy, human rights and transparency.
They arrested many of us. Politically motivated charges were fabricated against dozens of NGOs and their leaders. The environment of fear was created in society. Many civil society activists were forced to leave the county due to the fear of persecution. International organizations were kicked out of the country one by one. And other dramatic events happened.
After our arrests, the European Parliament adopted many important documents about the real situation in Azerbaijan. The civil society of Azerbaijan became stronger and the issue of political prisoners was discussed more loudly among important forums. Later, some of the political prisoners were released.
When we were free, we would try to address and support the human rights violations and crackdown on civil liberties that were taking place in various parts of the world - from neighboring countries such as Russia, Turkey, Belarus to far away lands such as Cuba, Syria, China and others. When I was in prison, I saw the same support and treatment for me and my friends from all over the world. Then you just understand how important this support is.
The most important thing for a political prisoner is to know they are remembered. The letters addressed to them, birthday wishes, books and films made about them and their families, seeing their face on the shirts in many official and non-official events and other protests that are carried out to support them means a lot to us. These are all festivals – festivals of love. I’m eternally thankful to everyone of you for making us feel these emotions and thank you for your support.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude tolovely People in Need and other involved organizations for this event, for the support they have always given to the civil society of our country.
Let’s hold more festivals like this, then our world will change.
Read by Necmin Aliyev at One Worl Brussel Opening Ceremony, 18. 4. 2016.