Organisations and individuals from across Europe gathered in front of Azerbaijani embassies on Monday to call for the release of political prisoners and demand Azerbaijan ends its crackdown on civil society.
Index on Censorship, joined by Platform London among others, held a demonstration outside the embassy of Azerbaijan, lighting near 100 candles, one for each political prisoner currently jailed on trumped up charges.
Azerbaijan’s National Revival Day is on 17 November. On this day in 1988, people started demonstrating in Azadliq (Freedom) Square, and the protest grew into a national movement that led to the declaration of national independence from the Soviet Union. Today, 26 years later, the people of Azerbaijan cannot even gather in Freedom Square to ask for the release of political prisoners. Freedom of expression and assembly are repressed, and those who dare speaking up face heavy consequences.
Protesters held a vigil in front of the Azerbaijan embassy in London to call for the release for political prisoners in the country. (Photo: Index on Censorship)
In the past six months, as Azerbaijan chaired the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, authorities unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on civil society, including the imprisonment of human rights defenders and political activists. Others have been forced into hiding.
Those imprisoned during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship (14 May – 13 November 2014) include:
Anar Mammadli, election monitor and this year’s Václav Havel Human Rights Prize recipient
Leyla Yunus, justice advocate who was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 2013, and her husband Arif Yunus,
Rasul Jafarov, campaigner who has criticised Azerbaijan at the Council of Europe and, together with Leyla Yunus, compiled a list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan,
Intigam Aliyev, human rights lawyer who has criticised Azerbaijan at the Council of Europe.
As the situation continues to deteriorate, Azerbaijan is getting ready to host the first European Olympics in summer 2015, an event designed to whitewash the repressive regime’s record.
Platform London will be holding other demonstrations at 5pm everyday this week.
Tuesday 18 November BP’s HQ – 1 St James’ Sq – 5pm
Wednesday 19 November – Uk Foreign and Commonwealth Office on King Charles Street – 5pm
Thursday 20 November – the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1 Exchange Square (by Liverpool st) – 5pm
Friday 21 November – the International Olympic Committee – 60 Charlotte Street
Senior Advocacy Officer at Index on Censorship
Melody Patry is advocacy officer at Index on Censorship. Melody provides research and analysis for Index’s policy formulation and works in building relationships with stakeholders to support our domestic and international programmes. Previously she worked as a political adviser for the European External Action Service and most recently, as writer and videographer supporting human rights NGOs in Egypt.
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