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BAR ASSOCIATION SUSPENDS HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER’s LEGAL PRACTICE

The Azeri Times

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On 20 November, lawyer Yalchin Imanov’s legal practice was suspended by a decision of Azerbaijan’s Bar Association, Imanov told Meydan TV. The Bar Association took the action in response to a complaint from the Penitentiary Service against Imanov, who is known for defending political activists.

On 10 August, Azerbaijan’s Bar Association received a complaint about Yalchin Imanov from Ogtay Mammadov, deputy chairman of the Penitentiary Service. In the complaint, the Penitentiary Service accused Imanov of circulating false information in the press. Specifically, the complaint refers to allegations of torture made against the Penitentiary Service by Imanov’s client Abbas Huseynov, deputy chairman of the Muslim Unity Movement. The Penitentiary Service denies the allegations.

“Supposedly I have upset the stability of the country, I organize rallies, create the impression that religious people are pressured, and stir up the activities of foreign forces,” Imanov told Meydan TV. “The Bar Association has decided to launch disciplinary proceedings.”

Imanov’s legal practice was suspended on 20 November pending a court ruling. Imanov plans to appeal if the court rules against him.

In the past few years, a number of attorneys known as human rights defenders have been suspended from the Bar Association on the basis of similar complaints, including Elchin Namazov, Aslan Ismayilov, Khalid Bagirov and Muzaffar Bakhishov. First Deputy Prosecutor-General Rustam Usubov has asked the association to take action against the attorneys Nemat Karimli, Asabali Mustafayev, Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, and Agil Layichov.

On the same day that the Bar Association suspended Imanov’s legal practice, a complaint against another lawyer was dropped. Judge Rashid Huseynov, of the Shaki Court for Serious Crimes, had claimed that attorney Elchin Sadigov impeded the trial of journalist Elchin Ismayilli.

Elchin Sadigov
Elchin Sadigov.

“The disciplinary proceedings regarding me were dropped because there was no legal violation in my actions,” Sadigov told Meydan TV. “No evidence was found to support the judge’s complaint and I had had a well-grounded reason not to provide the judge with information he sought, due to the fact that as an attorney I kept that information confidential. I received no disciplinary punishment.”

On 31 October, Azerbaijan’s parliament passed amendments to the legal code banning non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners from representing clients in court. The changes are set to go into effect 1 December this year. A group of lawyers has launched a campaign against the amendments, claiming that banning non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners from representing clients in court will result in a “strong monopoly” of the “government-controlled” Bar Association, and a drastic decrease in the “number of available lawyers who can represent litigants before courts.”

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Baku vox pop: What moment in your life would you most like to relive?

The Azeri Times

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Revolutionaries in shorts

The Azeri Times

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People in Azerbaijan are often shamed for wearing “provocative clothes,” but each generation of young people becomes increasingly more free in their choice of style. Conservative Azeris have reconciled themselves to miniskirts and low necklines, but it seems that the custodians of tradition have a particular distaste for shorts. Meydan TV reports on the war over naked legs that started in Baku this summer…

A video went viral on Azerbaijani social media last month that showed a young man on a train on the Baku metro reprimanding a young woman for daring to wear shorts. The young woman was not easily intimidated and yelled in response. An elderly lady defended the young man and it all resulted in a brawl: enraged by the brazenness of the young woman wearing shorts, the elderly lady hit her. At last, other passengers, who had been silently watching, intervened, and the clash between generations ended in a tie.

The incident unexpectedly generated an intense public reaction and was discussed on social media for a month. Many were shocked, and not only because you could still get beaten up in Baku because of the clothes you wore. It turned out that many users were surprised that lots of people were ready to stand up for freedom of choice. Women, men, young people and adults – they all had arguments against the social conservatives.

Bold challenge
People have always worn “provocative clothes” in Azerbaijan. In the 1980s, mini-skirts were thought to belong to that category, while in the 1990s women’s pants challenged public morals. Owing to a certain degree of modernization, which started in Baku in the early 2000s, young people in the capital city were more courageous in adopting Western fashion, and people in the city quickly got used to seeing young women wearing short or form-fitting clothes.

Only shorts remain a stumbling block. However absurd it may sound, for a conservative Azerbaijani someone wearing shorts is a desecrating the traditional way of life and showing disrespect for their elders.

“Each time I wore shorts I could see hatred in the eyes of passersby,” says journalist Vafa Naghiyeva, 34, who now lives in Turkey. “Once, I was expelled from an English class for wearing shorts,” she recalls.

Seven years ago, Vafa was beaten up for wearing shorts. It happened in downtown Baku in front of witnesses. “Passersby didn’t try to defend me, the assailants ran away, and when I arrived at a police station, they pelted me with accusations – why do you walk around wearing shorts? – and demanded that I withdraw my complaint,” the journalist says.

Gender Balance
In their intolerance for this item of clothing, the guardians of morality maintain a certain gender balance – they are sometimes equally harsh toward men.

For example, several years ago, Azerbaijani politician Hafiz Hajiyev, who had run for president three times, first called on his compatriots to hiss at men in shorts in the street, and then even suggested that their legs be doused with acid “to teach them not do it again.”

Journalist Natig Javadli once told his followers on social media about a conversation he had with his male neighbors about his shorts – they strictly warned him not to wear “those obscene clothes in front of their mothers and sisters” ever again.

Who can do it
It’s true, the closer to downtown, the less stringent the taboo. In Baku’s main street, Torgovaya, if you wear shorts, you might get stared at or hear rude comments – but that’s all.

A possible explanation for this tolerance is that affluent people who live on Torgovaya are often well-connected. Who would risk assaulting officials’ or businessmen’s offspring?

People also often ignore athletically built men when they wear shorts. For example, Azerbaijani blogger Zaur Gurbanli is tall and broad-shouldered. He believes that it is for this reason that the defenders of tradition stay away from him: “I went to the beach by bus once. People stared at me the entire journey but they didn’t say anything. If I had looked weak, they would have definitely pestered me.”

Recently, another incident took place on the Baku metro: a passenger – a young man – loudly used bad language about some young women in short skirts who were sitting nearby. But this time, people who happened to be there put him in his place.

Perhaps, society got a glimpse of itself in this viral video and suddenly realized how absurd the taboo is?

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DOZENS OF COTTON WORKERS POISONED IN IMISHLI

The Azeri Times

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On 19 June, dozens of cotton workers in the Imishli region of Azerbaijan were poisoned by pesticides in the fields.

Reports vary as to how many cotton workers have been affected. This morning Jasur Pashayev, chief physician at the Imishli regional hospital, told APA that 35 people had come for medical attention. “A lot of them came to us in a panic, just out of fear that they might be poisoned,” Pashayev told the news agency. “Now most of them have been sent home. A few patients are currently hospitalized. None of them showed signs of serious poisoning.”

At 1:30 pm local time, Report.az wrote that 80 people had been poisoned and that an unspecified number of them had been hospitalized.

Well-known human rights activist, Ogtay Gulaliyev, claims to have received reports of 300 affected people.

“The number of people poisoned in the cotton fields has reached 300,” Gulaliyev wrote on Facebook. “Due to overcrowding, most of them are receiving first aid in the hospital courtyard. There aren’t enough doctors. All the doctors in the region have been mobilized to treat the patients. About 10 people in very serious condition have been put on life support.”

This is the third mass poisoning of cotton workers due to pesticides this month. On 10 June, 24 people were poisoned in the cotton fields in the Saatli region. Four of them are being treated at the Baku Toxicology Center in serious condition, and 18 reportedly remain hospitalized in regional facilities.

On 16 June, 16 cotton workers were poisoned in the Tartar region of Azerbaijan. Five of them remain hospitalized.

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