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BAR ASSOCIATION TERMINATES MEMBERSHIP OF ANOTHER LAWYER

The Azeri Times

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Azerbaijan’s Bar Association has terminated the membership of another lawyer.

On 11 June, the Presidium of the Bar Association terminated the membership of Irada Javadova. According to the Association’s press release, the decision was taken based on a complaint from someone identified only by the initials K. M. Without the consent of K. M., Javadova is alleged to have told the media that K. M. was illegally detained by the Office for Combating Organized Crime, information that is false and baseless, according to the complaint. Javadova denies the charges.

On 31 October 2017, the Azerbaijani parliament passed a controversial law banning non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners from representing clients in court. It came into force on 1 December.

Since that time, a number of lawyers known as human rights defenders have seen their Bar membership suspended or terminated, including Khalid Baghirov, Elchin Namazov, Aslan Ismayilov, Alaif Hasanov, Muzaffar Bakhishov, Yalchin Imanov, Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, Nemat Karimli, Asabali Mustafayev, and now Irada Javadova.

In 2003-2004, after joining the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan agreed to amend the Bar Act to expand the role of non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners in the courts. In a country where the Bar Association is heavily politicized, this system has allowed many human rights lawyers to continue their work despite government pressure. The decision to bar representation by non-Bar lawyers has been harshly criticized by Azerbaijani civil society and international human rights organizations.

“IPHR calls on the government of Azerbaijan to guarantee that all lawyers are able to carry out their professional activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals,” says a statementreleased by the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) on 16 May. “IPHR urges the government of Azerbaijan to fully respect and protect the human rights of lawyers and implement in law, policy and practice protections provided for by international law and standards, including those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.”

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Azerbaijan a year after the LGBT raids: has anything changed in Europe’s most homophobic country?

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Azerbaijani society has never been tolerant toward sexual minorities, but no one expected the cruel and large-scale violence that occurred last year. At least a hundred people were humiliated, beaten and raped. People who were suspected of being gay were blackmailed and warned not to walk in the central streets of Baku. Meydan TV investigated the possible reasons for the police violence immediately after it happened last year and we now return to this topic to find out what has changed in Azerbaijan over the past year.

I felt like I had done something terrible

“I was absolutely desperate. I was leading a repulsive life: I drank a lot, I used drugs,” Ali recalls September 2017 (all names have been changed). He says that the “repulsive” life he led seemed to help him forget what he had experienced for a while: like many other gay Azeris, Ali was detained in a surprise raid in downtown Baku. He spent several days at a police station. It still is not easy for him to talk about what he experienced – in response to every questions he says that many people, for example, transgender people, had an even harder time than he did. “Not only did they call them the filthiest words and beat them, they also shaved their heads, which was the most humiliating thing for them,” Ali says.

Ali had never advertised his sexuality but it became obvious for people around him after police detained him. “I felt like I had done something terrible and that I was persecuted for it. My landlord kicked me out of the apartment I was renting, and my friends and loved ones turned away from me,” Ali recalls.

Ali gradually did manage to return to normal life – there were kind people who helped him while he was looking for a job. Unlike Ali, another gay man who was detained, Murad, had a certain amount of money which helped him flee the country. Murad left immediately after he was released from the police station and now lives in Turkey: “I wanted to move to Norway, but I was denied a visa.”

Murad has not been successful in finding a job and it seems he will have to go back home soon. “Of course I’m afraid, of course I don’t want to go back. I’d stay here if I could. At least there’s an LGBT community in Turkey, and they help each other,” Murad says.

 

Four brave lawyers

According to official statistics, police detained 83 people during the LGBT raids in Baku in September 2017.

“Thirty-three people filed lawsuits for illegal arrest and cruel treatment after they were released,” said Gulnara Mehdiyeva, a representative of the human rights organization Minority Azerbaijan and a member of the local LGBT alliance Nefes (Breath). Gulnara says that apart from physical and moral damages, those detained also incurred material damages:

“They were jailed for different terms, some for 10 or 15 days and some for 20 or 30 days. Many lost their jobs because their employers refused to take them back after their long absence,” Gulnara Mehdiyeva says.

Four lawyers agreed to defend the rights of the LGBT people affected. One of them, Samad Rahimli, says that judges rejected all the complaints. The same 33 people sent complaints to prosecution agencies, but prosecution agencies did not find any criminal wrongdoing.

Azerbaijani rights activist Kamala Aghazadeh believes that lawsuits will not produce results while the country has no law defending LGBT people from discrimination. “Society absolutely needs a law that would guarantee the protection of LGBT rights,” she said. Perhaps, the adoption of such a law would remove Azerbaijan from the list of the most homophobic European countries which Azerbaijan has led for four consecutive years now.

A month after the raids, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks sent a letter to Azerbaijan’s Interior Minister in which he called for “thorough investigations into serious allegations of human rights violations of LGBT persons recently arrested and detained in Baku”.
No reaction followed from the Azerbaijani government.

 

Four suicides and five murders

Samad Ismayilov, the director of Minority Azerbaijan magazine, said that four LGBT people committed suicide in Azerbaijan in 2017. Ismayilov said that specialized organizations recorded five murders which presumably were anti-LGBT hate crimes over the year. He said those were average annual figures.

“However, these are only cases that we have managed to learn about. In reality, there are many more crimes of this kind,” he said. According to Ismayilov, activists were not able to find out even an approximate number of members of the LGBT community in Azerbaijan because most people hid their sexual orientation.

Samad said no raids or large-scale assaults on gays had been recorded in Azerbaijan in 2018, but several trans people were at the police station the other day. “They were summoned to the police, asked several questions and released. However, we do not understand the reason for this interest, nor did we understand it last year,” Samad said.


Produced with the support of the Russian Language News Exchange

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Azerbaijan

Piti, a rich taste of Azerbaijan

The Azeri Times

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Piti is a traditional and delicious dish from the town of Sheki, in Azerbaijan.

It’s a mix of lamb meat, cooked with chick peas, chestnuts and fat. Everything is cooked in a ceramic pot. Lamb meat is the base of many meals, in Azerbaijani cuisine. It can be cooked in a variety of ways and every province or region has its own recipe.

Piti is a specialty of Sheki, an ancient city on the Silk Route, in Azerbaijan. It comprises ingredients such as lamb, saffron and local spices.

Once the dish is on the table there’s still work to do. The broth must be poured into a separate dish. Then some crushed barberry is sprinkled over it.

Zamir Salahov, owner of Cennet Bagi Restaurant, says: “The piti is one of the most ancient specialties of Sheki. It was created by local peasants because it allowed them to eat as much as they wanted. Nowadays everyone loves it.”

Finally, the contents of the ceramic pot have to be mashed and mixed before you can enjoy this culinary delight.

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Azerbaijan

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