Thursday, August 9, 2012

Practical rectification

Emin Milli was one of the Azerbaijani bloggers who mocked the government in 2009 for spending $180,000 to import 15 donkeys from Turkey—not that Azerbaijan  was suffering from any shortage of donkeys, but these were just—I don't know, more Presidential? The story is told in English by Ali Novruzov here. Milli and his fellow blogger Adnan Hajizade made a glorious film of a really ritzy, Vivaldi-playing donkey giving a press conference to let everyone know how much it's enjoying Azerbaijan hospitality.

For this bloodthirsty demagoguery they were given two and a half and two years in jail respectively, and were released a bit early in November 2010.

Milli is still writing, including this for PEN Atlas:
how is it possible to make the whole nation believe that words do not really matter, that they are empty and meaningless? How is it possible? Well, it is possible when people who present themselves or are presented to a society as masters of words, written or spoken, shapers of forms and meanings of the words, start to use the words as barriers behind which they hide their cowardice, venality and hypocrisy.
To corrupt the whole of society the regime decided to corrupt words first, to deprive them of their true meaning. Corrupt authoritarianism needs words to lose their meaning. But the victory of corruption here is only temporary. It is temporary because we always have rebels who believe that words are not dead and who bring the words back to life by standing behind them and often suffering the consequences....
One of those courageous people is Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova. She started to investigate and write about businesses owned by the family of the president in Azerbaijan and around the world. Of course, she had to be punished for writing the truth and exposing the regime. It was decided that her private life would be exposed in order to tarnish her reputation and to provoke “natural” attacks on her. The regime planted a hidden camera in her bedroom. Her relatives received the incriminating photos of her with her boyfriend. When she refused to be silenced, a video of her and her boyfriend was put online. The official newspaper of the ruling party started to accuse her of lax morals hinting at the video with its intimate content available online.
 The end of the story may not be what you expected:
The most conservative religious circles issued a statement in her support praising her courage in exposing the lies and corruption of the ruling elite. Everyone was appalled and even those who usually remain silent and live in fear, spoke up against such an immoral attack against a powerless woman. The government suddenly formally condemned “this crime” despite the prosecutor’s office ignoring Khadija’s officially lodged complaint for several days. The video was not shown on any television in Azerbaijan during prime time, something that had happened before with other journalists and unfortunately had silenced them.
You can follow up on Khadija Ismayilova's case here.
Photo by Rövşən lbrahimov.

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