“We strongly condemn the detention and harassment of popular Azerbaijani rapper Said Aliyev, also known as Dado, and consider this action as unlawful interference with his right to freedom of expression,” wrote The Art for Democracy campaign in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on 4 March 2013.
On 27 February 2013, Said Aliyev was called into the traffic police department, allegedly in connection with an investigation into a car accident. Aliyev visited the police office, and on his way out, an unknown man hit him on the shoulder. However, the man, allegedly a police officer, claimed that Aliyev had hit him. The rapper was taken to the Nasimi District Police Office and then to court, where he was sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention on charges of resisting police.
Art for Democracy declares that Aliyev was arrested on trumped-up charges and that the real reason for his detention was his song and music video ‘Avtosh’ (‘Reckless Driver’), posted to YouTube, in which he criticises the traffic police.
While being questioned by police, Aliyev phoned his brother under pressure, saying that the police were demanding that the video clip be removed from YouTube.
Aliyev’s rights have repeatedly been violated since his arrest. His family was not informed of his detention for two days; the rapper was questioned without the presence of a lawyer and was not provided with an attorney; and he was not transferred from the police office to the detention centre until 1 March 2013, when the media began disseminating information about his arrest.
The rapper told his brother that he had been insulted and degraded by the police, who gave him a rag and forced him to clean the police station.
Art for Democracy noted that Azerbaijani artists have faced increased pressure in recent years for expressing critical opinions or creating critical works of art. Other recent examples of this pressure include the forced migration of musician Azer Cirttan and rapper Jamali Ali; the harassment of famous producer and Chairman of the Cinematographers’ Union Rustam Ibrahimbekov: the dismissal of actor Ilgar Jahangir from his job at a theater; the ban on the sale of writer Bakhtiyar Hidayet’s novel Ag Garanliglar (Light Darkness); and the smear campaign against writer Akram Aylisli and his family over his novel Каменные Сны (Stone Dreams).
Art for Democracy calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Said Aliyev, who only exercised his constitutional right to freedom of expression, and to find and punish those who arrested the rapper on trumped-up charges and insulted him in detention. Art for Democracy also urges the government to comply with its obligations to respect and protect human rights.
Art for Democracy further calls upon the international community to increase efforts to hold the Azerbaijani government accountable for its human rights obligations.
Film maker detained
Art for Democracy is an initiative of the Human Rights Club and its partner organizations, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety and the Center for National and International Studies. Building upon a previous ‘Sing for Democracy Campaign’, Art for Democracy seeks to use all forms of artistic expression to promote human rights and democratic reform in Azerbaijan.
Since its launch in December 2012, the Art for Democracy campaign however reports to have been under attack by the Azerbaijani authorities. Campaign staff and attendees of the Art for Democracy launch event have been targeted, and the group behind the campaign, the Human Rights Club, has been denied registration. “These moves have occurred against a backdrop of a vicious ongoing crackdown on broader civil society in Azerbaijan,” writes the organisation in a press release.
The prominent filmmaker Ulvi Mehti was detained by police and questioned for two hours in connection with his participation in the launch event. Although the explanation given for his detention was that two diplomats had allegedly lost some documents at the event, a written statement later provided by the police confirmed that there had been no such report.
Aljazeera – 6 March 2013:
As international scrutiny fades, Azerbaijan scrambles to silence critics
Civil society is under attack at unprecedented levels, as Azerbaijan wages a vicious campaign to silence its critics. By Rebecca Vincent