Sunday, May 17, 2015

Khadija Ismayilova

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova has specialized in covering Azerbaijan’s most taboo subject – corruption and conflicts of interest at the highest government level. To shut her up, a sex-tape was used in a blackmail attempt in March 2012 but, far from putting a stop to her reporting, she re-issued her most important articles.

Ismayilova gives as good as she gets in her relations with a regime bent on silencing all critics. And she has paid the price – smeared in the government media, prosecuted on spying and defamation charges and often picked up for questioning. She was finally arrested on absurd charges last December after spending several months following the cases of detained human rights defenders – organizing legal support and assistance for their families, helping to daw up a list of political prisoners and providing the international community with constant alerts.

The authorities have imprisoned Ismayilova but they have not managed to silence her. In letters smuggled out of prison, she has continued to criticize the government and call for resistance. As a result she has been placed in solitary confinement.

From a cell just a few dozen metres from hers, detained fellow journalist Seymour Khazi paid tribute to her in an open letter in January: “I don’t know if it is due to the extremely patriarchal nature of our society (...) but when they wanted to refer to a woman’s strength, determination or courage, our fathers always said: ‘This woman is like a man.’ Nowadays (...) to refer to a man’s character and strength of will, I would rather say (...) this man in like Khadija.”

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