Freedom for political prisoners in Azerbaijan!
Today is the official opening of the European Games in Baku. To mark the opening ceremony, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with other organisations in the Human Rights House Oslo, is demanding the unconditional release of the country´s jailed journalists, human rights defenders and activists.
The European Games in Baku are games that never should have been arranged. It is a tragedy that the international olympic family yet again is willing to disregard all fundamental questions regarding human rights and democracy, and instead allows dictator Ilham Aliyev and his regime to use the games in a gigantic propaganda campaign for the current regime. A wide range of activists and journalists who have spoken out about the Games and the regime are now imprisoned on trumped-up charges.
This week we have also received reports that both international journalists from the Guardian and representatives of human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are denied access to Azerbaijan during the games. All participants at the games, including the 53 Norwegian athletes, should engage in the international campaign to end the ongoing human rights crackdown in Azerbaijan and to demand the release of the country´s political prisoners.
One of the political prisoners is the brave investigative journalist Khadija Ismail, who has investigated the wide-spread corruption surrounding the Aliyev family. From her imprisonment she encourages all journalists present in Baku to make use of their freedom and report also on what happens behind the polished facade. The Norwegian PEN has today announced her a member of honour.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a member of the Sports for Rights campaign, a campaign launched to raise the issue of crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan ahead of the European Games in Baku. Today similar actions have taken place in Barcelona, Berlin, Geneva, London, Prague, San Foca, Tbilisi, Warsaw and Zagreb among others. You can be a part of this international protest campaign as well by joining the Sports for Rights community on Facebook. Rasul Jafarov, one of the initiators of this campaign, is also imprisoned.
There are currently 80 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Many of them close friends and partners that the NHC have cooperated with for many years. An updated overview of the political prisoners can be found here.
Join the campaign on twitter as well, use the hashtag #realBaku2015 and send your tweet to protest the ongoing crackdown on human rights in Azerbaijan.