Azerbaijan, Baku

International Women’s Day: Free Khadija Ismayilova!

Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and presenter on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Azeri-language internet-only station Azadliq Radiosu, is seen during a live broadcast at Azadliq Radiosu's studio in Baku, Azerbaijan on October 31, 2011.  In March 2012, Ismayilova received a black mail threat containing still images of her engaged in sexual intercourse on March 8, international women's day, if she did not cease her investigative reporting activities; one week later, a video on a dummy site made to look like that of the opposition party Musavat published a sex tape of her online while at the same time newspapers aligned with the government and the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, YAP by its Azerbaijani initials, ran editorials defaming her as a loose and sexually unhinged woman.

Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and presenter on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azeri-language internet-only station Azadliq Radiosu, is seen during a live broadcast at Azadliq Radiosu’s studio in Baku, Azerbaijan on October 31, 2011. In March 2012, Ismayilova received a black mail threat containing still images of her engaged in sexual intercourse on March 8, international women’s day, if she did not cease her investigative reporting activities; one week later, a video on a dummy site made to look like that of the opposition party Musavat published a sex tape of her online while at the same time newspapers aligned with the government and the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, YAP by its Azerbaijani initials, ran editorials defaming her as a loose and sexually unhinged woman.

Happy International Women’s Day! Time to remember an important one, Khadija Ismayilova, in jail, for being damn good at her job as an investigative reporter and raising mighty quantities of hell while investigating Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and family’s shady business dealings. Turns out they are looting their country! I had the privilege to work with Khadija, be challenged by Khadija, and occasionally even bullied and reminded of moral courage and moral cowardice by Khadija. She is pure quality and intellect and she is serving a 7.5 year sentence for incitement to suicide by a boyfriend who has since recanted and was at the center of an effort at sexual blackmail against Khadija that occurred four years ago to this day with the arrival of a mysterious envelope postmarked Moscow and delivering contents reflecting pure KGB tactics. She went public, just a few months before Eurovision, so they retaliated by releasing a video on a mirror site made to look like one of the opposition parties, Musavat, who would of course have no interest in such a smear. Then the state news organs and papers of the Yeni, or New, Azerbaijan Party (YAP) official organs began publishing stories about how she was a loose women. Please no illusions about the ruling Aliyev clan and “modern” Azerbaijan. Khadija is a woman of courage, conviction, intelligence and she should be free! She inspires me!

Story of Khadija’s I was lucky enough to photograph:
Baku is Bulldozing Its Past,” EurasiaNet (April 27, 2012).