Friday, September 9, 2011

Bakhtiar Hajiyev July 8, 2011

Finally I am thinking of the brave political prisoner and pro-democracy activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev in Azerbeijan. Hajiyev attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he graduated with a masters degree in 2009. He could have easily chosen to remain in the West and work for a Western corporation, and yet he made a very brave and unusual decision. He chose to return to his homeland to fight for democracy even though several other Azeri activists for democracy were already long-term political prisoners, and one of them was serving four years in prison. In other words, he returned to his country knowing that he was going to be arrested and imprisoned for supporting democracy and peaceful regime change.

He tried to organize a protest for democracy in Azerbeijan on March 11, 2011, to mark the 1 month anniversary of the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt on February 11, 2011. And he used face book to organize this campaign. Sure enough, a week before the protest was scheduled to occur, he was arrested on March 4, 2011. He was brutally tortured, sexually harassed, and threatened with rape.

And the regime’s excuse for imprisoning him? The fact that he refused to perform his required 2 year military service as a male and insisted upon his right to perform alternative service to his country instead of being conscripted into the army. Just like Dr. Maikel Nabil Sanad in Egypt, he was punished for refusing to accept conscription into the military. And like Dr. Nabil, he received a prison term equal to the required term of military service in Azerbeijan. He is now serving two years in prison as a political prisoner because he refused to serve two years in the Azeri army as a conscript. 

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