25 June 2023
On June 20, 2023, the citizens of Soyudlu village in the Gadabay district of Azerbaijan gathered to protest against the creation of a second artificial reservoir that dumps the postindustrial processed waste from the Gadabay Gold minefield, which is operated by an international company- Anglo Asian Mining PLC, allegedly related to the ruling family in Azerbaijan.
The discharge of gold mine waste into the lake in that area started in 2012. The main substance that harms the lake is cyanide acid, considered one of the toxic acids for all kinds of living species. According to the residents of the village, about 500 beehives have been destroyed, dozens of cattle have died as a result of the poisonous acids discharged into the lake, and the animals living in that area have been forced to move to other areas, and the villagers are suffering from various diseases caused by.
The protests started some time ago, the villagers wrote a petition and complained through the municipality, but their complaints were not considered. After that, the residents of the village gathered in that area in order to protest, at that time, the Rapid Police Regiment was sent to the village area. The Rapid Police Regiment tried to forcibly get the protesters away from the area by using tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons against the civilians. 10 protesters were sentenced to imprisonment for 20 days in prison, some were fined 1500 manats(=805 euro) and local citizen Habil Ismayilov, who is the owner of the print shop that produced the posters of the protest is facing 4-month imprisonment for the investigation period under the charges of selling illicit drugs. On the 25th of June, some residents of Soyudlu village came to Baku to find out where their arrested relatives were kept. Police refused to provide information and further intimidated them.
Besides that the village has been blocked by the police since the next day-21th of June, to control movement in and outside of the village. No one except for the villagers is allowed to enter the village, essentially blocking journalists and activists to mobilize there to monitor the situation. Abzamedia’s journalist Nargiz Absalamova, Voice of America’s journalist Nigar Mubariz and reporter Elsever Muradzade were subjected to violence by the police and forcibly removed from the village. Journalist Elmaddin Shamilzade, who went to that area to report, was called to the Military Mobilization Service. Afiaddin Mammadov, a member of the D-18 movement and chairman of the Workers' Desk, was called to the 34th police station and released shortly after. Saleh Rustamov, a former municipal opponent, and his son, who is 17 years old, were accused of organising these protests by government television station AZTV and newspaper Musavat.com.
Moreover, in Baku activists Elmir Abbasov, a member of the Board of the Nida Civic Movement and former political prisoner Giyas Ibrahim were detained because of their statements on social media. Their statements criticized excessive police violence and the ruling family’s neglect of citizens’ well-being. Elmir was sentenced to 20 days in prison, and Giyas was sentenced to 32 days in prison. After his arrest, Giyas started a dry hunger strike in prison to protest his and Soyudlu people’s illegal imprisonment. His health is in danger.
Since the protest, pro-government media outlets have promoted charges against demonstrators and blamed individuals for being organised by foreign organisations, anti-statists, and the West, USA, and Russia. The regime is spreading fear and terror among any politically active groups by brutally suppressing any attempts at political mobilizing.
While there is widespread indifference and sometimes silent support for the Azerbaijani government’s actions by the International community, after protests in Soyudlu village these positions became more evident and explicit. On the 23rd of June, at the reception event of the US Embassy in Baku, where the majority of civil society and state representatives were invited, feminist activists were dragged out of the event and handed over to Azerbaijani police, for showing silent solidarity with protestors in Soyudlu. This reaction mirrored the hypocrisy and decline of liberal democracy and urges us to seek different forms of solidarity in such times of crisis.
Therefore, we, a group of activists ask you in this letter to issue statements, share information, and be vocal about atrocities going on in Azerbaijan. This will pressure the Azerbaijani government and express solidarity with people and political activists in the country who face continuing violence.
For more information, please refer to the following sources:
13. Ulviyya Ali on Twitter: "The US Embassy's guards have twisted Ulvi Hasanli's arms and given him over to Azerbaijani police, while he was recording the protest which was perpetrated by feminist activists against Azerbaijani police's recent violence and arrests. The protest was held during Embassy event. https://t.co/G1denLLlIU" / Twitter