The state of human rights and academic freedom in Azerbaijan continues to deteriorate. Authorities have long curtailed academic freedom and freedom of speech. Recently, the government took violent measures to detain peacefully protesting students in various universities as part of its ongoing crusade to silence the opposition, including journalists, activists, foreign nationals, in addition to academics.
On May 3, 2021, police detained five students peacefully protesting a decision by Azerbaijan State Economic University (ASEU) to revoke a policy that aided students taking exams amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Police stopped the small group of students as they marched chanting slogans and holding banners and detained at least five students. The country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs shared a public statement about the incident, claiming that the protesters were not detained but removed from the area, merely because of the COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions on public gatherings that are in effect. The protesters Ravan Akhundov, Ahmad Mammadli, Farid Jabbar, and Tukazban Gasimova, and Rustam Ismailbeyli were reportedly released from police custody within several hours.
Earlier in February 2021, a similar incident took place in Lankaran State University (LSU), where a small group of student protesters, who were criticizing the school’s grading policy. Students Ahmad Mammadli, Jalil Zabidov, Orkhan Iskenderli, and Samir Akhundzadeh were taken into custody before reading their statement for “disrupting public order” and released on February 2, after police interrogation and court hearing that resulted in the issuing of a court warning for disrupting public order and violating COVID-19 related social-distancing and public gathering regulations.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned with the arbitrary detention of Azerbaijani students for peacefully exercising the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly -conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a party. State authorities are legally obliged to protect and respect the peaceful exercise of the freedom of speech and of assembly. In addition to the harm it inflicts on individual victims, arbitrary and disproportionate use of state power through detentions in response to peaceful student protests undermine and restrict academic freedom as well as blur the prospects for democratic society.
(Last updated: October 25, 2021)
Please send appeals to:
Michelle Bachelet Jeria
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations
Office of the Permanent Representative
633 Third Avenue, Suite 3210
New York, NY, 10017
Tel: +1 (212) 371-2559, +1 (212) 371-2832