Azerbaijani child dies from injuries sustained in sambo training in school

3 May 2023
CCTV footage from the incident. Via Abzas.

A seven-year-old boy has died in Azerbaijan after sustaining grievous injuries at the hands of his sambo coach. The incident has sparked criticism of the state’s lack of rigorous background checks of school employees.

CCTV footage of the incident that took place in a public school in Sumgayit on Sunday emerged on social media showing Mehman Khalilov violently grabbing Farid Bakarov by his hair, then grabbing and lifting him by the neck. The child is then seen losing consciousness and falling on the ground.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Science and Education confirmed that Bakarov died later that day after being hospitalised.

The ministry’s statement stirred public debate and criticism on social media, as it stated that Khalilov was allowed to teach sambo at the school because he was a ‘winner of a number of prestigious local and international sports tournaments’.

Gulnara Mehdiyeva, a feminist and social activist, criticised the ministry’s statement saying that it ‘reflects the attitude of the Azerbaijani state towards citizens and violence in general’.

‘Unfortunately, sports achievements are not an indicator of human qualities’, wrote Mehdiyeva on Facebook. ‘Instead of owning up to their mistakes and checking what happened in all other gyms, the ministry is busy making the situation worse.’

Khalilov, who has reportedly previously used force against other children he trained, was detained as a preventive measure for four months on charges of deliberately causing serious harm and death to Bakarov.