Live updates: Women detained in Baku as Caucasus markes International Women’s Day

8 March 2021
Police in Baku detaining women. Photo: Ulviyya Ali/OC Media.

Women across the Caucasus are marking International Women’s Day today, 8 March 2021. Demonstrations are planned in Georgia and Azerbaijan against violence against women, while in other regions no protest actions have been announced.

08 Mar 2021, 20:26

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08 Mar 2021, 20:25

Read the full write up of today’s events in Baku, by Hamida Giyasbayli and Ulviyyaali Ali: Baku Police detain women on International Women’s Day 

08 Mar 2021, 19:35

Kadyrov praises mothers for raising heroes who ‘defeated international terrorism’

The Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, hailed women who raised ‘heroes of the Fatherland who defeated international terrorism’ in Chechnya. 

Kadyrov also venerated Chechen women who he said ‘significantly contribute to Chechnya’s development’ while continuing to be homemakers.

Congratulatory addresses of other heads of North Caucasus republics of Russia were less political, accompanied by various public events. In the run-up to 8 March, music groups in Cherkessk in Karachay-Cherkessia sang for women medics outside hospitals. 

The marking of International Women’s Day was marred in North Ossetia — Alania with the news of a husband killing her wife and then committing suicide in the city of Alagir. In recent years, North Ossetia has been gripped with high-profile cases of domestic violence and femicide.

08 Mar 2021, 18:17

Tbilisi protesters read out stories of violence

Protesters in Tbilisi have reached the Government Chancellery, where activists are reading out real life stories of violence against women.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

08 Mar 2021, 18:03

Protests across Georgia

Small demonstrations are taking place in several towns and cities across Georgia today.

A demonstration in Batumi. Image via Batumelebi.
A demonstration in Marneuli. Image via Radio Marneuli.

08 Mar 2021, 17:36

Demonstrators block Rustaveli Avenue

Protesters in Tbilisi have blocked half of the city’s central Rustaveli Avenue while marching towards the government offices.

08 Mar 2021, 17:26

Tbilisi march kicks off

Several dozen activists have begun to march from Tbilisi’s First Republic Square towards the Government Chancellery. 

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

08 Mar 2021, 17:08

Baku organisers return to read statement aloud

The protestors detained earlier today have begun to be released after being taken to different police stations across the city.

Two of the protest organisers returned to the march’s planned endpoint —  the ‘Free Woman’ statue — and read a statement aloud.

Gulnara Mehdiyeva reading a statement aloud. Photo: Ulviyya Ali/OC Media.

‘We, the marchers, are outraged by the numerous killings of women, suicides, gender-based discrimination and violence in Azerbaijan throughout the year, and the lack of any mechanism to protect vulnerable groups during the pandemic.’

‘The state promotes patriarchal values ​​and does not take any serious steps to ensure the security of its citizens.’

‘In view of all this, we declare: No force can stop our freedom of expression, as well as our freedom of assembly.’

‘We will continue our struggle until the patriarchy is destroyed.’

‘We, the participants of the march, demand that the state: adopt the Istanbul Convention.’

‘Ensure a high level of security for all individuals, regardless of gender and orientation.’

‘Crimes against women should be investigated in a lawful and fair manner and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.’

‘In the post-pandemic and post-war conditions, the problems of all vulnerable groups should be taken into account and resolved as soon as possible.’

‘Provide education and employment opportunities for women and other vulnerable groups in the capital and the regions.’

‘Eliminate all obstacles to the integration, meeting, and organisation of people, regardless of gender and orientation.’

08 Mar 2021, 15:20

Abkhazian and South Ossetain leaders congratulate women

The leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have congratulated women.

‘On this day, we give flowers and the warmest congratulations to representatives of the beautiful half of humanity whose great mission is determined by nature itself — to continue the human race’, South Ossetian President Anatoly Bibilov said in a congratulatory speech. 

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

Anatoly Bibilov.

In his 8 March address, President of Abkhazia Aslan Bhzaniya congratulated ‘with special warmth’ the mothers ‘who raised fearless defenders of the Fatherland’.

08 Mar 2021, 15:43

Detentions continue in Baku

Police have continued to detain people in central Baku attempting to march, with at least 20 detained so far.

08 Mar 2021, 15:24

Azerbaijani police disburse march

Police in Baku have broken up the march as soon as it began, detaining at least 10 activists.

08 Mar 2021, 15:15

Georgian unions highlight gender pay gap amidst pandemic

Irakli Petriashvili, the Chair of the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC), has reminded Parliament and the government that most of those who left the labour force after the pandemic hit were women, while other women managed to retain their jobs under worse labour conditions than before. He said this was an additional burden added to their domestic work. 

According to Petriashvili, in times like these it is crucial the government go back to unaddressed issues of gender inequality and the gender pay gap in the labour market of Georgia. 

He also called on the authorities to tackle the insufficient maternity leave legislation. He also criticised the ‘miserably small’ ₾20 minimum monthly wage, which he said especially affected women in low-income sectors.

08 Mar 2021, 15:09

Pashinyan pays tribute to military women

In an address today, Armenian Prime Minister NIkol Pashinyan paid tribute to women military personnel and volunteers ‘who gave their lives in the name of the Fatherland during the 44-day war’.

Pashinyan also appreciated the role of women whose ‘sons, husbands, and brothers’ continue their service, as well as women currently ‘defending the Motherland’.

Women’s rights activists have not announced any plans to mark the day this year.

08 Mar 2021, 15:03

Public transport shut down in Baku

Public transport has been shut down today in Azerbaijan. According to the authorities, the decision was taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. No similar measures have been taken during any previous holiday since the pandemic began. 

Activists insisted the shut down was because the authorities were afraid of their protest, and collected donations in order to organise taxis for those that could not otherwise make it to the march.

08 Mar 2021, 14:55

Police raid Baku cafe and detain activists

Police have entered the Coffie Moffie cafe in the centre of Baku. One of the organisers, Vafa Naghi, and another activist, Sevgi Ismailova were detained.

Vafa Naghi (left) and Sevgi Ismailova (right) before the march.


08 Mar 2021, 14:44

Azerbaijani police vow to prevent march

The head of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ehsan Zahidov, told Qafqazinfo several days ago that no mass action was allowed.

‘Any mass action not approved by the local executive authorities is not allowed. Especially during the special quarantine regime, the organization and holding of any mass action creates legal responsibility. If any steps are taken in this direction, the police will prevent it.’

Activist submitted a letter informing the Baku City Executive Power of their intention to march however permission was denied.

In previous years, police have forcefully disbursed Women’s Day demonstrations.

The organisers responded with a statement:

‘We, the marchers, are outraged by the numerous killings of women, suicides, gender-based discrimination and violence in Azerbaijan throughout the year, and the lack of any mechanism to protect vulnerable groups during the pandemic.’

‘The state promotes patriarchal values ​​and does not take any serious steps to ensure the security of its citizens.’

‘No force can stop our freedom of expression, as well as our freedom of assembly! We will continue our struggle until the patriarchy is destroyed! We, the participants of the march, demand from the state: Istanbul Convention to be adopted!’

08 Mar 2021, 14:22

Georgia’s ‘march of 1,000 parents’

Protest marches are planned in ten Georgian cities, including Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi.

The focus of this year’s campaign was the suicide of a 14-year-old Nini, an alleged rape victim in Georgia’s Adjara region on 10 February. 

Read more on the story: 'Systemic inaction' to blame for suicide of 14-year-old alleged rape victim 

Following Nini’s death, Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria was quick to point to a lack of social workers and psychologists nationwide, something also included in the demands of women’s rights advocates today.

On 8 March, Lomjaria called the statistics on femicide ‘alarming’.

‘In 2020, 24 women were killed, 15 of which contained signs of domestic crime, while 9 cases had other motives. In addition, there were 27 attempted murders of women, 17 of which were committed on the grounds of a domestic crime’, she said in a statement.

Demands by women’s rights advocates this year include:

  • Amending Georgia’s rape legislation to define rape as sex with the absence of consent. The current law only criminalises sex ‘committed with violence, under the threat of violence, or by abusing a helpless condition of a person affected’. 
  • A specialised department at the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to investigate cases of sexual violence.
  • Sex education to become part of the school curricula so that ‘children are able to identify sexual violence and protect themselves from it’. 

Rights group the Georgian Young Lawyers Association also highlighted that Georgia has still not criminalised forced abortion in line with Istanbul Convention.

08 Mar 2021, 14:19

Russian peacekeepers distribute flowers in    

Russian peacekeepers have been giving flowers to women crossing the Lachin Corridor in and out of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Video via Russian Peacekeeping mission.

08 Mar 2021, 13:34

A march is planned in Baku at 15:00, starting from the Nizami Street McDonald’s, continuing along Azerbaijan Avenue, and ending in front of the ‘Free Woman’ statue inspired by the play ‘Sevil’.

Organisers say the goal is to draw attention to gender-based violence and killings. The main slogans are: ‘the murder of women is political!’, ‘Fight like a woman, destroy like a woman, create like a woman!’

Their main demands are: 

  • For Azerbaijan to adopt the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.
  • For crimes against women to be investigated in a lawful and fair manner and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
  • For the government to take effective measures to prevent violence against and killings of women.
  • To remove all obstacles to women gathering and organising.