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A 14-year-old girl has been attacked in Baku after organising a commemoration ceremony for Elina Hajiyeva, a schoolgirl who committed suicide two weeks ago after being bullied at school.
Sanay Gahramanli, 14, was attacked by a man near the Elmlar Akademiyasi Metro Station on 17 April. The man, identified as 28-year-old Tural Garayev, began insulting Gahramanli, hitting her on the head and nose, and demanding that she apologise to First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva, the wife of President Ilham Aliyev.
In a live broadcast on Facebook, Garayev, a resident of Baku, admitted that he was the attacker.
Orkhan Mansurzadeh, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's press service, told local media on 18 April that as a result of ‘urgent measures’ taken by the police, Garayev had been identified as the attacker and arrested.
According to Gahramanli’s mother, Zumrud Yaghmur, Gahramanli organised a commemoration ceremony for Elina Hajiyeva, a year eight pupil who committed suicide by throwing herself off the third floor of her school. Yaghmur wrote on Facebook that following the commemoration, her daughter had faced harassment on her way to and from school.
Gahramanli is the daughter of former political prisoner and Deputy Chairman of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan Fuad Gahramanli, who was released in 16 March’s presidential amnesty.
[Read on OC Media: Aliyev frees 52 ‘political prisoners’ as part of Novruz amnesty]
‘Bullying is frustrating the future’
Elina Hajiyeva threw herself off the third floor of Baku’s Secondary School No 162 on 4 April. According to reports in local media, after the incident, other children were removed from the scene and Hajiyeva was taken to the school director's office and questioned for two hours before an ambulance was called.
According to Meydan TV, when an ambulance was finally called, the school reported that a student had been poisoned.
Sevil Huseynova, Hajiyeva’s mother, confirmed this to reporters, adding that though the incident occurred at 9:00, an ambulance was only called at 11:04.
Hajiyeva died in hospital two days later. After her death, Huseynova told media that other children at the school had not treated Hajiyeva well, and that the school administration had ignored these issues.
On 10 April, a video began spreading in social media showing someone, reportedly the deputy chief of the Sabayil District Executive Power, where the school is located, asking Hajiyeva provocative questions about her family situation.
In it, the adults try to convince Hajiyeva to say that the reason she had attempted to kill herself was her family, and were not related to her school life. ‘Have you argued with your mother? How did the [school] director treat you?’ they asked.
The video was reportedly taken in the school director’s office before the ambulance was called.
Following the incident, the actions of the school administration and local authorities came under intense criticism online.
Social media campaigns, including ‘Bullying is frustrating the future’ and under the hashtag #Elinaüçünsusma (‘don’t be silent about Elina’), were launched and a number of memorial events were organised. Gahramanli, along with other social activists, had helped organise such an event on 13 April.
Attacks on government critics
Gahramanli’s attack is the latest in a number of incidents in which government critics have faced harassment, supposedly from ordinary citizens.
Earlier this year, the Chairman of the Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, who had wished to take part in the commemoration ceremony of the 27th anniversary of the Khojali massacre on 26 February, was harassed by pro-government video blogger Ata Abdullayev. Abdullayev had previously attempted to conduct citizen arrests on people involved in the rallies.
Sanay Gahramanli’s attacker, Tural Garayev, also attended the Khojali memorial, where he chanted slogans against the opposition Musavat Party and insulted party chairman Arif Hajili and leader Isa Gambar.
On 8 March, during a Women’s Day March against violence against women in Baku, was attacked by a group of unidentified women. The participants of the march later claimed the women who attacked them had been collaborating with the police.
[Read more on OC Media: Police in Azerbaijan break up Women’s Day March]
Former political prisoner Giyas Ibrahim, who was released on 16 March as part of the presidential pardon said he was warned on 3 April by the Baku City Police that he could be attacked on the street by supporters of the president.
‘They said openly, do not go against the president, or tomorrow some of his fanatics could attack you. Maybe they're protecting me. Likely they're protecting me. In short, they advised me to be smart’, Ibrahim told reporters.
Rasul Jafarov, head of local rights group the Human Rights Club, told OC Media that a country’s government should not fight its own citizens. According to him, such approaches should be stopped once and for all as they are contrary to both the law and Azerbaijan’s international commitments.
‘Very serious steps should be taken against such acts. [The government] must start a serious, objective investigation into those people. The persons responsible for breaking the rule of law should be immediately punished’, Jafarov told OC Media.
He said those organising the harassment may represent ‘marginal interests’ within Azerbaijani power structures. ‘But in the long-run, this leads to instability, chaos, confrontation’, Jafarov said, adding that the state is directly responsible for ensuring the security of its citizens.