A plea, a desperate call of a child in need, a request. The letter below could be described as any of these or all of the above. Meydan TV presents you with a letter Dinara Yunus, daughter of jailed Arif and Leyla Yunus wrote addressing France’s President Francois Hollande.
The letter was originally published in French
“Dear President Hollande,
Dear Mr. President, you met my mother, prominent human rights defender, and Knight of the French Legion of Honor Leyla Yunus during your visit to Azerbaijan in May 2014. I would like to thank you for recognizing my mother’s efforts and work in development of human rights in Azerbaijan by honoring her with becoming a Knight of the French Legion of Honor. Unfortunately, your recognition meant nothing to the Azerbaijani authorities, and this summer my mother was detained, accused of absurd charges, and sent to Baku Investigative Prison No. 1.
My mum — you have seen her — is a small, fragile woman. She is now exposed to inhumane treatments at the pretrial detention center. She is constantly humiliated, insulted and attacked in her cell by a hardened criminal inmate.
The most disturbing part is that recently, a prison guard viciously attacked my mum. He fiercely beat her on her head with his fists, pulled out her hair, causing her terrible pain and risk of blindness. My mum underwent two major operations on her eyes, and now she has crystal implants in both of her eyes.
Dear Mr. President, can you imagine something similar happening in your prisons? How would French citizens react if such an incident – where prison officials attacked a diabetic old woman, took place in a French prison? How would French citizens react if they heard that a Knight of the French Legion of Honor is exposed to such attacks and humiliations and France is not actively intervening to release her?
Mr. President, my mum, is detained on falsified charges, while being deprived of any protection from her violent cellmate, who is a repeat offender. She is mistreated by the pretrial detention staff and by the whole authoritarian Aliyev regime. Would France close its eyes to such injustice?
And it isn’t only my mum who is behind bars on falsified charges. My dad, Arif Yunus, is there too. If convicted they both are facing a sentence from 15 years up to life imprisonment. Both of them are victims of their human rights work. My mum and dad dedicated a significant part of their lives — 30 years — to human rights work.
These are parents who never thought about their own safety and security, but of others. Parents who protected political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and are now currently prisoners of conscience themselves. Parents who were already punished in 2012 when our private house – the Institute for Peace and Democracy was illegally demolished during Eurovision Song Contest construction spree, just because mum and dad were defending citizens who were deprived of their property rights. Parents who were deprived of seeing their daughter beside them for many years, forced to live apart, because of the danger human rights defenders and their families face in Azerbaijan.
Dear Mr. President, this October, you are arranging a meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Indeed, you put a lot of effort with the OSCE Minsk Group to find peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict. It seems ironic that Ilham Aliyev, who speaks of peaceful resolution of Karabakh conflict, detains my parents who have worked so hard to achieve this peaceful solution by engaging in public diplomacy dialogues. My parents were part of creating first and unique website, where representatives of both Armenian and Azerbaijani communities were able to engage in public dialogues between the two sides. These dialogues may too bring peace and stability to the region.
Mr. President, my parents are not young anymore, they are old and ill. My dad has a weak heart and high blood pressure and my mum is diabetic. Each day they stay in prison it risks shortening their lives. I want to see them free, smiling, holding each other again. I want them to wish me a Happy Birthday. It is only your direct request to Ilham Aliyev that can make a difference.
I am asking you, Dear President, to demand that Ilham Aliyev release my parents immediately and unconditionally, as it is stated in the recently adopted resolution by the European Parliament. I am asking you to save my parents’ lives from the Azerbaijani authoritarian regime, an elderly couple, prominent human rights defenders, one of whom is a Knight of the French Legion of Honor.
Now, Mr. President, does it matter if my parents are French or Azerbaijanis? Does justice have a nationality?
Mr. President, the fundamental rule of our life – ‘strictly follow the letter of the law and the spirit of law” has always been the motto of my parents’ life. My parents need your best support now, because tomorrow it could be too late.
Daughter of Arif and Leyla Yunus