“Better to live one day as a freeman than forty years as a slave.”

Arif Yunus, an ailing historian and human rights defender, has just been sentenced to 7 years in prison on charges of large-scale fraud, widely seen as politically motivated. On the day of this sentencing, Arif, whose wife and also rights activist Leyla was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison, said the following:

We only have one life to live. The most important thing is who you spend your life with, and who you call your soulmate.

I am truly happy I have been married to Leyla Yunus for all these years. We are not young anymore.

In January, I celebrated my 60th birthday at the Ministry of National Security.

I wonder if anyone else has celebrated their 60th anniversary in a solitary confinement, at the Ministry of National Security?

For 37 years out of these 60 years of my life, we have been together with Leyla.

It is a mystical number for Azerbaijan. Our court hearing is similar to the ones held in 1937.  It is ruled with the same means.

To quote Babek, “It is better to live one day as a freeman than forty years as a slave.” We are historians, his words are our motto.

In the Soviet times, when people used to throw their party cards away, we fought for Azerbaijan’s freedom.

After Azerbaijan gained its independence, the second stage of our struggle began, this time for our country’s democratization.

The road was paved with obstacles. We were attacked a number of times.

Even in 1988, when we were trying to reveal the truth about the country, we were labeled “extremists” and were questioned at the Prosecutor’s office.

The same scenario occurred with the Khojaly events.  We were together on that road as well.

If I were able to return my youth and have a chance to choose a wife once again, my choice would still fall on Leyla.

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