We present you the
by Dinara Yunus, daughter of imprisoned human rights defenders Arif and Leyla Yunus at the OSCE meeting which took place in Warsaw on September 24th, 2014.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be here today and to speak out about my parents. My name is Dinara Yunus, I am the daughter of Leyla and Arif Yunus, who are prominent human rights defenders, peacemakers, and, in fact, historians by profession.
Before continuing, dear human rights defenders, I would like to take the opportunity to point out on the importance of your profession. I would also like to point out the danger of being human rights defenders in countries where basic rights are constantly violated, and the rule of law exists only on paper.
Both of my parents dedicated 30 years of their lives to human rights activities. The history of their engagement in human rights goes back to Soviet times, when my mum and dad were one of the first ones to create a list of political prisoners and to disseminate it worldwide. In 1995, my mum Leyla Yunus established the Institute for Peace and Democracy, and the scope of her activities has widened since then. Yet her main activity remained to protect political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, to make a complete list, which not only includes names and surnames, but also includes provides details of violations that took place during investigation, detention, and court.
Together with my dad, they were helping prisoners of conscience to find their freedom and justice.
Also you have probably heard of the events of 2012, when the Eurovision song context was held in Baku. So many people lost their houses, so many people were deprived of their property rights.
Can I ask you something? I am not a politician or a human rights defender, I am a person who was simply terrified by these events. Just imagine that you are sitting at your own house, and then the police come and brutally kicks you out, pushes your mother out, and kids, tells your sister humiliating words and then demolishes the house in front of your eyes or while they take you to police department. My mum was one of the human rights defenders who made these facts known. And as a result, she was punished. They next demolished her home and the Institute for Peace and Democracy.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about my parents’ work activities, because you are probably aware of them.
I am here today because both of my parents are in prison, behind bars as criminals among criminals, with absurd charges against them. I quote my mum’s letter to my dad in prison: “You and I often read novels about political prisoners that saw the sky behind the bars. And now everyday I look at the sky behind the bars…»
Both of them are accused with treason in favor of Armenia on top of other charges.
My parents, my two the dearest people, were engaged in people’s diplomacy. In 2012, a unique joint Azerbaijan-Armenian website was created, where representatives of civil societies of both countries engaged in public dialogues.
My mother, Leyla Yunus, Knight of French Legion of Honor, Winner of the Theodore Hacker Prize was arrested on July 30th 2014. My dad, Arif Yunus, was arrested on August 5th 2014. They are being punished for their human rights defending and peacemaking activities. Amnesty International recognizes my parents as “prisoners of conscience”. Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch demand on a regular basis the immediate release of my parents, by highlighting the political motivation of their persecution.
I want to repeat again. Together with my dad, my mum was helping prisoners of conscience to find their freedom and justice. And now they are prisoners of conscience themselves Probably most of you read my mother’s letters to dad, that she wrote risking her safety. Thanks to the journalists who published them. The world has to know about the dissident life in Azerbaijan, how human rights defenders are punished for their activities, just because they stand up for principles of constitution.
My mum wrote: “I see how they are doing their best to break me, disabling me from any opportunity to retain my health”.
I know that my mum is now in the prison covered in bruises. She is surrounded by criminals, and is exposed to constant attacks by her inmate. My mum warned several times that serious provocation is being prepared against her.
No one apparently took it seriously, or maybe no one expected that the Knight of French Legion of Honor would be arrested when she spoke about the provocation and possible arrest. And then she was detained.
Then she spoke about the preparation of provocation against her in prison this time risking her safety. Again, the message was ignored.
At this time I am referring to you, dear sirs, government representatives. And a couple of days after her inmate attacked her, leaving her with bruises. She asked for help, for protection, but authorities gave her reprimand.
She is constantly exposed to humiliation by her inmate; in fact her being in prison is already humiliation. My mother, a Knight of the Legion of Honor, who protected the rights of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, has turned into prisoner of conscience herself.
When Europe adopted the recent resolution on Azerbaijan, it gave me a hope for change. But the latest news from home indicates that situation is just getting worse. My mum was deprived from her rights to see her lawyer. Prison staff says she is too sick to see lawyers. But she is also not allowed to call. Why was she is not transferred to the hospital? Why do they let her stay in prison deadly sick?
Already for four weeks, I have not had information about my dad, Arif Yunus. He is in the detention facility of the Ministry of National Security, where torture takes place. He is prohibited from writing letters, at the same time he cannot call anyone, so no one really knows how he is doing. Above all several weeks he was left without spare underwear, food and medicine. As my mum.
One simple decision to give the access to family friends to deliver food, medicine and clothes for both took a long while. For those who rely on medicine… well you know what I mean.
I need to say I am really worried about his well being, because recently my dad went through a mini-stroke. What raises my concerns besides the fact that my dad, Arif Yunus, a historian, author of many books and articles, human rights defender, and peacemaker, is arrested and is facing absurd charges, is the condition of his current health.
Everyday I ask myself questions, what if he feels bad — will he be provided with adequate and immediate medical care? Will there be a doctor by him? Will he be cured or they will let him suffer in pain? My concerns are well grounded.
When my parents were initially illegally detained, and my dad Arif Yunus experienced a mini-stroke, and doctors wanted to take him to hospital, investigators prohibited ambulance to take him for the first critical 30 minutes after his stroke. He is not young, he is old, he has high blood pressure and problems with heart. He needs to have his medicine on time.
Both of my parents are victims of their peacemaking, people’s diplomacy and human rights defense activities. They are victims of repression of the Aliyev regime.
Dear sirs, when you will be conducting silent diplomacy, please remember the many prisoners of conscience, killed or exposed to torture, in Azerbaijan prisons, remember the many journalists, human rights defenders, people of my age who are destroyed or being destroyed physically just because of their freedom of thought, freedom of speech, please remember my mum, Knight of French Legion of Honor, recall my dad, a peacemaker and author.
Remember me, whose family is being destroyed in prison under torture, my mum in one and my dad in another, so it would cause more pain to both of them, and to me. These ones, my loved ones, who dedicated their lives to the struggle for human rights. Remember the fact that my mother sacrificed sacred days with her child for her struggle for human rights.
I want to finish my speech with the words of Francois Zimeray.
He noted that my mother’s whole life was aimed at protecting fundamental freedoms. He also said. “Courage, freedom and struggle for human rights is what characterizes Yunus.” He also said that human rights are promoted by people who sometimes sacrifice not only their freedom, but also life to this. These are the people who need the best protection.