Farewell to Uncle Ibrahim

“…Bizim bir İbrahim əmimiz vardı. İndi o yoxdur…”

Editor’s note: NIDA Civic Movement member Uzeyir Mammadli, who was recently released after spending almost two years in prison, wrote this letter on receiving the news that, Ibrahim Noruzlu, the father of fellow inmate and NIDA member Shahin Novruzlu, had passed away. For certain reasons we are only able to publish this letter now.

I can’t say I remember all of my encounters with Uncle Ibrahim, but the first and the last will forever remain in my memory. I remember the exact time of both of those meetings. The

first time we met was in their backyard, on March 7


2013, the day that Shahin Novruzlu was arrested. It was around 11 or 12 in the evening. Uncle Ibrahim had his relatives with him in the dark backyard, and I was there with Rashadat and Rashad (currently imprisoned NIDA Civic Movement members Rashadat Akhundov and Rashad Hasanov – Ed.).

A couple of hours earlier, Ministry of National Security employees had seized Shahin, Uncle Ibrahim’s only son, and taken more than 94 000 AZN, and other valuable possessions. Uncle Ibrahim was reluctant to talk to us that evening. He did not realize the severity of the situation, and it seemed like he didn’t take us too seriously either. Although we could not really see his face in the dark, he looked as if he was more upset about the money. Whether or not this was true, all three of us thought the same when we left. After getting to know Uncle Ibrahim better, I realized that we were both fair and unfair in our judgment of him that evening.

We were wrong. We were wrong, because anyone who had watched or showed support during court proceedings and the arrests witnessed how much Uncle Ibrahim cared for Shahin and for us. At times he turned into a rebel in the courtroom. Several times he had to leave the courtroom, because he could not hold back his anger. But just as it ticked for us, the clock

was ticking for him. I wish he had saved for himself some of that vital energy he spread around in that grim courtroom, where justice was made a mockery. Maybe then Uncle Ibrahim would still be alive today.

The correct part of our interpretation that night was that he did not realize that his 17-year-old son’s arrest was the beginning of the biggest wave of repression in the history of modern Azerbaijan. He did not realize that the Facebook messages that his son had written with youthful ambition, and the

94 000 AZN seized from their home (which belonged to other people) would all become part of a wicked game. He did not know that the

Azeri government would use those messages and the money to accuse a world power like the US of attempting to start a revolution in the country.

Perhaps if he had known this, his heart would have stopped that very evening. But since he did not, he thought that Shahin’s arrest was just a misunderstanding. That he would be released soon, with the help of connections and money, but knowing Azeri law enforcement agencies, he realized that getting the confiscated money back would most likely be impossible. The events that followed

proved him right. Although he would not live to see it, Shahin was released 1 year and 7 months later, but the 94 000 AZN has still not been returned, and it doesn’t seem like it will be anytime soon. But maybe Uncle Ibrahim’s death precipitated the events that led to Shahin’s release.

During my encounters with him before my arrest, I could tell that Uncle Ibrahim did not particularly like me. Maybe that was because he didn’t know us very well. Once he had even told me that if Rashadat and I were arrested he wouldn’t worry too much, but that Shahin was only a child… But back then I couldn’t ask him about the impression of him that I had received on that first evening. During our 7-month-long trials I saw Uncle Ibrahim all the time, but obviously we didn’t get a chance to talk. We would have had plenty of opportunities to talk after my release, but unfortunately Uncle Ibrahim did not live to see that day. For that reason, I will always believe the version of him I described above.

Although I have few memories of Uncle Ibrahim, one I will never forget is the last time we met. Our last meeting was in Kurdekhani (Baku Detention Facility №1), the day after Shahin’s 19th birthday. I had just finished talking to my lawyer, and Uncle Ibrahim was there with his family members to pay their weekly visit to Shahin. Those who have recently been in or heard of Kurdekhani Detention Facility probably know about the rules in that cramped place. We were not allowed to communicate in any way with other political prisoners, their relatives, other lawyers or even the investigator. Sometimes they would create a “wall of guards” around us before taking us to meet with our lawyers or relatives. This was done not only to prisoners, but also to their visitors. On that day, by chance we got an opportunity to talk, when the guards were negligent for a moment. Uncle Ibrahim saw me and rushed towards me. “Before the guards see us”, he said, and hugged me. The facility employees quickly came to their senses, and didn’t let us talk any further. Less than a month later, Uncle Ibrahim passed away, and that casual encounter was our last.

I didn’t know this back then. I don’t even know that something would have changed if I had. What I know for sure is that Uncle Ibrahim won his share of love in our hearts before he passed. Maybe if he had been more attached to this world, if he had sensed that death was near, if he hadn’t taken all the unfairness and injustice to heart, he would still be with us today…



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