Femicide and the Inaction of the Media in Azerbaijan

On October 30, 31 – year – old Halida from the Kurdish village of Qabala was murdered as a result of domestic violence. She was pregnant at the time of her death and left behind three children.

On October 30, 31 – year – old Halida from the Kurdish village of Qabala was murdered as a result of domestic violence. She was pregnant at the time of her death and left behind three children.

Her father alleges that she was murdered by her husband, and that her mother and father – in – law were also involved in the fatal attack.

After the incident, the hashtag “Stop Killing Women” appeared on numerous social networks in Azerbaijan as a sign of protest against violence against women and in remembrance of Halida. Her death once again raised the question of domestic violence in Azerbaijan which, though it has been discussed on numerous occasions and on different platforms for many years, has still remained open – ended and not properly addressed.

More grievously, the details of her death were reported on in a ‘one-sided’ fashion, in that her case was not viewed as one of a trend of violence against women in the country, but rather as that of an ordinary crime. This had the result of stifling discussion about the real issue at hand.

According to the results of monitoring performed by the

Clean World Public Union

across 13 newspapers and 4 online news outlets, 383 women were murdered in the period from 2010 to 2013, i.e. an average of 95 women a year in Azerbaijan.

In 2015, in cooperation with students of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, I tallied up the rates at which women are murdered in the South Caucasus based off various online media outlets and articles from Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The corresponding rates of femicide for these three countries were 0.27, 0.25 and 0.29 per 100,000 individuals.

For my senior thesis, I studied articles published on four sites – lent.az, qafqazinfo.az,  trend.az and


, spanning from 2010 – 2015, pertaining to women killed by their husbands with the aim of uncovering how the media represents these murders: as common crimes, or as a social problem.

In all, I analyzed more than 318 articles concerning 202 cases of femicide. 66.2% of these women were killed by men with whom they were in a registered marriage: 9% were in a civil marriage, 13.1% by their former husbands, 10.1% by their boyfriends and 1.5% by their registered husbands with whom they were not living.

The most commonly cited sources were the police (31%) and the public prosecutor (24%). Judiciary organs were ignored entirely.

Steve Chermak, professor at Michigan State University, writes that law-enforcement organs see to it that news about crimes are brought to light. They also decide which news to publish in the media, and which not to publish. As a result, the majority of this news is published in media outlets with the permission of the police. Criminal news editors publish stories in precisely this context, to guarantee continued cooperation with law-enforcement agencies in the future. In this sense, the police stand opposed to lawyers and social workers.

Because of this lack of information, the majority of people consider those who are seeing a psychologist or sociologist to be “troubled” people. In Azerbaijani society this stereotype has to this day not been demolished. This sort of attitude is even more conservative in rural locations. When an uneducated woman or man needs support from a psychologist, when they are advised to seek a consultation with a specialist, they say “I’m not crazy!”

Because they take people to the psychologist when they are already uncontrollable, when their nerves are completely frayed. Or they don’t take them there at all, and those with psychological issues remain uncared for.

The fact that social workers and psychologists remain on the sideline is what forces society to rule out domestic violence as a social problem and include it among the ranks of every-day criminality. Moreover, this also removes the responsibility of the government.

Regarding the features of the murders, in the articles it says that in 20.8% of the cases the death was the result of domestic problems and quarrels, in 11.9% it took place in the course of a conflict, and in 71.4% it was a case of common murder. 84% of the articles don’t give any sort of information about whether the victim was previously subject to domestic violence.

Only in two articles was it noted that, while she was alive, the abused woman’s relatives requested that law-enforcement agencies take preventative measures. In the first case, the police simply limited themselves to warning the husband, who had threatened his wife. He, by the way, had a previous conviction for drug use. In the second case, the police released the culprit from temporary detention after a couple of days. In both cases the women were later murdered.

Moreover, statistical data showing the scale of the problem were not included, and neither was information about operations or about whether similar murders had been previously committed in this same region.

In a word, instances of domestic violence with fatal consequences are presented not as a social problem but in the context of the personal problems of those murdered.

In 2003-2013, Professor Dolors Comas d’Argemir from the Spanish University Rovira i Virgili monitored segments connected with the murder of women, aired on the TV channels of Catalonia (an autonomous administrative division of Spain).

She uncovered that television in Catalonia often used terminology connected with domestic violence towards women, as a result of which society came forth in opposition to this problem.

In Azerbaijan, sites are transformed into a place for readers to find gossip. Public opinion is either absent or goes unnoticed. People are afraid to talk about the topic. It would seem that both women and men, whenever they read about such acts of violence, don’t see the relevance in their personal lives, and they are thus stripped of the possibility of somehow helping to resolve the problem.

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