Friday Wrap-up: a forced underage engagement, concerns about Azerbaijan religious freedom and a journalist released.

Illustration: Meydan TV

This week saw an underage forced into engagement, Azerbaijan on a list of nations with severe religious freedom violations and the host of Kanal 13 was released.

Man Arrested for Allegedly Coercing 12-Year-Old Daughter into Engagement with 20-Year-Old

A 44-year-old man in Mamishli village, Sabirabad district, was arrested for allegedly forcing his 12-year-old daughter into an engagement with a man 20 years older than her. Mubariz Guliyev faces charges carrying potential imprisonment of up to 4 years or a fine. He has been put in pretrial detention for three months during the initial investigation.

Following media coverage, authorities, including the State Committee on Family, Women’s, and Children’s Problems, visited the Guliyev family, while the investigation into Mubariz Guliyev’s case remains ongoing at the Sabirabad District Police Department.

Child marriage has been an ongoing social issue in Azerbaijan. Although preventing domestic violence and early marriages through awareness-raising events is one of the objectives of the 2020–2023 National Action Plan to Combat Domestic Violence in the Republic of Azerbaijan, 11% of girls in the country are married before turning 18, and 2% before turning 15. According to a 2019 research, the number of child marriages in Azerbaijan increased by 42% between 2017 and 2019.

US Places Azerbaijan on Religious Freedom Violation List Amid Concerns Over Rights Issues

The United States has placed Azerbaijan on a list highlighting nations with severe religious freedom violations, a move that might result in potential US sanctions. This categorization, announced annually by the Secretary of State, involves countries like Azerbaijan, recognized for substantial breaches of religious freedom.

While this decision was welcomed by a US religious freedom organization, USCIRF, their recent report voiced concerns about Azerbaijan’s government. The report outlined issues like amendments to religious laws, restrictions on religious activities, and the mistreatment of Shia Muslims, emphasizing the government’s reluctance to address human rights obligations.

The USCIRF report flagged Azerbaijan’s legal changes over three years, indicating increased restrictions on religious practices. Additionally, it pointed out the government’s treatment of Shia Muslims, including harassment, fines, detentions, and arrests, along with concerns about conscription based on religious beliefs. Despite USCIRF’s approval of Azerbaijan’s inclusion in the watch list, their report highlighted complex issues related to religious freedoms and human rights within the country, raising questions about the government’s commitment to upholding international obligations.

Kanal13 Host Released Amidst Dispute Over Alleged Political Motives

Rufat Muradli,  the host of Kanal 13 internet television, was recently released after a month in prison and disputes the court’s claims, stating he was falsely accused of hooliganism and disobeying police. He believes his arrest was a consequence of his role in independent media and his political stance, marking it as a crackdown on media and political freedom in Azerbaijan.

The court’s decision to detain Rufat Muradli was based on accusations of cursing in public and refusing police instructions, labeled as minor mischief and disobeying legal requests. Despite his denial and condemnation of these charges, the appellate court upheld his arrest warrant.

Meanwhile, the director of Kanal 13, Aziz Orujov, faces charges related to unauthorized construction and smuggling, while employee Shamo Eminov is also detained under smuggling allegations. Both deny these charges, attributing their arrests to the channel’s activities.

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