If only we could divide your dignity into 9 million and hand it to this people…

Editor: Zaur Gurbaniı wrote this letter while he was in jail. The letter is addressed to Rashadat Akhundov, a member of NIDA Civil Movement.

You really had to write to me? Otherwise I would have written one month earlier. I would have written on the day your son Araz was born.

In 2011 we founded a group called “Partisan”. Not long after this, Turgut, Uzeyir and Rashadat joined. At that time, I was a newbie in civil society activism. I was vaguely acquainted with Uzeyir, but I had never met Turgut or Rashadat. I won’t go into the details, but there was a moment in my time with “Partisan” when I was faced with a choice, and I chose these three. We then went on to found NIDA together. Good that I chose them. It was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Each of them is invaluable to me, but, let me be honest, Rashadat is the most valuable. I think everyone who knows Rashadat feels the same way. He is close to everyone.

At first I knew nothing about Rashadat, but for his face, from a photo of him I had from the “Fuck Oil” demonstration. But as I got to know him, I came to love him. Truly I loved him. Once Ismi told me that he loves all of us who were in jail. Rashadat said it so honestly that I came to some other love for him, beyond what one has for one’s mother, home, or a woman. Whether it is the love for a friend, or love born from a shared struggle, or some other kind of love, I do not know. But I love Rashadat with this love.

Rashadat is not especially strong, nor exceptionally skilled at organizing in an emergency, nor an authoritarian leader, nor anything else. He has no extraordinary skill that gains him the respect he has. But people around him know that he is always the most influential and the most respected. In recent elections for the administrative board of NIDA I won the same number of votes as Rashadat did. This raised my stature greatly.

“As much as Rashadat…” “Like Rashadat…” He is our standard. Our standard of  conscience, sincerity, courage, friendship and companionship. Once, a misunderstanding occurred between some NIDA members and me. I had to meet with Rashadat face to face, to understand my mistake. I won’t be able to describe the person that I talked with at that meeting, but I will say one thing. The sincerity I saw in this man left me with a defining thought; I have to be ready to put myself aside for the path that he is following.

When we were newly imprisoned, we did not see each other. Once, when I was leaving from a meeting with a lawyer, I saw Rashadat in the neighbouring room. It had been several months already, and we still had not seen each other. Only when the inspectors were ready did we manage to. I don’t know why, but I felt like I was hugging the “Fuck Oil” photo. Rashadat will never be photogenic, but because he is so sincere, he always feels close to you. Just look at the “Fuck Oil” picture, and be sure that the impression that it makes is true to him

At the last court session, they brought a case witness to stand against us. You might remember – sweeper’s clothes, oppressed and poor, a typical representative of our unfortunate nation. All of us were affected by the sight, but when I looked at Rashadat, I felt destroyed inside. His eyes were full of tears and asked – “What did they do to this nation?” Of course, they make political prisoners of all our nation’s brightest minds, but at that moment all I could think was: “How can you imprison someone like Rashadat? He is such a bright mind, imprisoning him is more brutal than Stalinism.”

Sometimes a person may doubt their deepest convictions. In the moments of my greatest doubts, there was a torch that showed me the way. I know that I am on the same track with Rashadat. I have told him that as well. If we are to live under a regime more totalitarian than the USSR, I will look for a conscious person to protest with, and I know that Rashadat will be with me. As one of the seven protesters who came out to Red Square in Prague in 1968 said, let’s show that this nation has not died yet. Sir, I congratulate you for a month earlier. If only we could divide your dignity into 9 million and hand it to this people, we would be the freest country of the world.

Love you, Rasho.

Zaur Gurbanli

18.03.2014 BİP

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