Stopped at the border… Again

It is becoming more of a habit for Azerbaijani customs to stop some of its citizens at customs either when leaving or arriving back into the country. This time, it was Khadija Ismayil’s turn. Again. She has been already stopped several times. Last time she was questioned and searched the customs removed bandages on her leg in search for something they could not explain.

Last night, on her trip back form Strasbourg Khadija was stopped at the customs once again at the Baku International Airport where she was kept for five hours.

But the debacle was resolved once customs officers realized that a memory card isn’t a USB stick. If however it was a USB stick then they had to review whats on it said in an explanation Khadija while exiting the airport to Meydan TV.

Later, Khadija shared in a status update [the text was edited from its original format] on Facebook how it all looked like:

“There is always a way not to bring the political harassment to absurdity. Although custom officers were polite, they turned this search into a comedy. It was ridiculous for them to expect me to allow to review my flash card without even a proper documentation. They didn’t want to document anything. They in fact couldn’t take me to police station because this meant for them documenting the search. They took me out, said we’d go to police, but then they brought me back, because they realized I was not scared.

So they didn’t know what to do. They wanted to search my things, but they didn’t want to document it. They decided to let me go, but they needed to save their face. So they went for the memory card (which they originally thought was a USB stick/flash drive). “Ahh we thought it is a USB drive, but it is a memory card. This we don’t need” they said. I never told I had a flash drive on me. It was in my wallet and they saw it, so they demanded to review it.

So, I decided not to spoil their exit strategy. I nodded. And when they told me they have no claims any more, I said, look I actually can show you what is on the memory card, but as long as it is not on your equipment. I asked a friend who was waiting outside to send in his camera. I put the memory card in. It was empty. I knew it was empty from the start so it wasn’t about having sensitive materials or not. It was a matter of privacy and matter of law (they couldn’t just search me like that without documenting it and having a permit).

Then they said, “are you playing with us all these hours?” To what I responded, “No I am not. I am not playing. I said you can search things only if you have a right and proper paperwork. Otherwise, it is up to me if I want to show you something or not.”

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