Temporary Death: a tribute to Elton Guliyev

“Elton was one of the most prominent lawyers in the country… During his lifetime, he defended numerous people in court. He always reminded me of that French lawyer in Camus’s novel,” Emin Milli writes about one of Azerbaijan’s best-known lawyers who passed today.

Elton Guliyev was one of Azerbaijan’s best-known lawyers, famous for taking on such high-profile cases of that of the former Economy Minister Farhad Aliyev. He defended the rights of activists Emin Milli, Intigam Aliyev, Khadija Ismayilova, Seymour Hazi and Adnan Hajizadeh. Guliyev passed today at the age of 59 from a severe illness.

A Meeting

It was quiet. When it is quiet in a locked room, silence looks like a special kind of death. Temporary death. People on the other side of the wall can’t see you. The same happens when you die. You are buried and you are no more. You are arrested and for many you are no more. Connection with you disappears. Silence.

I was lying on a double-story bed and quietly staring at several blue squares formed by the cell bars. Clouds were racing with each other and passing through those squares. My thought carried me far away, to France. On that day I finished “The Fall” by Albert Camus. The character of the French lawyer from the novel was still in my mind.

I was thinking about that gray-haired lawyer who had lived in this world for more than half a century, knew and loved literature and women, never said no to good wine, did not get surprised by anything in this life, knew his job very well, always felt obliged to be on the side of the oppressed, accepted search for justice and truth as a mission of his life…  I was thinking about his story, philosophy and thoughts.

Suddenly I got distracted by the ascending sound of steps that came closer and closer to my cell.  The sound stopped, and in a couple of seconds the iron door of my cell opened with that specific noise.

–          To a meeting.

–          A lawyer?

–          Yes.

When you are in a locked room, things that do not normally excite you easily get you excited. One of my newly-discovered excitements were meetings. Each time I had to go to a meeting with a lawyer, I was excited and happy! I was going to a meeting with a person who lived in another world. I wanted him to tell me about what was happening in his world. Every time I was listening to what he told me with great excitement. As if I was listening to a fairy tale. I used to call him Saint Tony. Isakhan, who was his friend since university years, also called him like that. In fact I stole this expression from him. Elton was one of the most prominent lawyers in the country. And at a friend’s request, he became my lawyer since the very first day I got arrested.

Elton used to come to the jail two or three times a week. Each time he came, he spent almost half of the day in a meeting with me. During his lifetime he had defended numerous people in court. He always reminded me of that French lawyer in Camus’s novel. Elton loved to speak with irony on many topics. Once he told me this truth about his job:

“Laws do not work in this country. In this country sometimes I feel I’m a postman, not a lawyer. The most real assistance a lawyer can provide to political prisoners is carrying letters for them. All lawyers in this country are in fact postmen.”

He used to smoke a lot. He could easily light and smoke another cigarette right after the previous one. We used to have interesting and substantial conversations. We often spoke about Elmar Huseynov, a prominent journalist and his friend. This time too we started to speak about Elmar. It was the anniversary of Elmar’s assassination.

“Elmar could have been the president of this country, but they killed him.”

During this meeting it felt like there was some kind of heaviness in the air. This feeling was so familiar to me. I felt this heaviness on the day when Elmar was assassinated. Only those who find themselves guilty for Elmar’s death can feel that heaviness I’m talking about. Elmar was unique.  Back then I had a comfortable life. I didn’t think fighting for freedom of speech and political change in the country was my duty. Back then we used to read his pieces and think that it was his job and his duty. There were millions of people who thought like me. There are millions who do now.

Now I am sure that it was us, our way of thinking and our approach of indifference that killed Elmar. I am the killer and the absolute majority of this society is guilty of this assassination. It is hard to recognize and feel this. Many simply try not to think about it.

I said goodbye to Elton and under surveillance of the guards came back to my cell number 14. I entered the cell and quietly lied down on my bed. It was quiet.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Meydan TV’s editorial policy.

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