“The Azerbaijani government still has a chance to make this right”

Leyla Yunus receives another letter of support while in prison from a friend and supporter Jane Barry.

14 November 2014

My Dearest Leyla and Arif,

I am thinking of you and sending you so much love.

Every day, we are working to make sure the world knows about your situation – about the terrible treatment you are undergoing, about your health condition, your isolation. All because you have both so courageously stood up to defend the rights of your fellow citizens, for democracy and for peace. We are working with hundreds of supporters from dozens of countries all around the world.

Your work – and your plight – has been recognized by so many people around the world. They have shown their recognition and honor by shortlisting you for the Sakharov Prize (did you notice that many of the people who have been shortlisted or won the Sakharov Prize have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize the next year?). You’ve been awarded the Sergio Vieira de Mello Award. You and Rasul were shortlisted for the Tulip Award. Anar Mammadli has won the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize. The 2014 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award has honored you, Arif and all political prisoners in Azerbaijan. One of your imprisoned compatriots has been nominated for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Many more awards are in motion.

Leyla, you are the first woman from Azerbaijan to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I understand that this nomination is not just for you, but for Arif, for Rasul, for Intagim – for all of Azerbaijan’s amazing civil society actors. It is a terrible, shameful irony that such a nomination comes when you and your colleagues are suffering in prison.

As the campaign grows around the Nobel Peace Prize 2015, we know that your situation will stay clearly in the spotlight – and every day longer that you and Arif remain in prison will make the shouts louder – and the shame deeper.

I can’t imagine the international uproar we will hear as Azerbaijan prepares to host the prestigious first European Olympic Games in June 2015 – all the while holding a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in prison?

How long do you think it will take for the campaign to boycott the European Olympic Games in Azerbaijan to shame the European Olympic Committee into finding another host for the games – a host that will bring honor to such an important international event?

Recently, you’ve been compared to the great Aung San Suu Kyi (also a Nobel Prize laureate). This made me realize the similarities between you – both symbols of your country’s civil society – and that, much like Aung San Suu Kyi, each day longer that you are kept in prison, the more the world will know about you. The day that the Myanmar government released her, they took a huge step forward in gaining the respect of the world.

There is only one way to restore honor and respect for the Azerbaijani government, and that is for them to release you and Arif unconditionally, to drop all charges, and to set you free. To set all political prisoners free.

The Azerbaijani government still has a chance to make this right – to regain the respect it has lost and to show the world that it can be just, compassionate, and humanitarian, particularly towards those of you who are so sick and suffering.

To release you before the New Year, to return you to each other’s arms, to hold your lovely daughter Dinara close once again – that would be the greatest gift I could imagine.

We will not stop until you are free – and know that every day you remain in prison, your support grows and grows.

I am sending you and Arif my fierce love, respect and solidarity.



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