Open letter from detained journalist Ulvi Hasanli to his daughter

Open letter from detained journalist Ulvi Hasanli to his daughter

Dear Daughter,

Beautiful Suad! I miss you terribly. It's been over 90 days since I last saw you, held you in my arms, and heard your laughter. Because I, along with our friends - Sevinj Vaqifqizi, Nargiz Absalamova, Elnara Gasımova, Mahammad Kekalov, and Hafiz Babali - have been imprisoned due to our journalism activities.

My dear daughter, you're now 1 year and 6 months old. You weren't even crawling when we were arrested. But a month ago, during one of our court hearings, our lawyer Mrs. Zibeyda said, "Suad has started crawling now." Perhaps these are the most beautiful, most precious times. I wish I could see your new expressions, your new behaviors. I longed to witness those moments. I say "longed" because we anticipated being imprisoned almost every day for exposing corruption that is robbing Azerbaijan of its present and future. And it happened. We were arrested. Because Azerbaijan has turned into one of the most repressive countries in the world. Independent journalists in our country operate under such dangers and pressures.

My dear daughter, I know you may not be of reading age today. I write this also because I hope you'll forgive me for not being there and not blame me when you understand these events in the future.

Beautiful Suad, most of the colleagues from "Abzas Media" have been kept in the harshest isolation for 3 months. Meeting our loved ones, even hearing their voices on the phone, was prohibited. They didn't even allow us to hug you - an 18-month-old child - for 5-10 seconds. I still can't hold you close to my heart now. Azerbaijan has essentially restored the totalitarian Soviet regime, while the country is governed by Soviet mentality. Parents are punished for their children, children for their parents, and family members are punished. Our mothers' only source of income, their pension cards, have been blocked, our family members' and friends' bank accounts frozen, and their exit from the country prohibited.

It's the first time in Azerbaijan's independence history that a media outlet faces such total repression for its critical materials and investigations. Arresting us doesn't satisfy them; they harass and punish our family members and loved ones without discrimination of age or gender, trying to retaliate against us in this way. No such restrictions are imposed on those accused of terrorism, mass murder, or the most serious crimes. We often hear in the media that such-and-such accused has spoken with their relatives, made phone contacts with family members multiple times. But it's as if we've been exiled or sent to a concentration camp; our family members are punished because of us and kept under pressure.

My dear daughter, I could have written this letter to you personally. But I thought that its public disclosure is important for our present and future. In the future, when you read this letter, you'll understand more clearly how dark a period Azerbaijan has gone through.

For now, that's all, my daughter.

With love, Ulvi, February 2024