After the glitz - send a birthday card to Eurovison activist facing jail

You might remember taking part earlier this year in one of our actions about freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, when the country hosted the Eurovision Song Contest. We were by no means the only ones to use that opportunity to shine a glitzy spotlight on the human rights situation in the country – but some others who did just that are now suffering the consequences.

Human rights defender Mehman Huseynov – who will turn 23 on Saturday 24 November – is facing up to 5 years in prison if he is convicted of “hooliganism”, a charge we think is bogus. Send Mehman a birthday card

Mehman is a talented photo-journalist. In fact, he won the 2012 World Youth Movement for Democracy global photo contest, but was prevented from travelling to Peru to receive his award.

As a journalist he was covering a protest on 21 May. Eyewitnesses have told us that police officers deliberately smashed Mehman’s and a colleague’s cameras, and that Mehman then swore at the officers.

The charge of “hooliganism” relates to that incident. In Azerbaijan, “hooliganism” is only a criminal offence if it involves violence. Five of the officers have testified that Mehman not only swore but also acted ‘violently’ – though they have not said how, and eyewitnesses contradict these claims.

We believe that Mehman is in fact being punished for using Eurovision to highlight human rights issues in Azerbaijan to the international media.

Mehman was the Media Coordinator for a campaign group – ‘Sing for Democracy’ – which met with Loreen, the Swedish competitor and eventual winner of Eurovision, prompting her to speak out about human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. As international focus slipped away from the country after Eurovision, the retaliation began. Mehman was arrested on the bogus “hooliganism” charge on 12 June. He was released on bail the next day, but his trial is ongoing.

Show your support

Let Mehman know that he has the support of people around the world, by sending a card for his 23rd birthday. Post from the UK should take around 7 days to reach Azerbaijan, so please try to send your card by this weekend to ensure it arrives in time.

It would be great if you could include an Azeri message in your card – ‘Ad günün mübarək olsun Mehman!’ means ‘Happy Birthday Mehman!’. Or you could send a slightly longer message of support – ‘Ad günün mübarək olsun Mehman! Mən, səni azadlıq uğrunda apardığın mübarizəndə dəstəkləyirəm. Möhkəm ol, biz səninləyik!’ means ‘Happy Birthday Mehman! I support you in your struggle for freedom. Stay strong, we are with you!’. 

To help we’ve created a handy document that means you can print the message above onto a label and stick it straight in your card. In fact, there’s a whole sheet of labels there, so why not ask your friends, family and colleagues to send cards too? Download the message labels

Cards should be posted to:
Mehman Huseynov,
c/o Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
8 Rashid Behbudov Street
Apartment 85/86
Baku
Azerbaijan

Please don’t send any religious cards or messages. You can include your own name and address if you like.

As well as asking people to show Mehman their support, we are of course also campaigning for the charges against him to be dropped. You can email the Prosecutor overseeing the investigation into Mehman’s case to add your voice to this call.

Mehman is one of 15 cases featured in our current Write for Rights Campaign, which encourages people in the UK to send messages of solidarity to people facing human rights abuses around the world. You’ll find all the details you need to take part here.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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