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2016, 11 Dekabr, bazar, Bakı vaxtı 00:30

Dinara Yunus, “It is really hard to know that your whole family is behind bars” Interview


Arif, Leyla and Dinara Yunus during an International Theodor Hacker award ceremony

Arif, Leyla and Dinara Yunus during an International Theodor Hacker award ceremony

AzadliqRadio: Your parents are in jail for five months now. How are you holding up?

Dinara Yunus: These past five months were emotionally difficult and challenging for me. I have not been able to wish my mom a happy birthday, we could not celebrate my parents' 37th wedding anniversary, we couldn't celebrate the new year together, and now with my dad's approaching birthday I feel really down. My mom's mistreatment in jail worries me a lot. Having no news from my dad feels like he has been completely cut out of my life.

Q: When was the last time you saw your parents?

In person the last time I saw my mum was in fall of 2013, when she was preparing for an eye surgery in Germany. My dad I saw in November of 2013 here in Amsterdam. But we skyped often.

I talked to my mum the day before her arrest; she sounded tired. I can hardly remember the details of our last conversation. I remember she said how tired she was. She told me there was a car watching their apartment. But that everything is going to be ok. That was July 29. The next day she was arrested. I wish I had her strength.

To my dad, I talked also a day before his arrest. He told me he would call the next day, but he never did. Then I found out from the news he was arrested too.

Arif Yunus

Arif Yunus

He told me he was going to take food parcel to my mum the next morning and that he has not slept for a day or so. I remember sending him to bed and telling him not to worry too much. I actually begged him, because I knew when he worries too much he gets a heartache.

Q: Were you expecting their arrest?

After they were detained at the airport in April, I realized they could eventually get arrested. I remember mentioning this to my friends. But of course, nothing can prepare you for something like this. I was not ready at all. I could not even imagine them behind bars.

We never really talked with my parents about their possible arrest. Even after April detention. Both of them are famous human rights defenders, my mum is the Knight of French Legion of Honor, so I believed that international community will prevent this injustice. But I was mistaken.

Q: What are the most recent updates you have on their case?

Well, we still don't know when the trial is scheduled for. My dad's health is getting worse, he is suffering from high blood pressure and insomnia. Mom was examined by a German doctor. We don't know the results of this examination yet.

Q: Do both of your parents have lawyers right now?

Yes both have lawyers.

Q: In your campaigning what has been the reaction in Europe? Are there any concrete measures?

It is hard to predict any concrenete actions in Europe. There is more pressure. The European Parliament is very supportive. However, more can be done. I have not seen any follow up to the resolution calling for my parents' immediate release by the Council of Europe.

The EP is the only vocal institution while the CoE, OSCE, and UN are still silent, or at least I haven't heard much from them. By keeping it silent they are letting Azerbaijani government get away with human rigths violations and other political motivated arrests.

I worry about my parents, they don't have much time to wait.

In the meantime I know I will continue my campaign for their release and I won't stop until they are out.

I have really great friends, who support me here. One of them was by my side when I heard about my dad's arrest, it was very emotional, we were in a cafe near my house, she stayed with me all day. But it is really hard, to know that your whole family is behind bars.

Sometimes I try not to think about it, which is hard of course. Being coldhearted helps survive through the day. But hearing about mom losing so much weight, being refused medical care, and becoming the target of constant humiliation and insults; not having any news about my dad is very difficult.

Leyla Yunus Azerbaijan's fierce human rights activist and advocate was arrested July 30, 2014. Her husband, historian Arif Yunus was placed under house arrest but later also transferred to a detention facility run by Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry in August of last year.

Both are accused of treason, illegal business activities, document forgery and fraud.

October 24, 2014 Baku Nasimi District Court extended Yunuses pretrial detention until February 28.

The couple remains in jail despite deteriorating health and an international demand calling for their release.

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