Ismayilova: Corruption Not Eradicated in Azerbaijan, We Will Have a Lot of Work

The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova in an interview with the column Chetin Sual (Difficult Question) spoke about the everyday life in prison, her future creative plans, the role of citizens in solving the problems of society and the fight against corruption.

Ismayilova spent 1.5 years in prison and was released on May 25 by the Supreme Court, replacing her 7.5 years in prison by a suspended sentence.

"It all depends on the person. If attention is concentrated on problems and challenges, it will be difficult. I tried not to pay attention to the problems," said Ismayilova, responding to a question about her life in prison.

According to the journalist, she preferred to keep a smile and sense of humor that makes life easier.

"Somehow, in the women's prison, everyone thought that the news of a pardon or amnesty will first reach me. But I knew as much as the others. When I said that today is a good day, everyone thought I heard something and I knew something," said Ismayilova.

Asked about problems in the women's prison, she said that Azerbaijan has only one such institution, and therefore it is very cramped.

Ismayilova said at the time of her release there were 470 prisoners. For every 47 people there was only one lavatory.

There were problems with overcrowding in the dining room, the TV room, and the library. Due to the excessive crowding, the women often could not find a place in these locations.

Willingly arresting women, the government does not think about the need to supply them with hygienic means.

"Imagine how women suffer, not provided with hygienic appliances by their families," continued Ismayilova.

The barracks are relatively clean, because the prisoners themselves keep them clean. However, the very area, in particular the lavatories, are in a terrible state.

Washing and drying clothes sometimes leads to conflicts because of the narrowness.

In prison, there are no conditions for private life, as all is in plain sight. But it is not worth turning this into a tragedy, said Ismayilova.

"Prison was much better than that was in my mind. I imagined it much worse. The most preferred ones are mothers. Both during pregnancy and after the baby is born there is a special concern to these women," said Ismayilova.

As for public control, then for half a year stay in the women's prison Ismayilova never saw the appearance of representatives of the Ombudsman there. The experienced prisoners also said that for a long time they did not see representatives of the Ombudsman.

During her stay in prison the institution was visited by representatives of the Committee against Torture and members of the UN working group on arbitrary detention. With the latter ones Ismayilova had a meeting face to face and talked about the problems of the jail.

Due to the fact that there is no alternative jail, many women do not tell the observers visiting the prison about their problems.

Ismayilova said food is better at the women's prison, compared with the Kurdakhani jail.

On the question of how further Ismayilova intends to continue her activities - in the country or in exile, the journalist said she had no intention to leave the country.

"This is my home, and I'm not going to leave it and go away," said Ismayilova.

At the same time, she noted that she would like to ensure full freedom of movement.

Ismayilova stressed that she loves her profession and intends to engage only in journalism, and hopes to be able to do it.

 "I do not want to do politics. Just I do not like it. My profession is beautiful itself. I hope that people expect a good example of journalism from me. From my political activity the people would not benefit.

I work on new investigative journalism. There are a few projects that I will continue. As long as corruption is not eradicated in the country, we will have a lot of work to do," said Ismayilova.

What may be her message across to the public?

In answering this question Ismayilova said she does not consider herself a type of speaker appealing to the public.

"But I have one request: I ask not to make convicted women subject to jealousy or criticism or blame after their release. They re-enter the prison because of the fact that they cannot find a place for themselves at home. We must help these women to adapt and reintegrate into society," said Ismayilova.

And her other message across to the citizens is not to be afraid to demand their rights, as it is said by the proverb "no one will give food to a child not crying."

"If non-oil Ukraine has prices for electricity and water lower than we do, then the reason is corruption. We, as journalists, try not to let vague questions keep with the society. We try to explain the causes of everyday problems, but you (the citizens) should also try to understand them and find them out," said Ismayilova.

"Still in 2011, we wrote about corruption in the International Bank of Azerbaijan and reported that loans are handed out to friends and relatives. But then they did not pay attention to that. Now it turns out that most of these loans were wasted. Our investigation would help the government to prevent it in time to solve the problem, but the authorities did not take advantage of it," Ismayilova said. -05D06--

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