Story of a father and son, with intermission

With background in physics and a PhD from a Moscow institution, Hikmat Hajizade was among the first to join Azerbaijani independence movement in late 1980s. Respected scientist, he quickly became a respected activist, was a founding member of Azerbaijan Popular Front and edited its Russian-language newspaper Svoboda (“Freedom”). As the Soviet Union fell apart, its former backwater republics became independent and former opposition movements – the new governments, Hajizade found the peak of his career as a Deputy Prime Minister and an ambassador to the former imperial capital – Moscow.

However, the new government in Baku fell – various narratives talk of it as either a coup, or a national salvation. Hikmat Hajizade was dismissed from his post and recalled home. And then, it happened in Baku, when the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan was assaulted and severely beaten while walking in the street of its capital – somewhere in downtown in 1993.

Now, after sixteen years, history is repeating itself once again: this time it is Hikmat Hajizade’s son Adnan who was assaulted and severely beaten together with his friend Emin Milli while dining in a downtown restaurant. Yet, what ended for Hikmat Hajizade with injuries and possibly, bitter pains, has ended for Adnan with additional two-month pretrial detention and plus, a hooliganism charge promising up to 5 years in jail. Not an adequate perspective for a University of Richmond alumnus and BP employee, and a pioneer of video-blogging in Azerbaijan. Neither for his friend, Emin Milli – former country director of Friedrich Ebert Foundation and former Council of Europe consultant.

Back in 1993, when Hikmat Hajizade was assaulted and beaten, the country was embroiled in a bitter chaos, partly a fault of incompetency of the government once he represented. Baku’s major street fights and last armed uprising were to be subdued two years later – I still recall those bullet sounds in my neighbourhood. Now, the country enjoys a stability and oil revenues have created some sense of prosperity – however, the state of freedoms seems to change in a worse direction – sixteen years ago, a father would be beaten, but now, a son is not only beaten, but is also jailed and can face an endarkening prison sentence.

Democratic activism is a long tradition in Hajizade family, as well as the state of being assaulted and beaten for their activities – the only new element here is the fact that Adnan Hajizade now is being tried for both. Below – is the interview of Adnan Hajizade’s father to RFE/RL Azeri service, with English subtitles.