A Teenage Convict

On April 30th, 2010 I was taken to the police station for participating in a peaceful protest action along with a number of other people. It was my second time (the first one was also for peaceful protest) and I knew exactly what they were going to ask me. "What were you doing there?"

"Who were you with?"

"Are you a member of any opposition party?"

"Are you a member of any opposition party?"

"Are you a member of any opposition party?"

They pressed no charges, didn't open a case and let us - non-partisans - go in several hours. All the members of oppositional parties were taken to the court and sentenced 10 to 15 days of detention. Not their first time, not their last time.

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Jabbar Savalan, 19-year-old political activist imprisoned in Azerbaijan poses with Azerbaijani flag. Photo taken from his personal archive.

Jabbar Savalan, 19-year-old political activist imprisoned in Azerbaijan poses with Azerbaijani flag. Photo taken from his personal archive.

On February 5th a 19-year-old member of AXCP's Youth Committee (one of two biggest opposition parties in Azerbaijan) Jabbar Salavan was arrested in Sumgayit city for drug possession. Police found (?) 0.17 grams of narcotic substances (the kind is unclear) with him.

His family was looking for him for 6 hours. While he was held in the police station, his phone was taken away, he was being interrogated. When his mother finally called the police to report her missing son - they told her he was in the police station the whole time.

His friends claim he doesn't use drugs. The fellow party members say, he was spotted and ever since followed by the police after a conflict between opposition and police on January 20th.

Today, the court sentenced Savalan 2 months of pre-trial detention.

Why I don't believe he's guilty? Because using drugs and being in opposition in Azerbaijan is a suicide. They're usually being followed and threatened, their parents lose their jobs, their phones are under surveillance.

But, since we're supposed to analyze things objectively, let's pretend he was. He's 19, he's fed up, bored, angry and is using drugs (as most of the young men in his city).

Will imprisoning teenagers solve a pretty serious drug problem in Azerbaijan?

Why are so many people who use and sell are still free?

Are those who imprisoned Savalan aware that convicts use drugs while IN prisons?

I think they are.

I also think, they know exactly what this detention will turn this young guy's life into.

And it's heartbreaking. Not the first time, not the last time.

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The blog young activists prepared for this case. News there are being posted in Russian, English and Azerbaijani.

The Facebook group for Savalan.

The case of Jabbar Savalan and other oppressions of Azerbaijani youth on RFE/RL by Ali Novruzov.

Eurasianet about the Egyptian influence on Azerbaijani politics.