Human Rights Defender from Azerbaijan included in the Natalia Project
Rasul Jafarov, a human rights defender from Azerbaijan, is the latest person to be included in the Natalia Project security system. Ongoing pressure against human rights defenders and journalists in Azerbaijan by the authorities coupled with a deteriorating human rights situation has drastically increased the need for support and assistance to human rights defenders in the country.
“Unfortunately there are many risks faced by human rights defenders and other activists in Azerbaijan, so it is extremely important for us to think about our own security and safety. I believe the Natalia Project is one of the best resources available to protect ourselves in these turbulent times “, says Rasul Jafarov.
Rasul is the founder of the Human Rights Club (HRC), which was one of the key actors behind the “Sing for Democracy” campaign back in 2012. During the Eurovision Song Contest the campaign attracted significant, international attention with respect to human rights violations in Azerbaijan. Rasul Jafarov previously worked as a reporter for the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) where he was pivotal in investigating numerous criminal cases against journalists, preparing reports surrounding the cases, and monitoring the trials and legal correspondences at the IRFS.
The situation for human rights defenders, political activists and journalists in Azerbaijan is of great concern to Civil Rights Defenders. Political freedoms have been further restricted, especially in the last few years with the government increasing its efforts to silence human rights defenders, stifling freedom of expression and assembly, and cracking down on the political opposition. International human rights groups have frequently highlighted the culture of impunity surrounding politically motivated harassment of government critics and the numerous subsequent arrests, which are often based on trumped up charges. This escalated repression is reflective of a continually hardening political climate in Azerbaijan, which is emerging as one of the most authoritarian post Soviet states.
“On May 14 Azerbaijan commenced its Chairmanship in the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers even though there are more than 100 political prisoners behind bars, systematic violations of freedom of expression, assembly and association continue unabated, and pressures on civil society mount on a daily basis. As a civil society organisation we realise the importance of our work with respect to the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy, while at the same time realising the challenges and risks faced by us because of our activities. In spite of this we are determined to continue our work and try to bring about positive changes”, says Rasul Jafarov.
Rasul Jafarov is the 16th person to be trained in the security system connected to the Natalia Project, the personal alarm system, which connects the world to social media so the masses can advocate their support. Preparations are currently under way to equip a new group of human rights defenders from Eastern Europe and East Africa with the security alarm bracelet. The goal of the Natalia Project for 2014 is to equip at least 55 activists worldwide by the end of the year with many more to follow in the years ahead.