Azerbaijan – Serious Gender Violence – Abuse, Femicide, Related Suicides
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: February 24, 2014
URGED TO ACT FASTER ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
rights activists note rise in murders and suicides in the home.
Aytan Farhadova – 14 February 2014
promises to protect women from domestic violence, as key provisions of a 2010
law have yet to be put into practice.
According to Mehriban Zeynalova, head of the Clean World group which helps
the victims of abuse over the last year, the headline figures are alarming.
Eighty-three women were murdered at home last year, and 98 others committed
suicide in cases linked to domestic violence. Both figures represented a sharp
increase on those for 2012, when 72 murders and 67 suicides were recorded.
One of these murders was that of Narmina Valiyeva, a 15-year-old who died
after she ran away from home, only for police to bring her back there instead
of referring her to social services as a vulnerable minor.
After she was brought back, Narmina’s parents took her to a gynaecologist
who confirmed that she was still a virgin, to dispel what her father said were
“rumours in the village”, and then took her home. Her 16-year-old brother has
been arrested and charged with her murder.
Zeynalova says negative social attitudes and police failing to take proper
action combine to make a bad situation worse.
“The stereotypical view is that violence within the family is a matter for
that family alone,” Zeynalova explained. “So instead of protecting someone
who’s fled her home, they return her to that family. This is the cause of these
tragedies,” she said.
Among the 720 women who sought help from Zeynalova’s group last year was a
33-year-old from Shamkir district in northwestern Azerbaijan.
She told IWPR how her mother pressured her into marrying a cousin, who left
her five years later and went off to Russia.
“My family sent me to him three times, and every time he sent me back.
Officially we’re still married because my family won’t let me apply for a
divorce,” she said.
Things got worse when the woman told her own family that she had met someone
else and fallen in love.
“My brother found out about it. He locked me inside the house, bound my
hands and feet and beat me for days, abusing me in all sorts of ways. It all
happened in front of my children. He threatened to take them away from me if I
got married,” she said. “Not even my mother would stick up for me.”
The Clean World group does not have a shelter for abused women, and is
unable to house the woman and her two children to live.
“If I go back home, they’ll just kill me,” she said.
Azerbaijan’s parliament passed a law designed to stop domestic violence in
2010, but key parts of it cannot be implemented since that would require a set
of amendments to the criminal code. These have not yet been passed.
Matanat Azizova, head of the Women’s Crisis Centre, explained that a central
part of the law envisaged the establishment of refuges for the victims of
“These shelters, together with safety orders and [other] legislative
actions, could have provided secure lives for women. But sadly officials are
not working on this,” said Azizova, whose centre saw 2,500 women last year.
“The number of suicides and domestic murders has therefore increased.”
Hijran Huseynova, head of the government’s Committee for Families, Women and
Children, disagrees with the argument that domestic violence is on the
“It’s just that people used to talk about it less; mostly it stayed within
the family. Now cases are more likely to appear in the press. That’s why you
get a sense that these cases are happening more frequently,” she told APA news
Huseynova argues that with domestic abuse, the main focus of policy should
be on early marriage. While minors are forbidden to marry under Azerbaijan’s
secular system of laws, this still occurs, with a Muslim wedding rite but no
“Domestic violence mainly occurs after early marriages. Early marriages are
themselves a form of abuse, and the committee is expending all its energy on
trying to prevent them,” Huseynova said.
Huseynova’s deputy Sadaqat Pashayeva argued that the committee had done a
lot of work since 2010, but that it was up to the labour and social affairs
ministry to set up the shelters.
“We have done educational work. We have opened resource centres where women
can go for help if they’re in trouble,” Pashayeva told IWPR.
Elman Babayev, a spokesman for the labour and social affairs ministry, said
two million manats (2.5 million US dollars) had been assigned from last year’s
budget to set up the refuges, although they were not yet functioning.
“We are trying to make progress towards making these projects a reality.
Once the shelters are ready, we will inform the press,” he told IWPR.
Original Message —–
To: WUNRN ListServe
Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 5:05 PM
Subject: Azerbaijan – UN SR VAW Calls for Accountability on Gender
AZERBAIJAN – UN SR VAW CALLS
FOR SWEEPING ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ACTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
BAKU (6 December 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo
today urged the Azerbaijan authorities to fully implement the country’s current
legislation and “to punish not only the perpetrators of violence against woman,
but also those who fail in their duty to respond to the violation.”
“State responsibility to act with due diligence to eliminate violence
against women, is an obligation under international human rights law, which the
Azerbaijani Government has committed to,” Ms. Manjoo said at the end of her
first official mission* to Azerbaijan to examine the issue of violence against
women in the country.
The human rights expert commended the authorities for their commitment to
the promotion and protection of human rights and the adoption of specific legal
measures to achieve equality and non-discrimination, including for women.
However, she noted, the issue of limited or the lack of implementation of laws
and policies was consistently raised during her mission.
“The vast majority of interviewees acknowledged that violence against women
is widespread in Azerbaijan, but the actual extent of the phenomenon is very
difficult to assess,” she said, noting the lack of reliable information
provided, the underreporting of cases, the focus on mediation and reconciliation
in matters involving violations of women’s rights, and poor implementation of
laws that would address the issue of accountability, among others.
“I am extremely concerned by the statistics that were shared with me on
gender related killings of women,” Ms. Manjoo said. “The killing of a woman is
the ultimate act of violence and is a reflection of the lack of protection and
prevention measures when other acts of violence are not addressed by state
The Special Rapporteur drew attention to the issues of trafficking of women,
for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour, and the
increasing number of early, forced and unregistered marriages, in particular in
the Southern region. According to the State Committee, more than 5000 girls
have been victims of early marriages in 2013.
She also warned about an increase in the number of sex-selective abortions in
Azerbaijan, which was revealed during her interviews. “Azerbaijan is reported
to rank second among countries where this practice is prevalent. This is a
reflection of patriarchal notions relating to the value attached to women and
girl-children in society,” the independent expert stressed.
Ms. Manjoo also expressed concern about the vulnerable and marginalized situation
of internally displaced communities as a consequence of the occupation of 20%
Azerbaijani territories, especially women and girls, and the challenges of
their current living conditions, as noted by the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
“The Government of Azerbaijan has made efforts to address access to
education, employment, health care, psychological support and housing,” she
noted. “Despite such efforts, I witnessed and heard distressing accounts of
hardships and the challenges of living in camps, dormitories and ‘hotel’
The Special Rapporteur has also stressed that the inadequacy of social
protection measures is compounded by the issue of widespread corruption,
particularly affecting State institutions. It was highlighted as a major
obstacle to equal access to social services, including in the education and
health sectors; and also as regards access to justice.
The Special Rapporteur expressed her concern at the cumbersome requirements
imposed on NGOs, in respect of registration/accreditation processes, and also
their reporting obligations to numerous authorities, especially when funded by
the State.She also received allegations of government bias in favour of some
NGOs to the exclusion of others, and that reprisals are sometimes experienced
by the more independent NGOs.
The UN Special Rapporteur called for the adoption of holistic solutions to
address the individual empowerment of women, while acknowledging and addressing
the social, economic and cultural barriers that are a reality in the lives of
women in Azerbaijan. She also encouraged the development of social
transformation initiatives that address the causes of inequality and
discrimination, which most often lead to violence against women.
During her ten-day visit from 25 November to 5 December, Ms. Manjoo met with
Government officials in Baku, Khachmaz, Ganja, Lankaran and Sumgayit. She also
met with representatives of civil society and service providers.
Based on the information obtained during the mission, Ms. Manjoo will
present a report with her final findings and recommendations to a forthcoming
session of the Human Rights Council.
Full End of SR VAW Mission
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence
Against Women – Website: