Wednesday, August 27

The battle of words goes on

Following the publication of the following piece in Washingpost about Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev and the most recent crackdown on the supporters of free speech and democracy in the country it didn’t take long for the official response to come through.

Commenting on the allegations explained at length in the article (including the trumped up charges brought up against Leyla and Arif Yunus), Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Washington D.C. Elin Suleymanov said it wasn’t as simple as that. “The merit of charges against Leyla and Arif Yunus should be determined by the legal system in Azerbaijan, not by political campaigns. The detention could have been avoided had they responded to the repeated summons to testify in an ongoing investigation. Instead […] they rejected any interaction with law enforcement officials”. Perhaps if Mr. Suleymanov was prevented from leaving the country on one of his trips without any explanation he’d think differently. Until then, his response should come as no surprise.

In his letter to editorial of Washington Post, Richard Kauzlarich, who was US Ambassador to Azerbaijan between 1994 and 1997 wrote a timely response to Ambassador Suleymanov: “The ambassador did not address the bogus charges of spying for Armenia made against Leyla and Arif Yunus, the fact that Mrs. Yunus is being denied medicines and medical treatment or the fact that there are dozens of other political prisoners being detained or imprisoned in Azerbaijani jails”.

The truth of the matter is everyone including Ambassador Suleymanov is aware that the on-going crackdown is unjustified. And more than anything it makes the government of Azerbaijan look weak – if this was a confident leadership the country would have no political prisoners in jail or any other problems with freedom of speech or human rights as a matter of fact.

As for public diplomacy and the role people like Yunuses play in the on-going track two discussions instead of belittling, some gratitude would be much appreciated. Especially as Ambassador Kauzlarich rightly notes, “neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan has demonstrated a commitment to the Minsk Group framework because neither side is prepared to make the compromises necessary to achieve the peaceful resolution of this conflict”.

Thursday, August 14

On the power of men and virtual harassment

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Just a few days ago, a man who pretended to be someone else, took the liberty (not sure from where) to engage in what he thought was perhaps quite an entertaining engagement. Not sure how many women out there these days get virtually harassed and how (not that there are any appealing ways of being harassed) but this man was extraordinary. He was persistent, annoying, frustrating and intimidating. And he had no intention to stop (or so it seemed at the time).

It all began with a message he sent on August 2nd from a US number. Since this was a non-Turkish number I was genuinely confused and thought perhaps it was a friend. I asked a few times who he was. At first he said his name was Alp and that he found my phone number through a friend. I congratulated him for having such true friends but asked him not to bother me. It didn’t work, after blocking him, I received another message two days later, on August 3- he actually said by blocking him “the problem won’t get resolved”. “We are going to talk”, read his message. I don’t know which problem but I blocked him again, and asked WhatsApp to address the issue.

In the meantime I learned that, WhatsApp cares little of its users rights and cases as such. Because he was persistent, once again, I received a message from him on that very same day and again from a new number.

The following day, he decided to try a different tactic- calling me names although I am not sure where he was trying to get with that. I blocked him again. There was another message from him right after and another and another and another.

Basically I kept receiving text messages from him during the day each time from a new number (as I continued blocking him). Blocking him must have worked, since on August 6, he finally told me what his real name was and to make it more legit he sent his photograph (like, here, in your face, I can harass you and there is nothing you could do, even if you have a picture of me).

He started asking stupid questions about my work. Quoting my articles I have written and etc. This time I decided to respond, but only with question marks figuring that talking won’t help and will only frustrate me further and perhaps this would frustrate him in return.

To my surprise this worked. Well, not really. He started with saying he hated Azerbaijanis and although was ethnically an Azerbaijani he despised them (apparently they have done something to him) and so he decided to take revenge on a random person- which ended up being me.

Maybe it was my work that spared me the harassment. He said he appreciated my critical approach about Azerbaijan and that I wasn’t like the rest of them (not sure what he meant by this either). He did confess- just like that- that if this wasn’t case he would have continued to harass me (yes, he actually said this).
He said he didn’t actually live in the US but in Istanbul and that he wasn’t angry with my work at an Armenian/Turkish paper (as if I cared about his opinions?!)

He had the balls however to even joke about my complaints to Twitter (yes, he was stocking me there) and poke fun at my failed attempt to get WhatsApp do something about him. Turns out my Twitter followers weren’t real he said. But the highlight of it wall was his continuous assurance in himself and that he could just continue doing this harassment.

I was appalled by all of this. It was so frustrating. And it felt even more frustrating that I couldn’t do anything about this. Blocking obviously didn’t help. Complaining didn’t help either. Some guy just randomly picks you and it begins. And if you are lucky it stops at some point, your harasser gets tired of you maybe. Who knows how their logic works (not that they really have any). But I am indeed lucky- he stopped (at least for now). But the helplessness of the situation was daunting.

He wrote he had a girlfriend many years ago but after breaking up with her (in a very bad way- whatever that means given the insanity of his behavior) he decided to take his revenge on other women.

But how do we address this? Is there a way to address this? And surely, I understand that there are worse stories than this one but who gives the right? How many women go through and will go through these ordeals every day and can’t do anything?

Not that I have answers to these questions. I just thought I share this. Feels better to get it off my chest.