Dreams from behind bars
Murat Dilmanov, an artist from Kazakhstan, has created a series on human rights in partnership with activist and former political prisoner, Rasul Jafarov from Azerbaijan.
Rasul Jafarov, Azerbaijani lawyer, human rights defender and former political prisoner, explains his new book, “Messages from a prisoner of conscience”, which he is writing as part of a Fellowship with the Prague Civil Society Centre.
Rasul Jafarov spent one year and eight months in prison in Azerbaijan. He was considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and his charges are widely considered to have been fabricated. After being sentenced to six years imprisonment in 2014, he received a pardon and was released in March 2016.
Now, he is working on a memoir, exploring how the issues of human rights and political prisoners are seen from inside the Azerbaijan justice system. The book will take the form of a series of dialogues and conversations Rasul had with fellow inmates, prison staff and management, and people outside jail during his time.
The Prague Civil Society Centre selected Rasul as one of our 2017 Fellows, and Rasul will use his time in Prague to work on a first draft of the book.
“The book will not represent my everyday life in prison,” Rasul said.
“Instead, it will focus on conversations which bring to light the opinions and attitudes towards political prisoners, government agencies and officials. It will also explore relations with prison management, attempts at psychological deception, the understanding of human rights advocacy and perspectives on socio-political processes, the economic crisis and other interesting facts discovered when serving time.
“The book will also feature a section explaining why human rights advocacy matters, how human rights and freedoms are a national asset that does not need to be imported from the West or the East, and what arguments can counter government-run smear campaigns against human rights advocates.”
Lawyer & human rights defender
Rasul is a lawyer, former political prisoner and one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders. Rasul has organised a number of protests and events highlighting the lack of democracy in Azerbaijan, including the 2012 “Sing for Democracy” campaign to coincide with Azerbaijan hosting the Eurovision song contest, “Art for Democracy” and the “Expression Online Initiative”. He is the founder and chair of the Human Rights Club, an Azerbaijani group which has been denied legal registration.