Sanay Yaghmur, 17, an Azerbaijani feminist activist and administrator of the popular feminist platform Femkulis, was raped by a male relative on August 25, 2020. Despite the existence of medical records proving the crime had been committed, the perpetrator, Asgar Agayev, 29, remains free, according to a personal account by the activist.
Now, more than a year later, Yaghmur, has taken her personal story to Facebook, where she describes in detail what she endured, and holding the Prosecutor General office to account for failing to investigate and charging the perpetrator.
The Facebook post Yaghmur published on October 13 details the events of August 2020:
I heard my phone ring in the morning but I could not move at all for about ten or fifteen minutes. I also could not understand where I was. A little while later, I collected myself, and when I lifted my head, I saw, him, Asgar Agayev lying next to me. What I remember from that most clearly are pain and blood.
After about an hour, I was able to leave. I had to convince him, I was not going to talk to tell anyone (I only lied so that I could leave. Otherwise it would not have been possible). Just as I was leaving, he told me not to go back home in the evening, and not to tell anyone and instead come back here.
The crime committed by Asgar Agayev, must be independently and legally assessed while state institutions supporting him by covering up the crime – Yasamal Region Prosecutor, General Prosecutor – must be held accountable.
While Asgar Aghayev, who raped Sanay Yaghmur, is freely walking around, my friend has had to wait long to publicly disclose her harrasment case so as to not put her education in danger. +#CinayətkarıHəbsEt #CinayətkarıQoruma#ProkrorluğaArOlsun #ŞəxsiOlanSiyasidir pic.twitter.com/d2etJhr4FY
— Əli Məlikov (@Elimelikov06) October 14, 2021
❗️Vətəndaş cəmiyyəti nümayəndələri və ictimai fəallar kampaniya başladaraq Sənay Yağmura qarşı cinsi zorakılıq törədən şəxsin cəzalanmasını tələb edir.
Nə baş verib: https://t.co/YjIH0icDYs#CinayətkarıHəbsEt#ProkurorluğaArOlsun#ŞəxsiOlanSiyasidir pic.twitter.com/9ayNEYMUWW
— Mikroskop Media (@MikroskopMedia) October 13, 2021
Civil society representatives and public activists have launched a campaign demanding that the perpetrator of sexual violence against Sanay Yagmur be punished. More on the story: https://t.co/YjIH0icDYs?amp=1
— Səmt küləyi (Hiddlestoner) (@ZenenXeylagi) October 13, 2021
I demand justice for Sanay Yagmur! I do not want to live in a country where rapists of minors walk free!
Yaghmur's mother Zumrud Yaghmur told Global Voices that throughout the investigation, her daughter's activism was used against her.
“She was targeted because she was a feminist. The investigators claimed her lifestyle was inappropriate. They used pictures of my daughter from protests organized in recent years in support of gender equality and women's rights against her,” Zumurd Yaghmur said.
The activist's mother also said that circumstances prevented them from publicizing the case earlier.
“A month after the incident, we were ready to share what happened to Sanay,” said Zumrud Yaghmur. “We spoke to a local journalist, but a day later, fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan began so we had to wait. In March 2021, Sanay received an acceptance letter from a university in Riga to pursue her studies in law. We decided to wait until she left the country before going public with the case.”
Sanay Yaghmur left Azerbaijan in September 2021 to pursue her studies at Riga Graduate School of Law.
Perpetrators of rape often walk free
According to national legislation, rape carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. But often, the perpetrators walk free. In a culture, where violence and harassment against women is a persistent problem and one which has seen little improvement in recent years this is not surprising.
In a statement issued on June 28, Dubravka Šimonović, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women at the UN Human Rights Council said, “Rape is frequently not reported, and even if reported, it is seldom prosecuted. Even if there is a prosecution, it is rarely handled in a gender sensitive manner and often leads to re-victimization while producing few convictions. The result is normalization of rape, a culture of rape or silence on rape, stigmatization of victims and impunity for perpetrators.”
Despite pouring messages of support and solidarity, Yagmur also faced plenty of stigma but the amount of courage it has taken the activist to share her story publicly, speaks volumes of just how far women facing violence, assault, and harassment must go in order to get their voices heard in Azerbaijan.