#teacher | Azerbaijani Georgian teacher made to apologise for protesting bride kidnapping

Hamid Sadikh. Photo: Hamid Sadikh/Facebook

An ethnic Azer­bai­jani teacher in southeast Georgia’s Kvemo Kartli Region has been made to publicly apologise after reporting the kid­nap­ping of one of his former students and crit­i­cis­ing Georgia’s Azer­bai­jani community for endorsing bride kid­nap­ping.

Hamid Sadikh, a geography teacher in the village of Tezekendi in Gardabani Munic­i­pal­i­ty, was widely crit­i­cised by other residents of the village after he made a Facebook post on 9 October crit­i­cis­ing the incident.

‘One of my students, whom I used to teach at one time, has been forcibly kidnapped. Today she should have had her first day at uni­ver­si­ty. She was kidnapped from the bus stop. From Gardabani’s Tazakendi [village]. Our community consists of such lowlives, bastards, and dirty people. Now the fucking aksakals [elder men] will start saying “let them reconcile and go on”. Bastards’ tribe. Fie!’, he wrote. The post was later removed. 

The following day, faced with a wave of online criticism, he wrote another post explain­ing that he was not trying to insult the elders or the community but condemned those who supported violence and those who commit violence. 

He said the words  ‘lowlives, bastards, and dirty people’ was referring only to ‘people who forcibly kidnap girls’.

‘Writing “bastards’ tribe” I meant those people who consider a girl’s kid­nap­ping something to be proud of […] those who forcibly make any girl they like their wife, and those who justify this, who treat it as something normal’, he wrote. 

Following his post, Sadikh was con­front­ed and berated by a group of men in the village centre and forced to apologise. The scene was filmed and then dis­sem­i­nat­ed through Facebook.

The men accused him of not respect­ing the ‘elders’ of the village. The video shows one man telling Sadikh that people in the village respected him as a teacher, ‘but you used your status of a teacher to tarnish the names of these teachers’. 

‘You don’t deserve the title of teacher […] Didn’t you think that writing that [post] about the elders in your own family? If [in a village there is no] elder to reconcile two fighting people, what kind of village would it be?’, he said. 

After apol­o­gis­ing to all of the men present Sadikh also apol­o­gis­es to ‘the elders’. 

Another man seen angrily approach­ing Sadikh is urged by others not to attack him; the man then berates him, calling him ‘worthless’ and a ‘wuss’.

According to Georgian TV station Mtavari Arkhi, who aired the footage on 14 October, the police have launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into ‘coercion’ and have ques­tioned Sadikh. 

On 15 October, the Interior Ministry said that they had detained and charged two indi­vid­u­als for ‘illegal restric­tion of freedom’, for kid­nap­ping a 19-year-old woman from Tezekend who later managed to escape. The crime is pun­ish­able by 7–10 years in prison. 

Online support

After Sadikh’s forced apology went viral on social networks, young Azer­bai­ja­nis in both Azer­bai­jan and Georgia started an online campaign in his support with the hashtags #mən­Həmidəm (‘I am Hamid’) and #Müəl­limə­Tox­un­ma (‘Don’t touch the teacher’). 

One commenter said ‘give teachers like Hamid to this society, [teachers] who protest violence and people who commit violence as you have done’.

‘Sorry, Hamid! For not being near you phys­i­cal­ly, not being able to be in greater number than they were, sorry for apol­o­gis­ing to you’, said another.

‘I love my nation very much, but today “you” silenced a teacher who was protest­ing against injustice, and I am embar­rassed to be a part of society which consists of “you” and with all of my heart I hate “you” ’, one said.

‘First of all, it is the violence in the fight of elders against young people. Secondly, it is choking freedom of speech and thought. And thirdly, it is silencing someone who warned about the dangers of early marriages, in par­tic­u­lar, alien­ation of girls from school’, another commenter said. 

An ‘unsolved’ problem

In her 2018 report, Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria noted that the problem of kid­nap­ping girls and young women in regions pre­dom­i­nant­ly populated by ethnic minori­ties remained ‘unsolved’. 

The Georgian Ombudsman said that ‘when it comes to ethnic minori­ties, strict policing is not carried out with regard to these par­tic­u­lar crimes. There is indig­na­tion towards police that operative and inves­tiga­tive measures are delayed which mostly happens because the author­i­ties suppose that families will reconcile and their work will thus be finished sooner’.

In 2014, Georgia also amended the Criminal Code to include forced marriage, including unreg­is­tered force marriages pun­ish­able with fine or up to 2 years in prison (and up to 4 years committed against a minor).

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