On February 22, Azerbaijani blogger, journalist and LGBTQ activist Avaz Shikhmammadov (known professionally as Avaz Hafizli) was killed by a relative, Amrula Gulaliyev. News about the murder was spread by the Attorney General’s office and the Interior Ministry. According to Gulaliyev, the motive for the murder was a personal disagreement.
Gulaliyev was not sober at the time of the murder. He has already been arrested and an investigation is underway. However, Hafizli’s friends and colleagues speak of a different motive for the murder. Nothing has been officially confirmed, but in recent months Hafizli had been actively condemning the inaction of the investigating agency on hate-motivated crimes. The journalist handcuffed himself to the Attorney General’s office in September to protest this inaction. During the same period, a journalist was detained by police during a peaceful demonstration in the city centre.
Hafizli’s friends and colleagues have suspicions about the motive for the murder, as the journalist was killed with particular cruelty. It was reported that Hafizli was beheaded and had his genitals amputated.
Queer contacted Hafizli’s colleague, Mirzal Mohammed, an Azerbaijani journalist living in France, to whom the deceased sent a video about the current events in Azerbaijan. Mohammed said he had no relationship with Hafizli’s killer, so he ruled out personal revenge.
“I also have a lot of questions, but I think that the assassination was planned by the Azerbaijani authorities. The deceased didn’t have a relationship with his cousin, what could have been the reason for the murder? The perpetrator cut off the head and genitals of the deceased. Avaz was in great danger in Azerbaijan due to the hatred toward LGBTQ people,” Mohammed said.
Additionally, there are unconfirmed reports that during the transfer of the journalist’s body to the morgue, the law enforcers refused to touch his body and called him “dirty”.
Mirzali Mohammed also commented about how the body was transferred, noting that “a thorough investigation was not carried out at the scene of the murder and the deceased was transported using garbage bags.”
To verify the details, we contacted Avaz Hafizli’s friend, LGBTQ activist Javid Nabiev, who lives in Azerbaijan. Nabiev said Hafizli’s disagreement with relatives was indeed related to the deceased’s sexual orientation and activism.
“Avaz often mentioned in private conversations that his family had problems with his sexual orientation and activism. Uncle’s family is strongly religious and the aggression against Avaz stemmed from this. The killer said that the cause of the crime was a personal disagreement, but the brutal murder assures us of hateful motives.” Javid said, confirming that the body of the deceased was mutilated. ” We went to Avaz’s family to help with the body’s necessary preparation. So I can confirm the opinion spread – the deceased has his genitals amputated, which directly indicates a hateful motive. “
Nabiev also confirmed the brutal treatment by the police and noted that the ambulance staff also refused to move the body.
“Police and ambulance arrived at the crime scene and refused to move the body, they did not want to touch the body. “Avaz’s colleagues were able to organise the transfer of the body, but he was taken to the morgue by a garbage truck,” said Javid Nabiev.