Hey Reddit,

My name is Adnan Hajizada and I am a dissident and ex-prisoner of conscience from Azerbaijan. In 2009 I posted a video that mocked the ridiculous overspending (purchasing donkeys from Germany at USD 40,000 each) by the Government of Azerbaijan. Two weeks later, my friend and I were attacked and severely beaten up by government hired thugs while dining in one of the local cafes. We went and complained about the event to the Police. Eventually the thugs were let go, my friend and I were arrested on trumped up charges of hooliganism and causing minor bodily harm. We spent 17 months in jail. The case caused wire international outcry, eventually Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke on our behalf and we were freed on parole.

I have been lurking here for a while, decided that the first post should be an AMA about myself. Hope this will be interesting.

Here is my video-blog Wiki article My twitter account The bespoken video

EDIT: This is going incredibly well. I am getting out of work. Have no internet on the go. Will be back in 3-4 hours to answer more questions.

EDIT1: First post made it to the top of the front page! Redditors you are awesome! Keep the questions coming!

EDIT2: Some background on me. I was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in a family of a political activist. In 12th grade I enrolled into an exchange program and spend a year in an American High School in Federal Way, WA. Later I graduated from University of Richmond, VA with BA in Political Science. Interned in Voice of America radio station in DC. Went to law school in Azerbaijan, graduated in 2007 and was conscripted to Azerbaijani Army. Was arrested due to my public activity in July 9th of 2009.

EDIT3: Guys I am a little overwhelmed. I am not sure If having a lot of EDITs on the first post is a good thing. However I need to go to sleep now. Will come back to all of the questions tomorrow. Thank you!

Comments: 2755 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

Twartzack944 karma

Can you describe the conditions more? Like food, facilities, or sleeping arrangments?

fuserlimon1463 karma

First 2 months I spent in solitary confinement. Next 5 in a two person cell with bunk beds. This happened in a detention center (in USA this is called a Jail). After that was moved to a correctional facility number 14 (a prison). It was located 100km away from where my family lived.

The facility was surrounded by 3 stone quarries, so the whole day huge machines would be cutting through the rock making a horrible noise akin to the one on horror films. The byproduct of stone cutting is white dust, and with a little wind the dust was up in the air, in our food, eyes, ears, beds etc. You would wake up and your face will be covered in dust. This led to a lot of TB cases among inmates. We slept in barracks; my particular one had 100 people staying in a one big room, with bunk beds lined up next to each other very closely.

Food was inedible, made from old and spoiled products. For example when you ate the rice or some other porridge you could break your tooth on stone that was in your plate. The soup tasted like there was meat in it somewhere, but it was nowhere to be found. You could rarely find a chicken skin in the soup etc. I received food and ingredients from home, and cooked for myself. If I didn’t, I would die…

There were regular outages with water. No heating, ventilation or AC in the buildings. During the hottest days of July I couldn’t sleep for a week, because the moment I would go to sleep my body temperature would rise, my face would sweat and the sweat burned my face so I would wake up.

Hope this answered your question, please ask more if you wish.

i_ate_stalin559 karma

You were sent food and actually recieved it? That seems a little strange. That seems like a pretty cushy perk for someone in prison.

fuserlimon830 karma

yes, It was all accounted for. Some of it disappeared (other inmates or guards would take cigarettes etc.) other than that the whole chunk came untouched. When you are sent a package, they put together a list of all things in it. When you receive it, you check everything against the list and then sign off on the dotted line.

i_ate_stalin170 karma

Wow, thats a pretty good way to do it. Glad you're out of jail :)

fuserlimon158 karma


areyouready126 karma

What then happened when something disappeared? Did you check it off on the list to say you 'received' it anyway or did you say something was missing?

fuserlimon203 karma

Sometimes I would. Most of the times I signed off if this was something minor. I didn't want to bother.

Demented_Hedgehog44 karma

Did it happen when it wasn't something minor? I'd imagine their reaction to anything you said about that wouldn't be encouraging...

fuserlimon54 karma

Let us say, I was getting most of the things they sent me.

moyno8576 karma

Couldn't they just fake the list?

Regardless, really sorry to hear you went through this. Reading about how you couldn't sleep for a week made me really angry.

fuserlimon235 karma

Well, the list was written my my mother and I recognized her handwriting. Well they could fake my moms handwriting too, however I don't think they would go so far for some potatoes.

Egon88338 karma

This is hardly a perk. In many 3rd world prisons, you are intentionally not properly fed and unless you have people on the outside sending you food you will starve.

fuserlimon254 karma


SpermWhale45 karma

Ever seen someone became a prostitute for food?

fuserlimon58 karma

No. Although saw people become prostitute for money. For a really small amount of money.

[deleted]104 karma

Seems common in third world countries. I've heard similar stories about other countries from different sources.

fuserlimon168 karma

Yes. Azerbaijan is also a part of Council of Europe. So maybe some things are a little better.

elaphros110 karma

The idea being if there's no one who cares about you on the outside, might as well let you die?

fuserlimon172 karma

Yeah [if I understood you correctly] there needs to be constant pressure from the community, society and international organizations. Or you screwed.

telllos237 karma

How do you handle two months of solitary confinement, without becoming insane?

DMVBornDMVRaised420 karma

I spent two weeks in solitary. It is absolutely absurd that it isn't considered torture. Easily the worst experience of my life. It is a crime against humanity to put people through that for years and years.

maeon39 karma


fuserlimon16 karma

Sometimes, you go crazy by realizing that you haven’t heard a sound since morning. So you start singing to yourself just to fill the void.

Woolliam125 karma

I just watched a documentary on a study of what happens to people in sensory deprivation rooms, and am very curious about your months in solitary.

Was it an empty windowed cell, or windowless? Did you have a light fixture if windowless?

In any case, what was your experience, how did you handle solitary?

fuserlimon260 karma

I had both windows and light. It was not sensory deprivation room. That's a different thing. still sucks though.

areyouready191 karma

I'd just like to point out solitary confinement and sensory deprivation rooms are two very different things. One is simply the absence of social stimuli, whereas the other is the absence of any sensory stimuli. Even if the room had no windows, it would not count as a sensory deprivation room as it is very unlikely it would be sound-proofed.

fuserlimon135 karma


astarkey1257 karma

What was your recovery process like after you were released? How long was it before you felt "normal"? Do you even feel like you've gotten back to "normal"?

Thanks for the AMA.

fuserlimon161 karma

I couldn't eat anything for a week and lost 7-8 kilos. My cousin knows a lot about horses, so he advised me to try equestrian therapy. I went there, walked around, fed the horses petted them and it actually calmed me down, that was the first time when I felt hunger, I had a good meal in a café next door.

froop399 karma

$40,000 donkeys? You can get horses for cheaper than that here.

fuserlimon679 karma

I am not sure, where is "here" for you. However a donkey in Azerbaijan costs $50. So a donkey from Germany can cost 4 times as much, maybe 5, maybe 10 times... but not 40,000. This is a clear example of funds embezzlement.

froop373 karma

Horses cost as much as cars in Canada. $50 for a donkey sounds like a good price. $40,000 is just fucking absurd. Funds embezzlement? Sounds about right.

Oh, and I'm not a farmer or anything, so I'm really just pulling numbers out of my ass.

EDIT: Hey guys, 'pulling numbers out of my ass' means I've got no clue what I'm talking about. Stop telling me I don't know what I'm talking about. I know I don't. Also, haha, ass means donkey, LOL!

fuserlimon305 karma

I see. I am sure there are horses that cost millions of dollars. But not donkeys.

Xtianpro373 karma

This may be a slightly pointless question but I'd nevertheless be interested in the answer. What could a person like me, a middle-class, western, 20-something (90% of Reddit) do to help or effect situations like yours? Situations were injustice is clear but completely unacknowledged by the powers that be. Is there anything that can actually be done by the average person to make a difference? If so, what is it?

fuserlimon357 karma

That is a very good question. Allow me to think about that one. I shall comeback to you with concrete suggestions

crackanape353 karma

Are you staying in Azerbaijan? Are you worried about having more trouble with the government (or these thugs, or the people who sent them) in the future?

fuserlimon505 karma

Yes I am staying. Yes I am worried. That worry is a part of day-to-day life of anybody who disagrees with the regime.

rmm45177263 karma

Do you think they could be spying on you or reading what you're typing here?

fuserlimon582 karma

They are tapping my phone, and regularly reading me FB and Twitter feeds. They do not know what reddit it. But in any case, I am not saying anything here, that I wouldn't be able to say to their face. So it is all good.


In retrospect, do you think that the video caused change?

Would you do it the same way again?

Edit: I just wanted to add that I think you’re very brave. The world needs more people like you.

fuserlimon822 karma

See, change is hard to measure. Most of the activists in Azerbaijan have lost hope for any positive change. We do not hope we persevere. I did this not because I thought that it might change something. I did this because I think that it is my duty as an active and privileged citizen to speak out when something is very wrong with your society. If had to do this all over again, I would spend more time, on making more videos, so when I am jailed, I won’t be sorry for all the time that I have lost.

Batmans_left_nipple535 karma

you are a true hero.

fuserlimon1292 karma

you have a heroic login name

StuPac85246 karma

You're a hero for speaking out and exposing this shocking over-expenditure.

My hat goes off to you sir

fuserlimon687 karma

Cheers. In Azerbaijan the real heroes are dead.

check85145 karma

Does the government in Azerbaijan block access to YouTube or other social/media sites? What about news outlets? Are they all government controlled? Is there any media in the country that is critical of the government?

PS, glad you're safe and thanks for trying to make a difference.

fuserlimon213 karma

Government does not block any social media sites, however people who are active there get punished severely in real life. So it is a trade-off.

There are only 1 independent newspaper, and 1 independent online radio station (Radio Liberty) left. The rest are pretty much controlled. Also there are bunch of bloggers and micro-bloggers, however they are not widely followed.

wbutler89142 karma

Is this type of thing rife in Azerbaijan? Can't help notice the comparison between your case and the one happening in Russia with Pussy Riot right now

fuserlimon227 karma

These things are in fact rife in Azerbaijan. Pussy Riot case is similar, with one important difference, they are being charged for something that is actually being incriminated to them such as Public Disorder in the form of a concert in a Church. In our case, we were charged for something ludicrous like attacking two thugs.

ChineseWhiteGuy141 karma

I would be interested on how your case was handeld. I mean did they sned you before a court and didnt give you a lawyer or were you just thrown into jail and told what you are guilty of. Also how do you think the jailtime change you and if in which way?

fuserlimon348 karma

I was denied the lawyer during the initial investigation, the investigator was asking tricky questions. I demanded a lawyer 3 times, was denied the possibility. Was tired and beaten up, all this time I was thinking that I am victim and I am complaining here. Eventually they made my written complaint "disappear" and arrested me. My lawyer came the next day, but it was too late.

The court actually happened, none of my witnesses were questioned, police lied, the workers from the restaurant were forced to testify against me, we had photos that proved that police was lying but court dismissed them.

I hope that the jail time did not change me, however it is hard for me to tell. Most probably I became more cautions.

ILL_Show_Myself_Out125 karma

What is the mentality of the government's hired police and thugs? Do they believe what they are doing is right? Have you interacted with pro-government people? How do they justify themselves?

fuserlimon331 karma

Justifications include:

  1. I have kids to feed
  2. I am only following orders, my hands are tied
  3. We are in war was the neighboring Armenia, How can you try and split our society when it is a time for national unity around our president?
  4. You guys are rushing things, Azerbaijan is only 20 years old, democracy takes time..

SearchNerd36 karma

What are your responses to those justifications?

fuserlimon43 karma

Read danhakimi's response.

ILL_Show_Myself_Out119 karma

Who runs the government in Azerbijan? Is it a military junta/dictator/theocracy?

Also, are you grateful for the social media tools that you used to spread your message?

fuserlimon243 karma

I am very grateful for the social media tools. Because they made the case go International so eventually almost every single big News agency reported on out case.

Azerbaijan is run by the same family since 1969 (with small breaks). It is an authoritarian and cliptocratic regime. There are no free elections, no representatives of opposition in parliament and no independent judges.

ilamaaa106 karma

Why not upload your videos through some form of anonymous foreign accomplice? this obviously goes against one of the rights you are fighting for, but it is a small price to pay for safety.

fuserlimon296 karma

Nothing can be hidden in Azerbaijan. KGB is everywhere. You might as well go open. Because if you go anonymously, no one will know you and if you get arrested no one will be there for you

123choji101 karma

Met any "interesting people"?

fuserlimon223 karma

Yes. Georgian Jazz Musicians, murderers, leaders of organize crime, journalists, politicians.. the list goes on.

zuperxtreme104 karma

Made any friends?

fuserlimon53 karma

yes. I keep in touch with at least 3 of them now.

suchthefool28 karma

Why were Georgian jazz musicians in jail/prison?

fuserlimon60 karma

They were robbing apartments in spare time. Georgian musicians are tough.

[deleted]87 karma

Hope all is well man, sucks you even have to deal with BS like that.

fuserlimon253 karma

I am ok, needed time to recover after jail, now it seems that I am back to normal. When thugs attacked me, they broke my nose so i couldn't breathe properly through my nose for a long time. I got my surgery 2 months ago, now trying to do some sports to get back in shape.

A lot more people have to go through a lot more horrible stuff in Azerbaijan. Sucks for the most of us actually.

[deleted]74 karma


fuserlimon145 karma

My friends. I wasn't allowed to see them. Only family members.

[deleted]41 karma


fuserlimon19 karma

My family was not threatened. My dad took it better than my mom.

PopeBenedickt57 karma

Did anyone try to rape you?

fuserlimon198 karma

No. It was pretty safe there. Contrary to US where 70% of males are raped during first 48 hours in prison (info from early 2000s), rape is not prevalent in Azerbaijani prison. Most of the prisoners actually do have a sense of unity and fraternity. There are no gangs in jail. Except one big criminal conglomerate that calls itself "Criminal World". The hierarchy is not constructed sexually but to what extent a particular prisoners has made effort for the common good of all prisoners.

However, some people are not safe -> homosexual men have it hard there, they are considered a lower cast, you cannot shake their hands, sit at the same table with them, or exchange food.

In some prisons they are being used as prostitutes and it is condoned by the guards.

[deleted]69 karma

70% of males are raped during first 48 hours

Ehhh, source? Sounds like total bs.

fuserlimon124 karma

Yeah. Maybe. I had a feeling I was going to be called on that one. I wrote down this fact in a class when I was in college. The class was called: Penitentiary System of the USA. I am not going to argue on that one. It just popped to my mind. I thought that the figure was ridiculous at the time also.

techno-toast53 karma

What was solitary confinement like? I think I would go insane.

fuserlimon115 karma

First week I almost went insane, second week they brought a radio, after that it was much better. That and some books... you can go on for a while.

Uberche48 karma

Damn, sorry to hear but stay strong. Sooner or later all governments fall.. Hope they leave you alone.

fuserlimon58 karma


GasparAlbright30 karma

Where are you living now? Have you had any further harassment since you were released? What's the first thing you did when you got out?

fuserlimon90 karma

I am living in Baku, Azerbaijan. When I got out, I hugged my SO.

atx011013 karma


fuserlimon16 karma

Original sentence was 2 years. I was let out on parole for good behavior.

nickryane8 karma

How did the government link you to the YouTube video? Has YouTube contacted you about this?

If it's the case that YouTube didn't protect you, or another company has helped your government in tracking you down have you considered naming-and-shaming and making a big deal out of this?

I think we would all like to know which companies are doing their ethical duty and which companies are, like IBM and the Holocaust, screwing us over.

fuserlimon15 karma

I did not hide my identity, I am an outspoken online activist. So youtube is not to blame.