I deliberately did not pick a picture for this post for there is no image that could objectively illustrate freedom. You’re free to imagine what you want. Defining freedom is an individual venture, a unique journey that each of us has to embark on in order to find out for ourselves what it truly is. One fact remains, though – the lack of transparency as to why some journalists, bloggers, and other free speech heralds have been imprisoned, casts a dark shadow on the understanding of freedom in Azerbaijan.
As a European visitor in Ganja, I felt relatively free to express what I want and sheltered away from any harm. As a guest, I was treated with respect and shown that which is the best in the city and the country – and there are sure many treasures to showcase. As a citizen of the world, though, I cannot close my eyes to that which has been said about Azerbaijan’s violation of the human rights. The most recent case of the imprisonment of a human rights activist Khadija Ismayilova is just one of the many instances that should be brought to light.
I was hesitant to write about politics for human heart is and remains at the core of the impressions of wherever I visit. And the hearts of youth in Ganja are sure kind and unspoiled. Their desires are the same as those of any youth in the world – a desire to know more, create closer relationships with the surrounding world, built friendships, and make their own country a bit of a better place to live in. What cannot remain unnoticed, though, is that there is also a clearly expressed desire for freedom which, in their eyes, Europeans have.
Having taken part in a locally-funded project, I did feel that there are certain things I should refrain from commenting on in order to protect the organizers from getting into trouble. As a true and honest writer, however, I cannot remain quiet about the things that have moved me as a human being. For me freedom is first and foremost a feeling. As I sit in the safety and security of my home, a national of a country which has very recently claimed its freedom, I feel free to express that which concerns me. Does the youth of Ganja feel the same? I cannot tell. But there’s no better way to find out than going and seeing the life in Azerbaijan for yourselves.