“The last time I saw my children in September 2015, it was only for 10 minutes. They hugged me and asked “Mother, please, come with us.” I could say nothing. I only said “Your grandma is ill, I have to look after her. I shall come back,” and had to leave them.”
Esmira İbrahimova was arrested in January 2016 after the tribunal in Sumgait, a city 30km north of the capital Baku, ordered her detention on account of a large amount of money that she borrowed and could not return. Three months later, while in prison, she gave birth to her third child and her sentence was changed into house arrest. She is still not allowed to see her older children.
“When I was in prison, the inspection of social service was conducted. My elder son said that he didn’t want to see me while my little son said, “my father allows me to see my mother whenever I want.” Nevertheless, they did not visit me. My sons were told this, as if I am an immoral and wicked woman. That’s why I cannot see them. The Sumgait police didn’t respond to my complaints.”
Ibrahimova claims her husband asked her to borrow the money but later he completely refused to accept his responsibility in the case.
“One day my husband told me, “I have a debt that I could not pay. And the person who lent me the money is following you and our children. Do not take our son to school.” I could not say anything to my family. My elder son was going to a special boarding school, since he is an epilepsy patient. At school I heard about a woman who was selling gold. I took out a debt interest in gold as my husband wished and I intended to return my debt with money. All the official documentation was on my name and I had the responsibility to pay a large sum of money over four years. So, I sold the gold that I bought with the lowest prices, and began paying in percentages for my husband’s debt. My husband said that he returned all his debt.”
Ibrahimova insists that at home she found receipts from TOPAZ, Azerbaijan’s leading betting operation, and afterwords she had arguments with her husband and his relatives.
“They took all the receipts and tore them up. My husband took my children, and my ID card in April 1, 2015 and said that I had borrowed money without his permission.”
The 33-year-old says that despite the fact that she just had 8000 AZN ($ 4855) debt, she didn’t have the financial sources to pay the interests required and the bank sued her.
“Before my arrest my husband filed for divorce and a few days after I was told that we got divorced. I understood later that the decision was a fabricated decision because, by law, parents cannot divorce until the youngest child is under a year of age. The court of appeal reverse the divorce case. However, I was released under conditional sentence and my husband didn’t let me go home where I was registered and take my personal items. I have the right to see my children.”
After her release, Ibrahimova’s relatives didn’t accept her back and she entered a women's shelter that is part of the “Temiz Dunya,” the Clean World Public Union. Established in 1998, Temiz Dunya is Azerbaijan’s first organization which provides assistance to female victims of violence and human trafficking. It also run a safe shelter where Ibrahimova and her baby are currently living.Her baby was born with trauma and suffered from pneumonia. Lacking the the financial means for the child’s medical treatment, she has appealed to the State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs and Ministry of Health. But, she still hasn’t been granted any financial assistance.
In August 2016, the Sumgait Court of Appeal confirmed the decision and warned Ibrahimova that she'd be arrested again, should she not repay the debt. Her third child would be assigned to the social services.The judge warned that if some part of the debt is still not paid, she will be arrested again and her third child will be given to the boarding house.
“I cannot leave my baby alone to work, so I do not have an opportunity to pay my debt. What I want is to be with my children. I do not want to be arrested again.”
Ibrahimova is currently provided with legal assistance to restore her property rights.
“A social worker of our organization got acquainted with all the court decisions and necessary documents besides legal aid,” explains Mehriban Zeynalova who heads the “Temiz Dunya” Public Union for assistance to women. “According to the law, Ibrahimova is still married. She has the right to see her children, but her motherhood rights are violated by her husband. It could be considered as domestic violence.”
Akram Hasanov, a lawyer and a banking expert maintains, that according to the legislation, a debtor could be arrested only in the case that he or she refuses to fulfill his duties despite his financial opportunity.
But if a borrower is unable to pay his debt due to financial constraints, the lender can bring the suit in court. Once the amount is clarified, and the court adopts a decision on this issue, then the process of implementation begins. If the borrower doesn’t have material opportunity to pay his debt the judgment will not be enforced. However, the borrower will not release from his debt, and he or she will be asked to pay it in case if he finds the adequate financial aid.
The Head of the Legal Department of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs Taliha İbrahimova notes that the Committee receives many complaints related with the violation of parent`s rights. The violation of maternity rights by husbands is especially widespread.
"There are foster care and legal guardianship commissions under the Executive departments,” says Ibrahimova. “If there are any communication problems between a mother and her children, these departments have to take measures within its competence.”
“We always conduct investigations and involve foster care and legal adoption agencies in this process,” she points out, “If a mother has not been deprived of her parental rights, she has a right to meet with her children. But sometimes we meet with cases in which the child, under the influence of one parent, doesn’t want to see the other, in this case the mother.In such situations, we advise the mother to apply to the court. Courts define the procedures of communication, and the claim is denied if the communication can somehow harm a child.”