Fuad Mehraliyev, an English teacher in Astara, about 300 km south of Baku, protested bribery at the school where he started working. He says his protest has cost him a lot: in addition to being fired, the teacher was diagnosed with a mental illness and spent 27 days in a psychiatric clinic.
Being forced into mental asylums is not an unusual punishment for people who speak out in Azerbaijan. International rights defenders have said locking people up in mental hospitals is part of the government’s severe crackdown and sustained repression of dissenting voices. This practice has been frequently used by the authorities in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan enclave in the past.
According to Fuad Mehraliyev, his classroom and family were also pressured, a common practice in Azerbaijan. Human Rights Watch has documented how critics of the government in Azerbaijan are punished by the government for exercising their right to protest.
While school management denied the bribery, the unemployed teacher, who is the principal caregiver for his family, including three minors, is fighting to get his job back; he has taken the school to court over his dismissal and hopes to reach to European Court of Human Rights.