*Please note because this urgent situation impacted three organizations who shared an office, UAF was able to award two grants totaling $9,935 to ensure their ability to continue operating.* In August 2011, under the direction of police officers, bulldozers and construction workers completely demolished the home of prominent women’s human rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband. Her home also housed three human rights organizations: The Women’s Crisis Centre, The Society of Women of Azerbaijan for Peace and Democracy for the Transcaucasus/Institute for Peace and Democracy (SWAPDT/IPD), and the Azerbaijani Campaign to Ban Landmines. The demolition occurred only one day after Ms. Yunus appeared in an article in the New York Times, calling for protection of property rights and denouncing the “beautification” campaign that the Azerbaijani authorities have embarked upon since the announcement that the Eurovision Song Contest would be held in Baku in 2012. The destruction of Yunus’ building was in direct violation of a July Court Order halting the operation until a September 13, 2011 hearing. An official from the mayor’s office denied the employees the opportunity to salvage various computers, documents, and office materials minutes before the demolition. Ms. Yunus has long been threatened by the government, as earlier this year the Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications cut her phone lines in an attempt to halt her work. In response to the threats against Ms. Yunus and the demolition of her home, SWAPDT/IPD requested funds for an office in a different location, purchase safe deposit doors, an alarm and new computers, re-establish telephone and internet communications, and assist Ms. Yunus with medical expenses.
SWAPDT was established in 1994 to assist women in conflict zones in the South Caucasus. In 1995, SWAPDT initiated the establishment of the IPD, whose activities are aimed at protecting human rights through legal education.