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The Society of Women of Azerbaijan for Peace and Democracy for the Transcaucasus/Institute for Peace and Democracy (SWAPDT/IPD)

Baku Azerbaijan
September 2011

Grant Description

*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.

Impact Report

Funds were used for opening a new office for the three NGOs, installation of telephone and internet lines, and office equipment including a computer, a printer, a scanner, and a fax machine. Funds were also used for medical treatment for Ms. Yunus. The opening of the office took longer than expected because it was difficult to find a space and once they found one, renovations were necessary and were slow to complete. Landlords are reluctant to rent to human rights organizations, and the three organizations cannot afford to pay rent, so the space they were able to find is an apartment that belonged to Ms. Yunus’ grandfather. UAF funds were critical in allowing the three organizations to continue their work. At the time of reporting in February 2012, all have resumed full operations and the Crisis Center receives six to eight women per day. Ms. Yunus was also only able to resume working because funds were used to cover her medical treatment in addition to building a new office.