Saturday, 20 September 2008

Airline Caves In To Anti-Deportation Pester Power

Azerbaijan Airlines have bowed to public pressure, and refused to deport a gay radical artist Babi Badalov (Babi), who fears for his life if returned home.

The Airline has been inundated with phone calls from friends and supporters expressing their extreme concern about the company’s involvement in the deportation. Spokesman Omar Khamal told one campaigner:

“Azerbaijan Airlines will not be carrying out the deportation now or in the future.”

Another employee, who would identify himself only as Tahir, told another of Babi’s supporters:

“We were asked to remove this man, but we’ve told the Home Office we’re refusing to do this. He won’t be flown out on one of our flights. We’ve had people contacting us about this all day, and we haven’t been able to do any work or sell any tickets. This morning I got 50 phone calls and 60 e-mails. It’s really affecting our business”.

The Home Office refused to comment on their relationship with the airline, and are tight-lipped about whether they will seek to deport Babi using another company.

Babi Badalov, the internationally renowned artist from Azerbaijan, was snatched by UK Border officers in Cardiff on Tuesday this week. He was held in a police cell, and has since been moved to Campsfield detention centre where he was told he would be forcibly removed this Saturday. He has received no new removal directions since the Airline’s U-turn.

Friend and activist Hywel Bishop from No Borders South Wales has said:

“We’re sceptical about Azerbaijan Airlines’ assurances they won’t be carrying out the deportation. Previous experiences with airlines tell us that they will say anything to fob people off and stop them telephoning. This was the case with Kemi Ayinde a migrant from Nigeria who was due to be deported some time ago on a Virgin Nigeria flight. Many supporters received emails stating Virgin Nigeria had never carried out a deportation flight before, which was just not true.

“Until we know for certain that Babi will not be on that flight we’ll keep contacting the airline to complain. Ideally they’ll be so inconvenienced by this protest that they’ll think twice about operating removal flights in the future.”


Notes for editors:

Background info on Babi’s campaign:

For his current situation:

For further info email:

Babakhan Badalov, (Babi) the openly gay, internationally renowned radical artist and poet from Azerbaijan was arrested last Tuesday while signing on at the UK Border Agency Offices in Cardiff. Babi went for his weekly sign-in with friends from the Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff Campaign. When he did not come back out of the building campaigners became concerned and enquired after his well-being only to be told he had been detained and would be removed from the country as soon as possible. At present he is in Campsfield Detention centre in Oxford.

Among others Babi's campaign has gained the support of writer and playwright Patrick Jones, Leanne Wood AM, Bethan Jenkins AM, Chris Bryant MP, Adam Price MP, Jenny Willott MP, Cardiff Council Leader Rodney Berman and Deputy Leader Neil McEvoy.

Babi’s art and poetry have been explicitly critical of the government and prominent members of present/past regimes in Azerbaijan. These factors have led Babi to become a target of repression and persecution over many years. Because of his sexuality and the radical nature of his creative activities, he has endured government-led suppression together with physical and mental abuse from other sectors of society, including his own family (who have threatened to kill him to defend their honour).

A recent ILGA report into the human rights of Gay people in Azerbaijan states that the price of open homosexuality is often “estrangement from family, bullying, social exclusion, discrimination, blackmailing and hate crimes”. Similarly an Amnesty International report into freedom of expression in the country cited numerous instances of “harassment, including physical abuse at the hands of law enforcement officials” and a number of “violent attacks which have led to serious injury and even death”.

Since arriving in Cardiff in December 2006, Babi has engaged fully with various parts of the local community and has made many friends in his new home. He is still producing poetry, is writing a book about his art/gay life experiences and is also working on a film addressing the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. This latter work, as well as many other aspects of his art, would of course be impossible in his country of origin. For the first time in his life, Babi felt happy and safe in Cardiff. He felt able to openly express himself artistically, politically and with regard to his sexuality, without associated feelings of fear, shame and imminent repression.


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