Khadija Ismayilova. Photo by Aziz Karimov for the 'Caucasian Knot'

17 April 2015, 15:35

Khadija Ismayilova

Azerbaijani journalist, author of the series of journalist reports dealing with state-level corruption in Azerbaijan. On October 24, 2012, she was awarded the Courage of Journalism Award founded by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF).


Khadija Ismayilova was born on May 27, 1976.

In 1997 she graduated from the Baku State University, Faculty of Oriental Studies, with a degree in Turkish philology in 1997.

In 1997-1999 she worked as a journalist for ‘Aurasia’ newspaper and was deputy editor-in-chief of ‘Guinadin’ and ‘Uch Nokta’ newspapers.

In 2000-2003 Khadija worked for the Russian-language ‘Zerkalo’ newspaper based in Baku, first as a political observer, later as a political news chief. In 2001 she received the Hasan Bek Zardabi Award for Excellence in Political Reporting.

In 2003-2004 she worked as a deputy editor-in-chief of Caspian Business News.

In 2004-2006 Khadija was a grants manager in the IREX program for media support, as well as a project consultant for Export and Investment Fund (EU TACIS program).

In 2006-2007 Khadija Ismayilova was a reporter and anchor at the Azerbaijani service of Voice of America radio station.

In 2008-2010 she worked as the head of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Baku Bureau.

Since 2009 she has been working as a reporter and moderator of the daily debating program at the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Persecution of Khadija Ismayilova

On March 7, 2012, Khadija Ismayilova received anonymous letter containing threats to disseminate photo and video footage of journalist’s private life. Ismayilova refused to give in to the blackmailers and on March 14, the original footage taken by a hidden camera was posted on a fake website posing as the website of the opposition party Musavat. Ismayilova blamed the government for infringing her private life.

Numerous mass media representatives, local NGOs and international organizations publicly condemned attempts to threaten and blackmail Khadija Ismayilova.

On June 10, 2013, the Binagadi District Court in Baku found Khadija Ismayilova guilty of involvement in unsanctioned protest action in Baku on January 26 and appointed fine of 400 manats (about 510 US dollars). Khadija Ismayilova refused to pay the fine and the court sentenced her to the alternative administrative penalty of 220 hours of public works instead.

On February 17, 2014, she posted on Facebook a photo of the report made by the captain of a secret division of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) to the boss of the Azerbaijani domestic intelligence of the MNS. The document reported about recruitment of one of opposition activists, who undertook, in exchange for a monthly pay, to inform the security services about the activities within the opposition and promote a split in the ranks thereof. Surname of the recruited man was blurred over by Ismayilova.

Khadija Ismayilova was interrogated several times at the General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) of Azerbaijan as a witness in the criminal case on divulging state secrets instituted in connection with this material. On February 25, 2014, GPO officers checked personal computer of Ismayilova.

On October 3, 2014, Khadija Ismayilova was detained in Baku airport upon her arrival from Istanbul. During scrutinous search that lasted till 01.00 am on October 4, customs officers demanded that she gave them camera SD card. According to Ismayilova, during her two-week trip to Kiev, Warsaw, Belgrade and Instanbul she was notified that she would by arrested upon her return to Baku.  

On December 5, 2015, the Sabail District Court in Baku ruled to put Khadija in custody for two monthes as the person accused of incitement to a suicide attempt.

On January 26, 2015, the Sabail District Court of Baku extended the arrest of the journalist by 1 month and 19 days.

On February 13, the General Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan announced new charges against Khadija Ismayilova accusing her of a large-scale embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office.

On March 6, 2015, the Nasimi District Court of Baku extended the detention of Khadija Ismayilova until May 24.

Source: Materials of the 'Caucasian Knot' correspondents

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