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Azerbaijani Press Launches New Attacks On Khadija Ismayilova

Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova
Azerbaijan has ratcheted up its invective against investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, attacking her integrity and accusing her of being a "slave" to the U.S., following a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Baku condemning media attacks against her.

Ismayilova, author of reports for RFE/RL disclosing the massive financial assets of the ruling family, was the subject of a scurrilous article that appeared on August 26 on the website of SES newspaper, which is associated with the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party. The SES article drew condemnation from the U.S. Embassy on August 29 for its "disgusting personal attacks."

The article "Khadija's Armenian Mother Should Die" falsely labeled several of Ismayilova's relatives "Armenian" and provided the name of the Baku district where Ismayilova's mother lives. It also gave the address of her sister, who is falsely called a "pimp" and described as "practic[ing] sex trafficking" in Turkey, and accused Ismayilova and her sister of appearing in pornographic films.

For some Azeris, the reference to "Armenian" ethnicity is code for treason in a country that went to war with Armenia over disputed territory in 1988.

In response to the embassy's statement, SES posted a follow-up piece on August 29 that further propagates Ismayilova's "Armenian" ethnicity and directs its vitriol to the U.S. Entitled, "What the US can do for Khadija," it lists abuses the U.S. has allegedly perpetrated against women and children in Palestine, Egypt and Syria and concludes, "Don't touch our women, take Khadija. She is Armenian anyway."

The SES article closes with a direct reference to Ismayilova's investigative work: "the woman who keeps connecting villas to some officials should have known... Khadija who is insulting other families should be tolerant of criticism."

RFE/RL's Acting President and CEO Kevin Klose said, "the SES attacks on Khadija Ismayilova and her family are dangerous, evil and false, and could be construed as an incitement to violence. I urge the Azeri authorities to put an end to this smear campaign and punish those involved."

In its statement, the U.S. Embassy protested the "ongoing, targeted harassment" of Ismayilova, which began in 2012. It called for a "legitimate investigation" consistent with Azerbaijan's own laws and international commitments, especially in advance of the forthcoming presidential polls.

President Ilham Aliyev will run for a third term in the country's October 8 elections as the candidate of the Yeni Azerbaijan party.