Beaten to death in the army he loved

Suleyman Kazimov, 34, was beaten to death during an interrogation

Suleyman Kazimov, 34, was beaten to death during an interrogation

Suleyman Kazimov, 34, was beaten to death during an interrogation

Suleyman Kazimov, 34, was beaten to death during an interrogation

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Suleyman Kazimov wanted to be a soldier since he was a little boy.

One of 10 boys in an Azerbaijan family that claims descent from the prophet Muhammad, he left high school after the ninth grade to enter the Jamshid Nakhchivanski Military School in Baku.

“Our father tried to stop him; the whole family tried,” remembers his brother Dadash. “But we couldn’t. He loved his country very much. He told me all the time it was a passion is his blood. It was like he was born a military man.”

He graduated after three years and entered the military academy named for Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s leader both during and after the fall of the Soviet Union, and father of current president Ilham Aliyev.

He rose through the army ranks as a military trainer, serving six years as a battalion commander at the Aghdam military base near the Nagorno-Karabakh territory disputed with Armenia. Then he moved to the Tartar base. At age 34, he held the rank of captain and was deputy commander over 500 soldiers.

It all ended quickly. In May of 2017, he was one of an estimated 200 soldiers and civilians who were rounded up and taken to at least two holding facilities. Azerbaijan authorities believed their own soldiers were giving information on troop locations and strengths to their Armenian enemies.

Suleyman Kazimov is buried in his family’s village

Suleyman Kazimov is buried in his family’s village

Official media announced the mass arrests. But when local media began reporting about claims of deaths in custody, the government warned one media outlet to get all their information only from the government. Most media quit covering the story.

Descriptions of the interrogations suggest serious torture. Sources who wish not to be named say there were more than a dozen deaths as a result of these interrogations. cannot confirm those figures.

What is known is that Captain Suleyman Kazimov died on May 7 after being taken to the Mingachevir military base. His family was told he died in a car accident. When the military shipped his body to his Amenkand village in Jalilabad region, they refused to allow his family to see his body. After the anguished family protested, his unmarked face was exposed.

Kazimov didn’t marry until 2015, and his first child was a son born with a brain defect. “The first question Suleyman asked the doctor was if the boy could ever serve in the army,” his brother Ahad says.

Suleyman Kazimov holding his infant son

Suleyman Kazimov holding his infant son

Kazimov was home on a two-day leave one week before his arrest. Nine months later, his 34-year-old wife Zulfiyya gave birth to a baby girl who will never see her father. The family received an 11,000 manat (about $US6,470) settlement and still receives his monthly salary of 1,050 manat (about $US620).

When his family went to the Tartar base to get answers, a major broke into tears. “He said my brother wasn’t guilty, and the people who killed him should be punished,” says Dadash Kazimov. He was told his brother was beaten badly, suffered kidney damage, and was taken to a hospital where he died. Dadash says he was also told by military investigator Hummat Mammadov that a total of 13 officers have been arrested in connection with the deaths.

So Kazimov’s family and the relatives of other soldiers appealed to military prosecutors to find the identity of the killers. According to investigator Hummat Mammadov, three unidentified officers are now on trial for Kazimov’s beating death. According to a family member who does not want to be identified, Mammadov said he was killed because of a misunderstanding.

About six weeks after his death, Kazimov’s wife received an official document from the military prosecutor’s office, stating that a closed military investigation on treason charges for Kazimov was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Document stating that treason investigation was dismissed due to lack of evidence

Document stating that treason investigation was dismissed due to lack of evidence

“We got a piece of paper that his (treason) case was stopped because his guilt couldn’t be proven. But we all knew he wasn’t guilty,” says his brother Ahad.

“His honesty caused his death. I was told they demanded he name someone, true or false. But he was brave enough not to do that.”

His family is determined to clear his brother’s name: “There should be a place where his family, friends and comrades can come and remember him,” Ahad Kazimov says. “It’s not only my brother; they are plenty of other soldiers who didn’t tell lies about others, and they suffered the same fate.

“If we call people martyrs when they are killed by enemies, then we should call my brother a martyr. The people who killed by brother and others are also enemies."

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