25 February

Safgan Mammadov and Gulnara Mammadova, a Baptist couple, live with their two young children in the south of Azerbaijan in the Sabirabad district of Qalaqayin village. The Norwegian organization Forum 18 has reported that the couple’s misfortunes began shortly after their six-year-old son brought to school some Christian booklets and offered them to his classmates on 24 February. The school counsellor noticed this and came over to the family house in order to check what the booklets were about. As soon as it was clear that it was a religious literature she called the police.

The day after, Safgan Mammadov left to work in Georgia for several months, and his wife Gulnara was summoned to the police. She had to go there with her two little children. At the police station, the officers asked her “what religious sect she belonged to”, where she had obtained the booklets.

The interrogation has been lasted about six hours. Then the police brought Mammadova home to search the house. As a result, the police confiscated 106 books and booklets, including the Bible and the New Testament, as well as CDs with Christian songs.

The police then asked about the gift bags handed out to 12 children and their parents at a New Year’s Eve meeting at the Mammadov House on December 31, 2018, which contained candies and a cartoon of Jesus Christ’s birth. Those gift bags were provided by the Baptist pastor Hafiz Bakhshaliyev from the neighbouring town of Shirvan.

After that, the police of Qalaqayin village called pastor Hafiz Bakhshaliyev for an interrogation. He had been questioned for more than six hours and forced to write a statement, in which he specified that all books had been subject to mandatory state censorship and had the necessary permission from the State Committee.

Pastor Bakhshaliyev was then taken to a bus stop on the outskirts of Shirvan by the Galagain police officers, where the 12 police officers from Shirvan had been waiting for him. Four of them accompanied him to his residence, where they searched his house and seized all Christian literature they could find, including the Bible and the New Testament.