Letters from Azerbaijan prisons: „Lack of loneliness


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by Yadigar Sadigov, political prisoner, who is currently serving his 4 year jail term at Prison №14. Sadigov is a senior opposition politician and well-known outspoken journalist. He was arrested in 2013 on trumped up „hooiliganism“ charges. 
It is clear that a prison is not a place one looks forward to getting in. However, it should not also be known as a horrible place. Except a couple of penitentiary facilities which were built recently, all other prisons and detention facilities are in a bad condition and do not meet contemporary standards. However, compared with the prisons under the former Soviet Union, especially those under Stalin’s regime, current prisons have much softer ruling system. Despite this fact, it is a prison and though any condition and regime, it is always hard to be in a prison, at least morally if not physically. Some of these hardships are unavoidable and exists only in the cells of the prison, but others exist throughout prison term of a prisoner, in a detention facility, in a prison, and in a prisoner’s train during the transfer from one prison to another. For me, the most unbearable hardship was the absence of loneliness.

To be among people and sometimes in a crowd constantly is very exhausting. You do not have a chance to stay alone with your thoughts and memories. 
In the beginning, I thought it was me only due to my character because I am the only child of my parents and I have got used to being alone. However, later I saw other prisoners feel the same. Recently I read a book about Jawaharlal Nehru, the leader of the Indian national freedom movement and it appeared he also complained of the absence of loneliness in the prison. Then I thought probably the books about historical characters I read had similar notes, I just never paid attention to them. I did not judge it fairly and thought it was not a big deal to be unable to stay alone. I thought people were tortured and someone was just unhappy due to the lack of loneliness… but when you experience it, you understand that being lonely sometimes is precious opportunity that you do not appreciate when you are free.    
In Kurdakhani detention facility the cells are divided into two parts, a living room and a walking area. The door dividing these two sections is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Sometimes there was no one in the walking area due to the cold weather. On these days, I walked out quietly and enjoyed being alone with my thoughts. Unfortunately, this could continue only a few minutes. In the best moment of my thoughts, someone appeared and started talking to me, thinking he comforted me with his words, such as ‘what do you think?’, ‘don’t think much’, ‘everything is going to be fine’, etc. He does it with a good faith thinking he helps you by ceasing your thoughts. You try to explain that to think and to sorrow are two different things. But it does not help and the next time the same scenario occurs again.
In Shuvalan detention facility, which is quite old, there was no opportunity of staying alone. The walking area was in the courtyard and all inmates got out together at the same hours.
During the appeal trial, I traveled to Shirvan city where the situation was exceptional. I asked the police officers to place me in a cell for one person, and they permitted. I had books, newspapers that the members of the Musavat Party in Shirvan brought every day and a music player with my own music list. What else a prisoner would want to feel happy?! Unfortunately, this did not continue more than a week. After the next trial, I was brought back to Shuvalan. They had justified it with different excuses, as if the detention facility in Shirvan was a temporary place and due to the lack of television it was illegal to place an inmate there more than ten days. However, I would be glad to stay in the Shirvan detention facility throughout my appeal trial. 
In common regime prisons, to stay alone can be only dreamed of. In a prison with more than one thousand prisoners to stay alone not only physically, also mentally, is impossible. Someone will definitely interrupt your dreams or thoughts. Sometimes interruption is observed with the ridiculous questions. In the prison, if you are educated, the inmates there think you have the knowledge about everything – from different diseases to setting a nuclear weapon. 
In short, for members of Musavat Party to miss something is inconsistent with our principles, but still, I missed the loneliness.
As it is said in a song of my favorite singer Funda Arar, I am in love with the loneliness