“In the dead of night, without saying goodbye to family and friends, my father, mother, brother and I fled Azerbaijan for the Netherlands. I was fourteen years old. This experience left its mark on me. When you have time to say goodbye it’s always much easier. But this time I was shaken awake and we left. I never saw my grandmother again; she died when we were here.
For five years we lived in Bladel village in Brabant. After finishing middle school my brother and I left to study at the UvA. Because they had more chance of finding work there my parents said, “Let’s all go”. We found another house using a house swapping service. Luckily for us, someone wanted to live in the village of Bladel. And we’re still in Amsterdam now, in a house near to the Lelylaan station in Nieuw-West.
In Azerbaijan, my father was a known figure in the opposition who went on to win the 2003 elections. But afterwards they said the results had been tampered with and the former government remained. The day after the elections, reprisals were taken against opposition leaders. My mother, brother and I were taken somewhere safe. The police surrounded the house we were in and we weren’t allowed to go to school. After a month my father came to collect us. It was late at night and we were fast asleep. He told us, “Every second I stay here is dangerous”.
I went back for the first time in 2010. I’ve been back three more times since. I’m not allowed anymore; they won’t give me a visa. This is because I wanted to do an internship with the Azerbaijan embassy. They thought it suspect that the son of an opposition leader would want to do a simple internship at the embassy in the Netherlands. Why did I want to? What were my motives? I find it difficult to accept that I can’t return to Azerbaijan; I miss my family a lot. But I won’t risk getting caught.
I wouldn’t move from Amsterdam to somewhere like Rotterdam, for example. I like the authenticity of Amsterdam, the fact that you can see the history in front of your eyes, because the way it is built meant that the Second World War left very little damage. But I especially love the sense of freedom Amsterdam gives you. For someone who’s come from an area with very little freedom, this means a lot.
112 people in Amsterdam have the Azerbaijani nationality