I want justice, so I must fight
Leyla Islam kizi Yunus was born on December 21, 1955 in Baku, then the Azerbaijan SSR. Her grandfather Teymur Useynov was the director of the Azerbaijanfilm film studio. She graduated from the Department of History at Baku State University in 1978. In 1978 she married Arif Yunus. She did her postgraduate studies in Moscow, where she joined the underground movement “National Minorities Against the Bolshevik Regime”. She was one of the founders of the People’s Front of Azerbaijan in 1988. She left the party with her husband when President Aliyev’s supporters infiltrated there. She covered the events of Armenian and Azerbaijani pogroms in the foreign press, and also the events of “Black January” - the invasion of Soviet troops into Azerbaijan on 20 January 1990. She created an Armenian-Azerbaijani website, led discussions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis to resolve national issues. In 1994, she founded the Institute for Peace and Democracy, engaged in human rights activities, created complete lists of political prisoners and fought for their release. In 2014, she wrote an appeal to the Council of Europe against the European Games in Azerbaijan for lack of respect to human rights in the country. In August 2014, she was arrested and accused of spying for Armenia. The court sentenced her to 8.5 years in prison for alleged “economic crimes”. In 2015, the Red Cross and an independent doctor from Germany, Christian Witt, were allowed to visit her. In December 2015, under world pressure, her sentence was changed to probation for health reasons. In 2016 she and her husband were granted political asylum in the Netherlands, where their daughter Dinara was already living. In the Netherlands, Leyla continues the activities of the Institute for Peace and Democracy: she makes reports at the Council of Europe, speaks at democratic forums, where she exposes European politicians corrupted by Azerbaijan and the totalitarian regime of President Ilham Aliyev. She also fights for the release of political prisoners of Azerbaijan. She visited Prague in August-September 2022 at the invitation of the Forum 2000 Foundation, which we are grateful to for arranging the interview.