Bullying at School No. 225

"I have experienced sexual harassment, threats with a knife held to my throat, being beaten and even death threats throughout my 10 years of school life" 

These were said by Aleks*, a student studying at School No. 225 in the Yasamal district named after Telman Abbasov.

The young 10th-grade student says that the teaching staff and students at School No. 225 show bias against him. Although he hasn't disclosed his gender or sexual orientation, the fact that he befriended girls, parted his hair in the middle and didn't act tough created resentment among the school staff and students towards him.

"I've experienced these things because of my feminine behavior. I'm threatened for not conforming to gender roles and being true to myself," says Aleks.

"My geography teacher, Sevda Ismayilova, constantly belittles me in class by saying things like 'why do you act like a girl?' 'be more serious and act like a man,' 'take off your mask and don't cover your face like a new bride,' 'sissy,' and so on. She would lower me in front of other students and make it difficult for me. On April 10th, while taking a test in class, the same teacher asked me to act like a man and pointed to boys in the class as an example. One of the boys she pointed to said to me, 'people like you are cursed and should be killed in Islam.' Seeing that I was distressed and upset, the teacher said, 'don't cry like a woman, men don't cry, stop acting like an artist.'"

Aleks says that after hearing those words, he collapsed and cried in the corridor but no one helped him.

To create a safe environment for teachers and students, a state program called "School's Friend" was established in 2016. The program covers only a part of the schools in the country. According to an interview given to Chai-Khana by one of the project's assigned psychologists, Mehriban Verdiyeva, LGBTIQ+ students have not reported bullying in her experience.

 "They haven't been bullied by other children because they kept their orientation hidden. However, they have had problems accepting themselves. We usually tell children that if you're a boy, you must like girls. We teach them to accept themselves and give more thought to their feelings and thoughts...", said the psychologist. 

The inquiries sent to the Ministry of Education regarding pressure on LGBTIQ+ students in state schools have remained unanswered. 

A young person speaking for Minority Azerbaijan states that at the school where Sevda Eminova Ali is the principal, other students spread rumours about them among teachers, insult them, and make sexual offers. "I have heard that complaints have been filed with the police several times about one of those students. That boy constantly tries to sexually harass me, and when I don't stay quiet, rumours are spread about me."

Publicising the bullying experienced by students regarding their sexual orientation is not a new issue. Several years ago, another student was harassed not only by fellow students but even by school staff due to the various-shaped pins in their bag and a mask depicting the LGBT flag that they used and wore.

Aleks says, "Last year, the school administration told us that measures would be taken against those children, and some were referred to the school psychologist. Currently, my mother and I have submitted a complaint to the 26th Police Department of Yasamal RPI about the school administration."

In addition, the young person has appealed to the State Committee for Family, Women, and Children's Issues and the Ombudsman for Human Rights of the Republic of Azerbaijan. They also criticise the schools for focusing on personal interests rather than education.

When we contacted the administration of school number 225 named after Telman Abbasov in Yasamal district by phone, the school principal said they were aware of the incident and were working to solve the problem. They also say that they have had informative meetings with school staff and students about bullying several times a year. The administration reported that they had informed the Ministry of Education about the issue as well.

*The name has been changed for the safety of the respondent.

Prepared by: Ali Malikov

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