On January 22nd Isa Shahmarli, our close friend and the founder of Azerbaijan Free LGBT (also called AZAD LGBT in Azerbaijani), committed suicide by hanging himself with a rainbow flag. Isa was a major figure in the Azerbaijani LGBTQ community. He was constantly developing projects such as LGBTQ movie nights, educational videos, and a radio station. Isa was openly gay in a country where to be so can jeopardize one's work, family, and safety.
In the weeks after his passing, Azerbaijan Free LGBT worked to develop a project both to honor Isa and to continue his work. One of his favorite phrases was “love is love”, or “sevgi ele sevgidir”, in Azerbaijani. It's a simple, strong statement that summarizes perfectly the kind of person Isa was: pure of heart, positive, and supportive. We decided a great way to honor him would be an online picture campaign using this phrase and a rainbow heart designed by an Azerbaijani artist. The campaign also shows support for other people in the LGBTQ community in Azerbaijan. Toward the end of his life Isa felt very alone, and we want to show there is a huge network of support both in Azerbaijan and in the world for anyone who needs it.
In the next few months we'll be expanding with a number of related projects. We'll be launching a new website that will serve as a hub for the project and feature a variety of resources for joining our photo campaign as well as beginning related campaigns in other countries. We'll also be starting anti-bullying courses this summer in Azerbaijan and creating Azerbaijani language educational materials for educators that want to run their own courses.
How to get involved
We launched the project on February 14th, Valentine's Day, and in the past month have collected over 400 photographs from all over the world. If you, your friends, colleagues and family are interested in being a part of this growing movement, The Love Is Love image is attached. Simply print, smile, shoot and send! Camera shy? No problem! Get creative and photograph the image in your favorite spot instead. We'd also love to see you create your own original rainbow hearts! We're posting all of the photos on our Facebook, Istagram and Flickr pages. Please send your photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org