Welcome to Part 2 of our April 2024 Inspirational Interview with Arzu Geybullayeva, an Azerbaijani writer and columnist with a special focus on digital authoritarianism and its implications on human rights and press freedom.

Arzu has written for Al Jazeera, Eurasianet, CODA, Open Democracy, and Radio Free Europe, with a byline on CNN International. She is also a regional editor for South Caucasus and Turkey at Global Voices.  In 2014, Arzu was featured on BBC 100 Women Changemakers. Since 2015, she has been involved in various projects focusing on the safety of women journalists online. Arzu is based in Istanbul from where she continues her journalism work as well as her engagement in projects that continue to focus on the safety of women journalists online, platform accountability, and transparency. 

In this part of the interview, Arzu talks about the importance of journalists not staying silent about VAW and finding alternative media when mainstream media choose to look the other way.

Part 1 of Arzu’s interview was published on 7 April, 2024.

All photos are courtesy of Arzu Geybulla.

6. What would your advice be to the anti-VAW activists working in the media as journalists and columnists in other parts of the world who wish to push for the media in their country or region to report about VAW in an accurate and informed way?

Find alternatives, and if not, try creating your own alternatives. Keep your friends informed. Talk to your family members, if they will listen and understand. In countries where it is possible, talk to elected officials; remind them and keep reminding them. Find allies, and work together distributing the tasks. What bothers me the most, even when giving this advice, is that yet again, the sole responsibility falls on the shoulders of journalists who are outsourced, outnumbered, and already are struggling from burnout, and lack of avenues. 

Most importantly, despite all the challenges, please don’t stay silent. Talk about it even if you think it will have no impact. Because although it may not seem like it now, it actually does; voices do matter, stories do matter, and being the voice, or the story, or covering it, matters too. 


7. One of the keys to eradicating VAW is to get men and boys on board efforts to do so. What do you think are the most effective ways of galvanising men and boys to help to end VAW in conservative countries and cultures such as Azerbaijan?

Education, both within and outside their families. But for that to happen, you also need open-minded parents who, rather than marrying their daughter off at an early age, would invest in her education instead. A change in state policies towards gender equality is needed, with genuine commitments with clearly set goals and timelines. Patience and time are also needed, because to change all of this, one needs both.

To see the impact of these changes one needs to keep staying true to the goal of ending violence against women once and for all. Whether that kind of world will come, whether in Azerbaijan or elsewhere, is hard for me to say. I am 40 years old, and the world today seems bleaker to me than it ever was. I may not live to see such change, but I hope the generations to come will. 


8.Tell us about your plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?

Five years is a long time to project these days. If I am lucky, and survive the year ahead, I am committed to keep writing and engaging in research and projects that leave meaningful impact. I will continue to work on projects and research for the safety of women journalists online, and continue my work that looks at the impact of authoritarian technology on basic freedoms and rights. I will continue working with the internet freedom community of advocates, technologists, developers, journalists and writers, who are fighting and wanting to create a better, safer internet. I will continue telling stories for as long as I can. 


9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support your efforts to stop VAW?

This interview and an opportunity to express my frustrations are already a great support. Rather than focussing on the work I do, I would ask your supporters to keep elevating the voices of those who are not getting enough exposure. Stay engaged with global efforts and never forget that violence against women was here before us and will remain an issue for the generations to come if we, collectively, don’t take steps to curb it now. 


10.In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?

For just this question, I will switch hats, and put on my optimist hat. I think we need to address a number of  things if we want to end VAW. 

First, accountability: Are institutions and mechanisms that are in place to hold perpetrators to account and those offering protection and support for victims doing their jobs well? If not, how can we reform them? 

Second, stakeholders/allies: VAW is no longer just a domestic issue in a certain country. It is a global problem, concerning all states, as well as institutions, companies, and platforms. So how do we hold these stakeholders to account? 

Third, and my final point: How do we as societies and communities across the world avoid falling into the conservative/traditional traps that silence women and breed more violence against them? 

All of these points are interrelated and none can happen without the other. So where and how do we start and what is our timeline? This is not something that can get resolved tomorrow. So are we committed to spending the rest of our remaining lifetime fighting VAW? What kind of legacy are we leaving that would also enable an accountability mechanism in case there is a fallback? These are some of the hard questions I would start from. I remain committed. The question is, how many of us are ready to do the same?