- In a patriarchate, corrupt, nationalistic, belligerent and uncompromising dictatorship, it takes a strong woman to stand up for and demand equality, justice, transparency and reason. Gunel Movlud is the refugee, theatre student and local writer who have become one of Azerbaijan’s clearest voices for democracy in her capacity as artist.
This is the jury of Words on Borders' motivation for awarding Gunel Movlud the prize, which she received 8 September 2017.
In 2013, Gunel Movlud was forced to leave Azerbaijan because of persecution from the Azerbaijani Government and religious activists. In her journalism, she researched and criticised the anti-Armenian propaganda and mass corruption in the country. She wrote about lack of democracy and freedom of speech, as well as criticising the patriarchal structures in the society. Gunel lived an unsafe existence in Georgia until she arrived in Levanger through the ICORN programme.
Gunel Movlud was born in 1981 in the Jabrail region of Azerbaijan. Only 12 years old, she was forced to flee her hometown in the Nagorny-Karabakh region when war broke out with Armenia in a dispute over the ownership of the region. A conflict that has continued to this day. Movlud spent the next 5 years in a tent refugee camp in the Sabirabad region of Azerbaijan.
After losing her home and childhood, Movlud has worked actively to supports peace and human rights in Azerbaijan through her writings and journalism. This is not an easy task in a country known to crack heavily down on freedom of speech and, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, had the biggest number of journalists imprisoned in Europe and Central Asia in 2015.
A 2003 graduate in fine art from the Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Theatre, Movlud started her career as a journalist in 2004, working for the cultural publication Kino from 2004-2006. She worked for the youth newspaper Alma from 2006-2010, and went on as arts critic for the simsar.az website from 2011-2013.
In 2012, she started contributing as a freelancer to Azadliq, the Azeri-language section of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and in 2013, she joined Meydan TV as editor and writer.
She has continued to work for Meydan, an independent online publication, which was created by Azerbaijani journalists in exile. The service features investigations into human rights and corruption in Azerbaijan, and is now based in Germany after being forced to close its Baku offices in December 2013 after threats to its staff.
A highly regarded writer and poet, Movlud has published three books of poetry; Darkness and Us (2004), 5 XL (2011) and Response to the Late Afternoon (2013). Her poetry has been translated into English and published on-line. She has been interviewed on and spoken of her literary works including a TEDXBaku presentation in 2011.
As a translator, Mövlud has published three books from Russian to Azeri: Viktor Pelevin’s Oman Ra, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of SolitudeStendhal’s Red and Black.
Words on Borders Freedom Prize
Words on Borders (Ord i Grenseland) is a highly regarded Literature Festival in Norway. Their Words on Borders Prize is awarded only to persecuted and/or threatened or exiled female poets or fiction writers. This year the festival takes place September 1 to 3. Many prominent Norwegian, Swedish and international authors have been involved since the festival started. This year, the festival's Freedom prize is awarded Anzhelina Polonskaya.