Brave Thinkers 2012 November 2012

Khadija Ismayilova

More

Journalist

Ismayilova is one of the only investigative reporters in the oil-rich former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. For years she’s reported on corruption within the country’s autocratic ruling family, but this past March her investigation got personal.

Ismayilova had received a letter with threatening instructions: “Whore, behave. Or you will be defamed.” Included were intimate photos, taken inside her home by a hidden camera. A week later, a sex tape of her was released online. In Azerbaijan, where reporters are routinely beaten and harassed, and some are even killed, blackmail is a powerful weapon against dissent. In 2010, the sex tape of an opposition newspaper editor effectively ended his career. The ramifications for a woman in this conservative country could be even more severe.

But Ismayilova did not hide. Instead, she tracked the letter to a Moscow post office. She discovered curious wires inside her apartment and then found the phone-company worker hired to install them. Government officials dismissed these leads and instead released the names and addresses of Ismayilova’s friends whom they had questioned. Undeterred, Ismayilova has vowed to continue reporting for her nightly radio show. “If they meant to stop me by this, I can assure you they have been wrong,” Ismayilova has said. “They failed to do so.”

See all our 2012 Brave Thinkers.

Image credit: Georg Wendt/DPA/Corbis

Amanda Erickson is an associate editor for The Atlantic Cities.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab. 

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In