Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Rafeq Nazeruglu Taqizadeh


Age: 61
Nationality: Azerbaijan
Religion: Unknown
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: November 23, 2011
Location of Killing: Central Clinic Hospital, ‌Baku, Azerbaijan
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial shooting
Charges: Apostasy

About this Case

He was a physician, and a well-known secular author, poet, and journalist from the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Information regarding the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Rafeq Nazeruglu Taqizadeh (Taqi) was obtained from Mashreq News Agency (November 24, 2011); Fars News Agency ; Ayatollah Mohammad Javad Fazel Lankarani and the Qeshm News and Analysis website (November 26, 2011); Azar News (November 24, 2011); Rasa News Agency (November 30, 2011); Jomhuri Eslami newspaper (November 27, 2011); Radio Free Europe in English – Radio Farda (November 21, 22, and 23, 2011); Sharif Aqayar’s interview in Azeri with Mr. Taqi’s daughter on KoNuz website (English translation in Ms. Amanda Rivkin’s weblog) (November 22, 2014); Green Path Movement website (December 3, 2011); Mohsen Kadivar website (July 11, 2015); Deutsche Welle (December 3, 2006; November 24 and 25, 2011); and Azer News in English (November 24, 2011) websites.

According to available information, Mr. Taqi was 61 years old and was born in the village of Chobanli in the Republic of Azerbaijan’s Masali region. He finished high school in the village of Takleh in the Masali region. He was married and had two children. He studied at the Republic of Azerbaijan’s Narimanov Medical Sciences University and obtained a specialization in cardiology at Moscow’s Medical Academy. He began working at Baku Hospital’s Services Department in 1990-91.

Mr. Taqi was a practicing physician and was also a well-known secular author and journalist in the Republic of Azerbaijan. He had written articles on social issues and the effects of religion on society and its propagation as a political ideology, in which he had criticized the Islamic republic of Iran’s influence in Azerbaijan and the world. (Lawsuit brought against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights by Ms. Taqieva, Mr. Taqi’s wife, November 1, 2014). His stories, published on Azerbaijan’s literary websites had many readers. He was a member and director of the “Azerbaijan Free Writers Union”.

Mr. Taqi’s daughter, who was very close to her father, says that he was a broad-minded and free-spirited man who loved writing very much. He would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning so he could have a chance to write before work, and he was on his computer, writing enthusiastically, on his days off. According to Mr. Taqi’s daughter, he liked funny stories very much: “He would recount a story with great enthusiasm and would laugh along with us … He would laugh so hard that tears would roll down his eyes …” (English translation of Mr. Taqi’s daughter’s interview in Ms. Amanda Rivkin’s weblog, June 7, 2017).


On November 1, 2006, Mr. Taqi published an article in “San’at” newspaper entitled “Us and Europe”, in which he wrote about Europe’s human values and considered Islam an obstacle to progress: “The importance of human freedom in the East is given the lowest priority. The human person is deprived of social freedoms and is promised imaginary fortunes and happiness through Islam’s dark paths. Misery is shown as the path to Heaven and as a way out of social quagmires. Islam has created hypocritical principles in the structures of Eastern countries. The primitive tribal system will lead to the complete bankruptcy and disintegration of the East, and will render ineffective whatever is left of its progressive social ideas …”

He believed that Christianity had resulted in human rights and democracy in the West, whereas Islam had turned into Eastern autocracy. He wrote an article in which he stated that Azerbaijanis needed to accept secularism if they desired freedom.

He believed that Christianity had resulted in human rights and democracy in the West, whereas Islam had turned into Eastern autocracy.

“Whereas the West is going forward in leaps and bounds, the East is going backwards. All of Azerbaijan’s efforts in creating a secular system are inspired by Europe … Our relations with Islamic countries are dull and uninspiring, obligatory, and diplomatically artificial. Islam is understood by Azerbaijani intellectuals as a symbol of compulsion and necessity and a remnant of Eastern violence. In the course of history, even in our modern history, Azerbaijani leaders’ “sincere” respect for Islam has largely been a consequence of their interests stemming from “the crown” … Every country  in the world is in the process of securing freedom [for their people] one way or another. They use Europe as a model when considering human rights issues since European values are an unstoppable means of progress … It was in Europe that mankind was first able to conquer himself, to get as far from evil as possible and come close to good. [There was also a time when] Europe too went through bloody revolutions, but it used those as a valuable experience, and this time, it said “no” to them before anyone else.”

This article angered a segment of Moslems in the Republic of Azerbaijan, particularly in Nardaran County, as well as in Iran. The Iranian Embassy in Baku reacted harshly to this article. (Mohsen Kadivar website, July 11, 2015). Protest demonstrations were also organized in Baku, Tehran, Tabriz, and Ardebil in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy and consulates, and a group that called itself “The Ready for Martyrdom” announced on its website “its full-fledged support for Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani’s Fatwa and that said Fatwa will be implemented in the near future”. Turkish authorities provided protection for Mr. Taqi and his family for a while. (Lawsuit brought against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights by Mr. Taqi’s wife, November 1, 2014; Deutsche Welle, December 3, 2006). From the perspective of certain Iranian and Azerbaijani Moslems, Mr. Taqi had insulted their Prophet Mohammad. They inquired with Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, member of the Qom [Seminary] Instructors’ Society – whose father was born in the town of Lankaran in in the Republic of Azerbaijan – about Moslems’ duty with respect to this unbearable act. He proceeded to issue a Fatwa (religious decree) on November 25, 2006, calling Mr. Taqi an apostate whose killing was “Vajeb” (mandatory according to Islamic tenets).* (Mohsen Kadivar website, July 11, 2015).

According to available information, another Ayatollah named Hamid Banifazl, East Azarbaijan Province’s representative in the Assembly of Experts for the Leadership [of the Revolution], also considered Mr. Taqi’s murder as mandatory on the grounds of apostasy, and offered his paternal home as the prize for his killing. (Rasa News Agency, November 30, 2011).

A few days after the publication of the article, Turkish authorities arrested Mr. Taqi and the magazine’s publisher and sentenced them to three years in prison on charges such as “promoting ethnic and religious hatred and enmity”. The two of them were pardoned by the President in the early months of 2008. (Lawsuit brought against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights by Mr. Taqi’s wife, November 1, 2014).

In a press conference after his release, Mr. Taqi stated: “In the article “Us and Europe” I had not thought about and did not intend to [insult and ] belittle the Prophet Mohammad in any way. That article was only concerning the future of Azerbaijan. I tried to show different paths for progress in Azerbaijan in that philosophical writing. This was an intellectual’s article with a different perspective. That’s not a crime. I had only ridiculed superstitions in that article … Criticizing superstitions and clarifying them for the public is beneficial to Islam as well … The reason I emphasize Europe is because in Azerbaijan, they do not address this issue seriously. Aligning with Europe is nothing but an [empty] slogan touted by our politicians … The truth is that they are afraid of European values … European values are a threat to governments that have gotten used to bribery … In my opinion, a human being’s rights are [still] in their most primitive form in the East. The era of kings who fight humanity is over; we must realize that. The East is like a heavy stone that is hanging for mankind’s feet. I consider it incumbent upon myself to say these things [in spite of possible] physical and spiritual harms I may endure.” (Three interviews with Rafeq Taqi, in Mohsen Kadivar’s website, July 11, 2015).

He further stated: “Seven Ayatollahs have issued Fatwas against me. Some of them have passed away. The work of these people, who are the so-called servants of religion and issue murder decrees for others in the name of religion, is meaningless. Unlike these Ayatollahs, I have not read many religious books, but mostly scientific books, but I do not wish death upon anyone. Let them live. Do not kill and do not issue murder decrees! Give the gift of life, not of death! I don’t like you either but I don’t sentence you to death. So tell me, who is closer to God? I am closer to God than all the Ayatollahs. (Deutsche Welle, December 3, 2006).

In March 2008, Mr. Taqi and Eqtesad (“Economy”) Magazine’s publisher brought a complaint against the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights for violating their right to freedom of speech. (European Court of Human Rights website).

Give the gift of life not of death! I don’t like you either but I don’t sentence you to death. So tell me, who is closer to God? I am closer to God than all the Ayatollahs.

Mr. Taqi continued to write in spite of the threats that followed the publication of the “Us and Europe” article. According to one of his close friends, “he would face a wave of insults by radical religious people any time he wrote an article. He himself had predicted that they might someday try to kill him, and was worried about being assassinated”. (Deutsche Welle, November 25, 2011).

In his final article entitled “Iran and the Inevitability of Globalization”, published on November 8, 2011, Mr. Taqi severely criticized Iran’s theocratic government and its role in the world. (Lawsuit brought against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights by Mr. Taqi’s wife, November 1, 2014).

Mr. Nazeruglu Taqizadeh’s Murder

On Saturday, November 19, 2011, Mr. Nazeruglu Taqizadeh was attacked by an unidentified person when he was returning home from work, and severely injured after he was stabbed seven times in the chest and back.

According to his daughter, Mr. Taqi had been able to get himself home in spite of being injured, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital and operated on. During the operation, surgeons removed his spleen, which had been severely damaged. He was taken to the Intensive Care Unit after the operation. Two days later, on November 21, Mr. Taqi, whose condition had stabilized and was recovering, was taken to the hospital’s general ward. He was even able to answer reporters’ questions in two interviews. According to available information, at approximately 2 o’clock in the afternoon of November 23, a nurse injected him with something; 40 minutes later, Mr. Taqi told his family that he was not feeling well. A doctor who examined him at the family’s request said that there were no problems. Then minutes after he had left, Mr. Taqi vomited and passed away. (Complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, November 1, 2014; English translation of Mr. Taqi’s daughter’s interview in Ms. Amanda Rivkin’s weblog, June 7, 2017). According to his doctors, Mr. Taqi had suffocated due to his vomit seeping into his trachea. Asgarov, one of his physicians stated: “He was a regular patient and there was no other cause aside from suffocation due to vomit; the doctors had examined him ten minutes before his death and his condition was stable.” (Radio Free Europe in English – Radio Farda (November 22, 2011). According to a statement by one of Mr. Taqi’s friends to Azer News, some of his writer friends had expressed concern about the lack of security at the hospital and had asked the government of Azerbaijan to take appropriate measures. (Azer News in English, November 24, 2011).

He was killed after an Iranian Ayatollah issued a Fatwa (religious decree) for his murder.

Independent media affiliated with Azerbaijani opposition alluded to Iranian operatives being involved in the assassination. Mr. Taqi himself had mentioned the possibility of Iranian involvement when he was at the hospital. In one of his interviews, he stated: “They attacked me at 10 o’clock at night. The attacker had covered his face, he was nervous and did not say a single word; if he head I would have been able to identify him from his accent. There is only one day a week that I return home at 10 PM. The attacker knew exactly what night I came home late. They had been watching me and had planned and organized the attack. The attacker stabbed me 7 times.” (Deutsche Welle, November 25, 2011).

Iranian Officials’ Reaction

Officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran did not react to Mr. Taqi’s assassination and death, but the Iranian Embassy in Baku issued a communique in which it denied any connection between the assassination attempt on the Azerbaijani writer’s life and Iran. The communique stated: “We deny the unfounded and false claims by certain Republic of Azerbaijan individuals and media, trying to tie the attempt on the life of Rafeq Taqi to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The objective of the publication of the news accusing the Islamic Republic of Iran of being involved in the assassination attempt on the life of the Azerbaijani writer, Rafeq Taqi, is to damage Iran and Azerbaijan’s strategic relations.”  Radio Free Europe, November  22, 2011).

In its report on Mr. Taqi’s death, Mashreq Website wrote “Azerbaijan’s Salman Rushdie*** was killed”, and, quoting Jomhuri Eslami newspaper, further stated: “He was hated by the people of the Republic of Azerbaijan for his unprecedented insults against the Greatest Prophet [Mohammad]. He was killed yesterday at the hands of unidentified individuals.” (Mashreq, November 24, 2011).

Fars News Agency wrote this regarding Mr. Taqi’s murder: “The story of his revolutionary execution began when, on Saturday, November 19, an unidentified person attacked Rafeq Taqi, the Azerbaijani writer, on his way home in Baku, and severely injured the left side of his body (heart, stomach, spleen, and the left ribs) by stabbing him six times with a knife.” The report continued to state that the murder was the result of the Fatwa issued by Shiite religious scholars: “After Rafeq Taqi, the Zionist writer, insulted the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be upon Him and His Descendants), in response to their emulators in the Republic of Azerbaijan, a number of Shiite religious scholars considered the person who had insulted the Greatest Prophet, in the Republic of Azerbaijan’s San’at newspaper, to be Vajeb ol-Qetal (“one whose murder is mandatory by the tenets of Islam”) if he admitted that he was aware of his actions. Even after his release from prison, this enemy of Islam continued to insult and disrespect the sanctities of the great religion of Islam in his articles and interviews, until he was executed last week at the hands of unidentified persons.” (Fars News Agency, November 26, 2011).

Mohammad Javad Fazel Lankarani, the son of Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, the Ayatollah who had issued Mr. Taqi’s death Fatwa, released a message to the people of Azarbaijan in which he stated: “Let the enemies of Islam beware that free-spirited Moslems and the red-blooded youth will not allow the sinister conspiracies of global imperialism and international Zionism, with the aim of insulting the sanctities of Islam, to be brought to fruition; the sellouts and those who betray Islam shall reap the punishment of their ignoble acts.” (Mohammad Javed Fazel Lankarani, November 27, 2011).

Republic of Azerbaijan Officials’ Reaction

The Azerbaijani police began its preliminary criminal investigations into Mr. Taqi’s murder one day after his death. No information is available regarding the results of the investigations, and Mr. Taqi’s family was not given much information about police investigations, under various pretexts. On January 27, 2014, the Republic of Azerbaijan Prosecutor’s Office informed Mr. Taqi’s wife that it had closed his case because no arrests had been made. (Ms. Taqi’s lawsuit brought before the European Court of Human Rights, November 1, 2014; Radio Free Europe, January 8, 2014).

On May 16, 2017, in adjudicating Ms. Taqi’s wife’s complaint brought in 2014, the European Court of Human Rights asked the government of Azerbaijan to provide the Court with all evidence and documentation gathered in Mr. Taqi’s murder case. At the time of this writing, nearly five years have passed since the European Court’s request.

Familys’ Reaction

After Mr. Taqi’s death, his wife, Ms. Maila Taqieva, actively pursued the police’s investigations. In the course of over two years after his death, she asked the police and other officials numerous times to give her, as the victim, the opportunity to examine the case evidence and documents, including security camera footage at the location where her husband was attacked, as well as a printout of the cell phone numbers at the location that had been active at the time her husband was attacked. She also asked the Azerbaijani authorities to give her the opportunity to speak with the people who were in charge of her husband’s security. Her correspondence did not bear fruit, however, and the court dismissed her complaints and did not provide her with the access she had requested. (Ms. Taqi’s lawsuit brought before the European Court of Human Rights, November 1, 2014). A short time before her husband case was closed, Ms. Taqieva had told the media: “Everyone agrees that the killer has left absolutely no trace. In a way, they arrest a murderer in broad daylight, but the man who killed my husband is still at large. The investigating judge has no desire [to investigate the matter]; they say they want to close the case. If the government doesn’t help me, I will ask foreign countries for help. (Radio Free Europe, January 8, 2014).

Ultimately, after the case was closed in 2014, and Ms. Taqieva was not able to obtain relief in Azerbaijan’s judicial system, she brought a suit against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights on November 1, 2014, on the basis of [violation of] Articles 2 (the right to life), 10 (freedom of speech), and 13 (the right to effective compensation). She emphasized in her complaint that the Azerbaijani authorities had not taken the necessary steps to safeguard her husband’s right to life despite the fact that they were aware that Mr. Taqi’s life was in danger.  She also cited the actions taken subsequent to her husband’s murder as part of her complaint and stated that the authorities had failed to conduct serious and effective investigations in the case. (Ms. Taqi’s lawsuit brought before the European Court of Human Rights, November 1, 2014).

Impacts on Family

There is no information available regarding the impact of Mr. Taqi’s murder on his family.


* Mohammad Fazel Lankarani’s Fatwa: “If such a person is born a Moslem, he is considered Mortad (“apostate”) upon said admissions, and if such a person is Kafer (“non-believer [in Allah]), this would be an instance of Sa’eb al-Nabi (“one who insults the Prophet Mohammad”). In any event, if such admissions have been made, the killing of such person is necessary for anyone who has access to said person, and the person in charge of the aforementioned newspaper that publishes such thoughts and beliefs knowingly and justifies them is subject to the same decree. May God save Islam and Moslems from the evil of their enemies. [Koranic verse in Arabic:] “They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.” Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, November 25, 2006
** On December 5, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the government of Azerbaijan for having violated Mr. Taqi and the magazine publisher’s right to freedom of speech.
*** Khomeini’s Death Fatwa against Salman Rushdie: On February 18, 1989, Khomeini issued a Fatwa for the murder of Salman Rushdie, the author of the book “Satanic Verses”. The Fatwa stated: “In the Name of the Most High; [Koranic verse in Arabic:] ‘We are of Allah, and to Allah we shall return.’ I am informing Moslems all over the world that the author of the book Satanic Verses, a book that has been written against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran, as well as the publishers with knowledge of its contents, are hereby sentenced to death! I want red-blooded Moslems to swiftly execute them wherever they find them so that no one will ever dare insult the sanctities of Moslems ever again; and whoever is killed on that path is considered a martyr, Allah willing! Additionally, if anyone has access to the book’s author but does not have the power to execute him, let that person introduce him to the people so that he can pay for his deeds! [Well wishes in Arabic:] May Peace Be Upon You, and May You Enjoy Allah’s Kindness and Blessings! Ruhollah al-Mussavi al-Khomeini, February 18, 1989.

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