Stand-up comedian Idrak Mirzalizade was released on August 19th after spending 10 days in jail for “inciting ethnic hatred.” His imprisonment caused a wave of indignation among Russian comedians.
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A citizen of Belarus, Idrak Mirzalizade, was born in Azerbaijan to a Talysh family, but when he was two years old, his family moved to Minsk. After participating in the “Club for the Happy and Resourceful,” he began appearing on Russian television, then joined a group of Russian comedians. In the fall of 2020, he participated in post-election protests, mentioned Belarus in his speeches, and appeared on Russian television with a white-red-white ribbon.
In March 2021, in the humorous program “Razgony” he made a joke about the Russians: he told them how difficult it was for a “non-Russian” to find an apartment in Moscow; meanwhile, he mentioned the vile untidiness of the Russians who had rented an apartment before him.
The joke was noticed by the Russian ultra-right-wing TV channel Tsargrad and TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyov. After that, Mirzalizade was attacked on the street by unknown assailants. The comedian said that he was threatened by radical communities for a joke taken out of context.
On August 9, Mirzalizade was arrested for 10 days for “inciting ethnic hatred” – for the same joke for which he had already been beaten. The comedian did not admit his guilt and said that the performance was aimed against xenophobia.
Russian and Belarusian comedians spoke out against this punishment, which they called a terrible precedent. They stated that one should not be imprisoned for making a joke.
It is not known whether the police are looking for those who attacked the comedian.