My name is Shabnam Abdullayeva and I am currently doing an internship in Civic Assistance Committee in Moscow. It is an NGO which works in a lot of areas: from sharing RSD interviews with UNHCR and the assistance of hate speech victims, to protection of prisoners in Northern Caucasus and preparation of migrant children for school.
What is really important to mention is that it is one of the organizations labeled with ‘foreign agent’ status in Russia. I am mostly engaged in the law section of the organization, helping the lawyer prepare Country of Origin information for court hearing and complaints. I also visited courts a couple of times mostly just as a listener, but once I translated a court hearing to a woman that applied to be deported. She arrived to Russia, almost got enslaved, applied for temporary protection, got rejected, received one of the EU countries citizenship, wanted to leave Russia but couldn’t as she overstayed after the rejection. In the end, we went to the court and asked for self-controlled deportation which luckily was granted. I also translated interviews in the state migration office several times.
My internship time coincided with the end of the World Cup. In our world full of visa applications and rejections, the “fan ID” (used to visit the World Cup without needing a visa) appeared to be a solution for some people to leave the countries where they were persecuted and then seek asylum in Russia. The Migration Office (now actually a department of the Ministry of Internal affairs - the police) probably was not ready for such a turn and asked our organization (foreign agents) to assist them with translators, which we did. I would say the experience with migration officers was interesting. Very different. Mostly they were nice with me because of my charm, but once I got yelled at. The reason was because I was translating everything on the paper to the applicant. I mean, who wants to know what they sign?
Also I heard classic homophobic hate speech in the Migration Office. Who didn’t? I also gave an interview as a member of the organization about my experience to Radio Freedom because I love risk. Overall, I love the experience. I had different plans for my internship, but I am so happy that I ended here. The little organization does so much job that it is even unrealistic. I am really inspired by the work here, every little victory, the huge amount of work and responsibility everybody carries. Of course, it is totally different from what I experienced during my bachelor’s in Moscow, being aware about some issues but not being engaged in it. It looks like a totally different Moscow to me now – the Moscow of people, with really different and diverse stories. More violent, but also more promising.