Lali Binyatova

Whispers of the past: Secrets of Azerbaijani families, 2023

In Azerbaijan, these stories are often told in a low voice. Family secrets are usually hidden in the shadows.

I remember well an incident from my childhood. One of my mother’s friends shared her experience: her child was forcibly taken from her and given to her husband’s relative. The reason was that the family was childless for years. This was the starting point of my photo project, which touched on issues related to the formation of Azerbaijani families.

While working on the project, as I discussed it with those around me, I learnt that such cases are not rare and happen in many families. There is silence about this very important but hidden aspect of Azerbaijani society; it is not talked about.

Through interviews, patterns began to emerge that gave an impression of the reasons behind this practice. It turns out that the biological parents never actually wanted to give away their children, but they had to submit to pressure from society and family. Traditions and decisions made by adults in the family played an important role in creating these heartbreaking events.

As I was developing my project, I was struck by another interesting nuance. Blood kinship is so important in Azerbaijani society that childless families hesitate to adopt children from orphanages – they do not welcome it.

In this photo project, I bring to light the secrets of Azerbaijani families that have been hidden for years, and try to discuss complex topics and untold stories about family life in society.

This photo story was prepared with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) South Caucasus Regional Office and Chai Khana Media.

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