Jem Ibrahimov was arrested in New York on Saturday and charged with vandalizing fire stations and fire trucks with swastikas and angry slogans. He has been charged with a hate crime. But Ibrahimov, an artist who lives in Brooklyn, described himself as anything but hateful. The artist says his main interests are in “meditation, yoga, other forms of enlightening and uplifting living.”
Here’s what you need to know about Jem Ibrahimov:
1. Fire Marshals Busted Him Writing ‘Nazi Rapist Pigs’ Across the Doorway of a Fire Station in Uptown Manhattan
Officials say that, to the best of their knowledge, Ibrahimov started vandalizing fire trucks and fire stations last Sunday. He was at it again on Friday and on Saturday morning. Ibrahimov repeatedly target Engine 93, on West 181 street in Manhattan. When the fire marshals caught him Saturday morning, he was writing, “Nazi rapist pigs” and “pedophiles” on the station’s doorway.
Last Sunday, he wrote “Nazi pigs die” and “Nazi pigs,” on the same station doorway, and drew swastikas on four ambulances in the area. On Friday, Ibrahimov scrawled swastikas on four more ambulances outside a fire station on West 172nd Street in Washington Heights.
It’s not clear why Ibrahimov was targeting that fire station, or why the Brooklyn man wanted to come so far uptown to scrawl swastikas on those particular ambulances.
Ibrahimov was charged with multiple counts of aggravated harassment, criminal mischief as a hate crime, making graffiti, and possessing graffiti instruments.
2. Ibrahimov Went to Art School and Specialized in Fine Arts and Painting
Ibrahimov may be making a name for himself now as the man who draws swastikas on ambulances — but before that, he had dreams of becoming a painter. The 42 year old went to Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, where he studied Fine Arts with a concentration in painting. You can see examples of his paintings — done in collaboration with another artist named Lyuba Haleva — here.
Haleva lives and works in Sofia, Bulgaria. Her artwork is sold through the prestigious Saatchi online gallery. Judging by Ibrahimov’s Facebook page, he and Haleva may have a close relationship. Ibrahimov has only two photographs displayed on his page. One shows himself, alone; the other shows him cheek-to-cheek with Haleva.
3. Ibrahimov Has Worked as a Climbing Wall Installer, and Art Handler, and a Photographer
Ibrahimov’s most recent job seems to have ended in February: he worked installing climbing walls for Walltopia. Before that, he held a number of other positions. He was an art handler for various companies, between the years of 2012 and 2017.
Ibrahimov also spent four years serving as an official photographer for the Bulgarian National Assembly, in Sofia, Bulgaria. This was after he’d already graduated from art school and had spent a few years working in New York.
When he first graduated from Pratt, Ibrahimov found work as a catering assistant with a group called Restaurant Associates where, in his own words, “I learned a lot and got to serve food and drink in places such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Met Opera and other corporate locations in and out of NYC.”
4. Ibrahimov Speaks Three Languages and Is Into Couch Surfing
Years ago, Ibrahimov set up a profile on couchsurfing.com. He’s not currently accepting guests, according to the profile page. You can see it here.
Ibrahimov describes himself as a painter and wrote, “I have been involved in the visual arts field for as long as I can remember. My work includes sculpture, video installation and branching off into sound and performance. The exploration of different cultures and peoples is key to personal growth. Interests in meditation, yoga, other forms of enlightening and uplifting living.”
He added that his philosophy was “creative interaction with people, environment, elements, productive existence, creative contribution.”
Ibrahimov said that he is fluent in English, Russian, and Bulgarian and was working on learning Italian and Macedonian. He said he’d lived in Bulgaria, Italy, and of course the United States.
5. Ibrahimov Has No Prior Arrests — But Could Face a Tough Sentence if Convicted of a Hate Crime
The New York Post reports that Ibrahimov is being charged with multiple counts of aggravated harassment, criminal mischief as a hate crime, making graffiti, and possessing graffiti instruments.
Ibrahimov apparently has no prior arrests in his history. But if he is charged with a hate crime, he could face a tough punishment. According to New York’s penal code, “when a person is convicted of a hate crime pursuant to this article
and the specified offense is a misdemeanor or a class C, D or E felony, the hate crime shall be deemed to be one category higher than the specified offense the defendant committed, or one category higher than the offense level applicable to the defendant`s conviction for an attempt or conspiracy to commit a specified offense, whichever is
In other words — the “criminal mischief” charge against Ibrahimov could turn into a more serious charge, since it’s being treated as a hate crime.