Tuesday, June 7

Interested in an all-expense paid trip to Azerbaijan? Here is your chance, don't miss out!

No joke! Turns out, the Ministry of Youth and Sports says [AZ] they will cover expenses of guests coming for the Youthvision-the Eurovision for young singers scheduled to take place June 22-24, they are just not saying how much this is going to cost the country's coffers. 

The irony in all this is that, Azerbaijan's economy devalued twice. The ministry of education recently spoke about "problems" in funding Azerbaijani students abroad. And yet, we are yet to pay for another all-expense paid visit (just like it was during the European Games last year). 

But it is ok. Because no one in Azerbaijan is going to say anything about it and the regime will continue abusing their power because they know there won't be resistance. And then they will start another mini war with Armenia and will shift the focus like they always do. 

Speaking in Davos in January 2016, President Aliyev said the the low in oil prices was "psychologically difficult". Wonder whose psychology he was referring to here? His? His family's? His cronies'? Because surely, it must be extremely difficult for their psychology to handle the reality that there will be less money to steal. And looks like they have determined a new strategy- if there is less for them, there will certainly be nothing for the people. 

You see, President Aliyev is all about moral barometers- we are better than X, Y, Z country although more often than not, the President's favorite country to compare Azerbaijan with, is neighboring Armenia boasting about the budget difference and the spending.

What he and people around him tend to forget (or neglect) however, is that whatever big investment is brought into the country- the Crystal Hall, the Stadiums, the Malls and the upscale shops- they ain't for the public consumption. Precisely because of the inequality and class difference that was created by and large during the Aliyev leadership (first his father, and later his son). 

Who will benefit from coming to Azerbaijan for three days in an all-expense paid trip in June? Tourists! Yes, they might spend some manats here and there, but by and large it will be the visitors. If the Ministry of Youth and Sports is so generous- why not spend that money on paying for Azerbaijanis vacation at home or abroad? 

But until this ever becomes possible (i am lucky to live outside of the country, because who knows, my head might get chopped off for saying all this) dear visitors who will attend the Youthvision or the Formula 1 race, enjoy beautiful Azerbaijan or at least what is left of it but don't forget the country you are visiting is pretty nasty when it comes to treating its own people and watching out for their well-beings. 

Friday, June 3

Dispatches from Azerbaijan: European Parliament is bad, Mogherini is good, and more

Reading news feed from this morning, there was too much goodness not to share so in case you are sucker for real "good" news from Azerbaijan I suggest you stop reading right away. 

N!DA activists 

Let's start from two youth activists, members of N!DA movement who were detained May 10 and later charged with drug possession, after being beaten and tortured in detention. On June 2, while Amnesty International recognized Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov as "prisoners of conscience", the two despite it being almost a month are yet to see their families. Their lawyer thinks it is probably because police is trying to make sure their wounds have healed so their parents cannot spot how heavily they have been tortured or simply a way to pressure the young men. 

Mehdiyev's second diatribe 

Its been a while since last diatribe from the head of the Presidential Apparatus, Ramiz Mehdiyev. The last time he published a 60 page article, it was beginning of unprecedented crackdown [December 2014]. Then he wrote about western colonialism, lambasting Western players, in particular the US of double standards, biased approach and anti-Azerbaijan sentiment. This time [az], Mehdiyev wrote about West establishing world domination. He then goes into arguing that the only strong state system is possibly only in presidential administration system. According to Mehdiyev, it is the IMF, WB, WTO and other financial institutions that are directly responsible for violating state sovereignty [wonder if the man is out of touch with his people, because he does not seem to be objecting the government borrowing money from these institutions for various projects and initiatives]. 

But looks like it wasn't just Mehdiyev who decided to bash some "Westerners" this week. 

Ilham Aliyev on fire, but wrong time and wrong place 
Next in line for bashing was European Parliament. This time it was President Aliyev who was critical. "The adoption of unfounded resolutions full if insults served to cut Azerbaijani ties with the EP", said the president in a meeting with Norica Nicolai [Vice-Chair of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe at the European Parliament, Eastern Partnership rapporteur for Azerbaijan] and Iveta Grigule [member of the European Parliament]. President Aliyev accused the president and vice president of the European Parliament of being part of anti-Azerbaijan forces. But not to worry because Norica Nicolai doesn't really respect people's rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan. She was one of the delegation members who traveled to Azerbaijan to observe Presidential elections in 2013 who issued a positive report in contrast to ODIHR. Nicolai was also featured in European Stability Initiative's report "Disgraced: Azerbaijan and the end of election monitoring as we know it". 

In 2015, Nicolai published an article where she wrote
It is also a country in a very delicate, yet so far stable, political situation. Dealing with its government has to be done according to local cultural customs and whatever action has to be backed with concrete policies. In other words, carrots are more useful than sticks in this region of the world. Sending their Government critical resolutions from the EP every year, without actually giving them any real reason to listen is at best, a pointless exercise.
Wondering what she meant by "local cultural customs". Perhaps the customs of violating elections and silencing critics? Maybe I get to ask this question to Ms. Nicolai when I get a chance to meet her in person but for now, lets assume her only best intentions. 

So Ilham Aliyev bashing EP to Nicolai and Grigule, who by the way happens to be no accidental guest and is also known for supporting Aliyev, wasn't really about bashing and more about wining. 

If you haven't had enough and still want more depressing news from Azerbaijan then I suggest watching this video. It is in Russian but it is about the detention and torture of two N!DA activists.  

But do not worry if even after that you still care to read a bit more, there is plenty of depressing news every day, just stay tuned, and I as always be sharing more with you here.