Sunday, May 3

Pro government journalists say all is good in Azerbaijan and then...

Thank you dear Azer Hesret (525ci Gazet) and Hikmet Babaoglu (editor in chief of Yeni Azerbaycan newspaper) for making my presentation yesterday in Riga at the World Press Freedom Day so colorful. If it wasn't for your intervention the audience would not experience first hand the theater of absurdity of government apologists who claim Azerbaijan has more freedoms than everyone in this world combined. 

Shortly after I finished my presentation on the on-going crackdown in Azerbaijan, and the rest of the panelists completed their presentations, the floor was open to Q&A. Our Azerbaijani colleagues were the first ones to raise their hands. First it was Azer Hesret who took the mic (works for pro-govt media). He said I was lying. That there were no limits on freedom of expression or media. That everything in Azerbaijan was free and that we had no political prisoners. 

But the most shocking part was when he said all those bloggers and journalists who are currently in jail, belong there because these are the people who are either trying to overthrow Azerbaijani government or trying to bring radical Islam to the country. He added “its good they are there”. 

When the moderator of our panel David asked what was his Azer Hesret’s question to the panelists Azer Hesret said, “I don’t know where you found this girl who pretends to be an expert. Because obviously this young girl doesn’t know what the real situation in Azerbaijan really is.” 

I took the mic and the only thing I could say to this was that I was expecting such an intervention. 

Then it was Hikmet Babaoglu’s turn (who is editor in chief of basically what is the mouthpiece of Ruling Party - Yeni Azerbaycan). Who confirmed that certainly I was lying. Baboglu also said how would I know anything about Azerbaijan if I don’t even live there. He then on went to accusing me of representing Armenian interests, that because of my collaboration with Agos I was a traitor and so on. 

Needless the audience inside the room was appalled. But that didn’t stop them. Emin Emilli who was also in the room took the mic afterwords and thanked both of these gentlemen for making such an important intervention. Thanks to them, we all first handedly experienced the absurdity of the situation in Azerbaijan. 

 Mr. Hasret accused me before as well on Twitter. When I looked up his twitter account I saw that I have muted him - I guess I did that for a reason.

The sad thing however is that these two older genltemen were intimidated by a young journalist. Not only that they even were intimidated that I was a female journalist. This would explain their sexist comments and comments questioning their credibility. 

What Mr. Hasret and Babaoglu didn't know when they made that valuable intervention is that they actually once again confirmed that people like Khadija, Omar, Rasul, Intigam, Leyla and Arif, Rauf are in jail not because of tax evasion, or abuse of authority or embezzlement or treason but because of their political views. 

Well done! Oh and in case you are interested you can see Yeni Azerbaijan paper bashing me here (sorry it is all in Azerbaijani, although it might spare you some nerves ;) 

Sunday, April 26

Mr. President, you have failed us

President Aliyev,

These days letters addressed to you are popular. Even if it comes at great costs.

It is unfortunate...

Your ruthlessness, heartlessness is unfortunate. It is unfortunate for us. As we silently endure your reckless behavior toward us, towards this country, this land. 

As a citizen of Azerbaijan (before you take that away from mel) let me tell you (while I can) if not enlighten you that you have ruined this country and continue ruining it.

While chasing aspirations of something that is beyond my human understanding, you have ruined the lives of generations - at least from where I stand.

You have taken away from us, the most valuable - our future. You have infected the system that we live in, with a deadly virus - hopelessness.

Everything you have touched, is infected.

To cover this you have erected facades. Facades that hide Azerbaijan's reality.

In 2015, a country as rich in natural reserves as us, has political prisoners, no independent media, rights abuse and so much more.

You have wasted what rightly belongs to me and the rest of the 9.3 million people (or at least of those millions who still live in Azerbaijan) on your expensive toys and caprices.

You think we need Zahra Hadid?

We don't. Not when we have schools that are falling apart. Not when we have no equal rights. Not when we have no independent media. Not when we have free and fair elections. Not when we have ruined education and health care system. Not when our villages lack necessary infrastructure. Not when our very own future Hadids are facing inequality, violence and discrimination at home.  Not when we can raise our own generation of so many Hadids. Not when we have most of the country (with an exception of few towns that are taken care of thanks to its rich and well-connected governors) of development.

You think a villager in a remote village of Azerbaijan cares about Flame Towers?

These people care more about bringing food to a table, and struggling to care of their families. They worry whether tomorrow they are going to have electricity all day. Or whether they are going to have finally heating at their home. Or whether their children will finally have an education free of bribes. Or whether their local doctor won't demand money (which they don't have) to take care of a family member. Or whether tomorrow they are going to have the same job, whether they are going to get paid, whether there is anything beyond despair and misery.

Those Flame Towers are not making the lives of those people better.

Zahra Hadid's creation does not provide them with job security.

Another Olympic center or a park, does not assure them that their kids are going to have good future.

President Aliyev, your fellow Ministers, advisers, and many more who kiss up to you, or simply tell you what to do, you all have failed as leaders. You are frightened by your own people. You have become ruthless and blind to your own doing.

A high fence along the roads might hide these grievances from you as you drive to an opening of yet another multi-billion building.

You and the rest of you might think marble, glass and glitz can cure poverty but you are deeply mistaken.

Azerbaijan is tortured by and you alike.

It is unfortunate that in 21st century, we have people like you in power.

It is unfortunate Mr. President that you have failed your people and yourself...