Thursday, January 29

Burton's wild imagination

Nah, unfortunately it wont be Tim Burton I will be writing about. Although I wish it was. Its easier to write about true artists and talented people than about people who pretend to be knowledgeable and say some very strange things about places, people, and issues they don't really know much about (or worse, are paid to say or write). 

So here is another Burton, Dan Burton, a former Republican member of U.S. House of representatives from Indiana. 

Mr. Burton recently wrote a piece about Azerbaijan, giving it a catchy title "Why Azerbaijan is important to America and the free world?"

Turns out former Republican member knows this super great, amazing country - Azerbaijan - but thats the problem you see. There is no such Azerbaijan Burton is writing of. And here is why. 

In his piece Burton describes Azerbaijan as a country committed to religious tolerance and understanding. Hmm... Is this why few religious figures are sitting in jail? And which understanding? I am guessing just because we have some churches and synagogue its a sign of understanding? 

Moving forward, Burton writes "Tolerance in Azerbaijan is an example to the entire world". Oh my! well thats something. If the entire world would take the "tolerance" exercised in Azerbaijan as an example then sooner than later there will be more people in jail (arrested on bogus charges of course); there will be no free media left (bought by the government or ready to suck up at any cost); rampant corruption; abuse of human rights and crackdown over free voices. 

As Burton writes "Azerbaijan has taken impressive steps in just 23 years" - well if you mean mastering the crackdown, corruption, and failing at building a democracy then yes, impressive indeed! Azerbaijan has taken impressive steps in building up fear; in discouraging its own citizens; in failing at providing equal, fair and top quality education across the country; in failing to provide basic services and care of its own people! This is no big news, all it takes is visiting few villages outside of Baku Mr. Burton and you will see how "Far" and "impressive" the country has come. 

There is also something about economy too. "The economy is robust, and economic policies are aimed at improving the lives of citizens", well this is some statement. Which robust economy are we talking about here?! The one that depends solely on energy resources? Or the one that has failed so far at making this country a place where living standards are high, where people actually live and have a normal life (and don't give me that World Bank report conclusions please)! Of course this does not suit the government, why would it?! If Aliyev's cronies and himself remotely ever considered improving the lives of citizens (as Mr. Burton notes) well neither Aliyev nor his cronies would be in power right now. 

But there were few more things that really made me laugh - responsible free markets and gender equality. 

There is no such thing as free economy in Azerbaijan let alone responsible! Its all a monopoly of goods and businesses owned by very powerful men (yes men not women mind you) and of course government officials and the all mighty, his holy highness Mr. Aliyev himself.

And about that gender equality - there isn't much of it. Just because women were given a right to vote before the United States it doesn't mean women are equal in Azerbaijan. They have to fight for their rights harder, they have to prove themselves (if they ever get a chance), they have to keep on fighting to have an independent life and no, they do not get to choose often as decisions are made for them. Have you met powerful female government officials? And no, the head of the State Committee for Women, Family and Children does not count! 

So next time someone writes an apologetic piece about how great Azerbaijan is, make your research, visit the country, talk to the locals (and I mean really go and talk to the locals) and then its really up to you and your conscience. Just for the record, pieces as these do more harm for the people in this country not to mention the political prisoners, human rights defenders sentenced on bogus charges by the very same government people like Burton praise and are ready to lay.  

Oh and I just learned that Burton isn't just a former Republican member of U.S. House of representatives. He is also the chairman of the Azerbaijan America Alliance - an organization with a big name and just as big and generous of a pocket when it comes to "promoting" interests of Azerbaijan in "certain circles" and headed by the son of one of the corrupted minsters of Azerbaijan, Anar Mammadov.   

Saturday, January 17

New addition to Heydarov's empire of businesses?!

Its never enough for the rich of Azerbaijan! Businesses, construction bids, companies with interests in everything, lobby companies (of course!) and much more. 
 
Whatever it is that would make the rich of Azerbaijan richer, famous, and make them look good, they'd go after it. 

Soccer too fits perfectly into this combination of money, fame and fortune of Azerbaijani officials. As many of you know, Azerbaijan took over the sponsorship of Atletico Madrid for a season and a half (January 2013). "Azerbaijan, the land of fire" was plastered over their uniforms and the club also visited Azerbaijan.  This caprice cost Azebraijani government just 12millionEUR. You know, pocket money for some in this government. The deal was surely renewed to run for another season in 2014- 2015 (the deal ends by June 2015 surely costing Azerbaijan more than 12millionEUR by this point).

Well there is one person in particular who thinks its time to go beyond just some sponsorship. Cuz' surely thats aint enough. Why not invest in a club?! And thats where Aston Villa comes in. Turns out none of the Sheikhs were interested. But someone similar to a Sheikh is interested. And that Sheikh is from Azerbaijn. His name is Kemaleddin Heydarov. One of the many businesses of Heydarov's empire is a company called Gilan Holding (in case you are interested to see some of the "few" companies listed under Gilan Holding check out this link). Heydarov himself, is the head of the Ministry of Emergencies in Azerbaijan. 

So anyway, this article explores the rumors behind Azerbaijan's Gilan Holding going after Aston Villa team. Christmas is over, but looks likes Heydarov's generous heart and wallet are in for some present.