Friday, September 26

Congratulations! We made it to Obama's speech (despite the stutter)

Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Forum, President Obama named some of the most notorious countries for their crackdown on free speech and media. 

Azerbaijan too made that list, despite President Obama's stutter. So what?! Apparently, others [RU] in Azerbaijan took it as their responsibility to poke fun at this incident. Which for some if not many, probably went unnoticed. 


But all these jokes and what not are besides the actual point - Azerbaijani government cracks down on independent non-governmental organizations, individuals and journalists on an on-going basis. And no matter what our beloved government officials say to our media (none of which is free by the way) its the opposite. In fact, its like a game - whatever they say, always think the opposite. So if you hear somewhere our officials say we have freedom of speech guaranteed and rule of law provided, just think the opposite times a 100 because in reality the situation is always much worse. 

Wednesday, September 10

When we need international attention the most, not everyone is interested as it turns out

A couple never separated before in their 36 years of marriage is currently in jail. A little boy is growing up without his father because he is in jail. An NGO head, determined to influence election results by publishing transparent reports on violations, is currently in jail. A well - respected human rights defender is in jail. The list goes on. According to the most recent report published by a group of civil society organizations there are 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Those mentioned above, are on this list of other activists, journalists, and human rights defenders. All of these men and women are in jail as a result of their work in a country currently in charge of the Presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. The charges brought against them are just as false as the government’s statements on existence of freedom and democracy in Azerbaijan. 

And yet, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, gets off easy no matter what the next human rights violation – he is very rich and so is the country he reigns over. A kleptocrat by nature, Aliyev, is the son, of a former Politburo – member - turn - president, Heydar Aliyev. In 2003, when Aliyev senior died, he passed on the torch to his son, Ilham Aliyev in the country’s first undemocratic elections. And so did a new chapter for Azerbaijan begin. Aliyev secured a victory in presidential elections over the course of the next decade, changing the constitution in 2009 to scrape off the two-term limit. His victory in the most recent presidential elections in October of 2013 marks another era for Azerbaijan – a period of severe crackdown on dissent. While there has been an on-going witch-hunt against civil society activists, anti- government political party members, groups and human rights activists, never has the country witnessed the crackdown of such proportions. Just in the course of the past four months, 15 people were arrested all known for their critical and anti – Aliyev views. Some are facing life time imprisonment. 

Yet, in an e-mail correspondence with an editor from an XXX international publication I was told to perhaps tackle another issue in the upcoming article. Because this was not the first article sent in on the country's disturbing crackdown record. Alas, the outlet might come across as having a vested interest in showing Azerbaijan from this negative angle. Very unfortunate, as I was very much hoping this was an independent media outlet interested in shedding light on a country that's not discussed widely in the international media, not of its deteriorating human rights record at least. I am sorry if this is not interesting enough, but if nothing else is happening in a country apart from arrests, detentions and violation of the very basic right to free speech then I do not see how you can call yourself an independent outlet. Turns out there is a vested interest after all. Just of a different kind.