Statue of a Dictator (Aliyev Clan)
Posted 26 September 2017 - 09:49 AM
Posted 30 September 2017 - 07:30 AM
Fake sultan at dirty work, and the free world gives him a free pass! Such a tolerant country (NOT).
Washington PostSept 29 2017This tyrant’s reach knows no borders
The inside track on Washington politics.OpinionSeptember 28 at 7:29 PM
JUST PAST 7 p.m. on May 29 in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, an independent journalist, Afgan Mukhtarli, called his wife from a cafe to say he was coming home. She asked him to buy bread, according to a friend of the journalist who was at the cafe. The friend departed, but Mr. Mukhtarli never made it home. A day later, his wife discovered he was in neighboring Azerbaijan, in jail. Fearing persecution as a journalist, Mr. Mukhtarli had fled Azerbaijan two years earlier. In a brazen example of a police state reaching beyond its borders, Azerbaijan apparently dragged him back.
Mr. Mukhtarli, an outspoken critic of the authoritarian Azeri president, Ilham Aliyev, had investigated corruption in Mr. Aliyev’s defense ministry. At the time of his disappearance, he was investigating Mr. Aliyev’s personal assets in Georgia; he had also contributed reports to Meydan TV, an independent digital media service reporting on Azerbaijan. Mr. Mukhtarli was questioned in the politically motivated prosecution of another reporter, Khadija Ismayilova, and he finally fled to Georgia in 2015.
According to accounts Mr. Mukhtarli gave his wife and lawyer, after leaving the cafe he was abducted near his home in Tbilisi, beaten, blindfolded, driven in three separate cars and brought to a border crossing with Azerbaijan, where 10,000 euros were stuffed in his pockets. On the Azeri side, he was charged with smuggling and illegal border crossing. Months later, he is still in detention in Baku.
The Mukhtarli affair has a certain stench. Mr. Aliyev easily took his strongman methods into the heart of another country, Georgia. The European Parliament passed a condemnation, but otherwise this kind of behavior has not drawn the sharp international censure it deserves. In a brief statement, the State Department said it was “disturbed by the reported abduction.” Such timidity may confirm to Mr. Aliyev that the United States under President Trump doesn’t really care when human rights and the rule of law are trampled abroad.
We know that dictators like to trade methods and tactics with each other: clamping shut overseas-based nongovernmental organizations, warning of “foreign agents” lurking around every tree, smothering free speech online. Mr. Aliyev may have been reading up on China’s experience snatching dissidents across frontiers with impunity. Mr. Aliyev is so well practiced in the illiberal toolkit that for all we know, he may be teaching the dictatorship seminar himself these days. Sadly, the classes are full.
Another reason this affair stinks is the murky role of Georgia. Was a nation with European Union and democratic aspirations complicit in Azerbaijan’s cross-border abduction? Georgia’s authorities denied being involved and promised an investigation, but so far very little has been produced. Georgia ought to come clean as soon as possible about the abduction, and Azerbaijan must free Mr. Mukhtarli, the victim of an involuntary forced march across an international frontier. It would also be nice if more governments denounced Mr. Aliyev’s nasty tricks. It might restrain tyrants’ reach.
Posted 03 October 2017 - 12:27 PM
By Weekly Staff on October 3, 2017
INNSBRUCK, Austria (A.W.)—The European Ombudsman Institute (EOI) recently issued a statement calling on Azerbaijani media outlets not to spread misinformation, after reports surfaced claiming that Azerbaijani Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova had prevented Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) Ombudsman Ruben Melikyan from speaking at the organization’s General Assembly in Bucharest.
A screenshot of one of the online articles out of Azerbaijan claiming that Artsakh’s Ombudsman was kicked out of the EOI. The Minval.az headline reads “Ombudsman of Armenian Separatists Kicked Out of European Institute”; it was published along with a photo mocking Artsakh Armenians (Photo: Minval.az)
“The EOI is only interested in Human Rights and Protection of them and not in political issues,” read a part of the statement signed by EOI Secretary General, Dr. Josef Siegele.
Some media reports out of Azerbaijan went as far as to claim that Suleymanova had successfully kicked Ombusdman Melikyan out of the EOI.
The EOI statement explains that members of the independent organization can be institutional, individual, or correspondent members on the basics of EOI bylaws. While Armenia and Azerbaijan are institutional members, Nagorno-Karabagh is registered as an individual member, represented by Melikyan.
In his statement, Secretary General Siegele also noted that Melikyan had not been kicked out of the organization, since the EOI does not get involved in political issues or allow the exertion of political influence within the organization.
Speaking to the Armenian Weekly, Ombudsman Melikyan said his office will be “proactive and participatory,” regardless of the spread of Azerbaijani misinformation. “Effective implementation of human rights standards requires the constant exchange of experience and practices, and as a part of the human rights global community we are not going to be stand idly by. Rather, we are and we will be proactive and participatory,” Melikyan told the Armenian Weekly.
This is not the first time that the Azerbaijani media has recently been criticized for distorting information. Yesterday, member of Bulgarian Parliament and Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE-PA) Special Representative on the South Caucasus Kristian Vigenin accused Azerbaijani media outlets of misquoting him during a recent visit to Baku. Some media outlets in the Azerbaijani capital had claimed that Vigenin had called for a recomposition of the OSCE Minsk Group.
“During my recent trip to Azerbaijan, I was misquoted in local news media. While an immediate correction was requested and implemented, other news sources had already made use of the inaccurate information. Therefore, I have to reiterate that I have never suggested a recomposition of the OSCE Minsk Group,” Vigenin said in a statement.
Vigenin went on to say that he supported the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and its co-chairs, and he vowed to continue to work on the parliamentary level to contribute to their efforts aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh.
Posted 07 October 2017 - 08:38 AM
ARMINFO News Agency, Armenia
October 5, 2017 Thursday
Eduard Sharmazanov: I would advise Aliyev to leave the world of dreams
and return to reality, and also recognize Artsakh`s right of
Yerevan October 5
Ani Mshetsyan. "Aliyev's statement that the international community
should apply sanctions against Armenia is absurd, it is about the same
as if Hitler called on the international community to impose sanctions
against the USSR because of the liberation of Poland or
Czechoslovakia," ArmInfo correspondent Vice-Speaker of the National
Assembly of Armenia Eduard Sharmazanov, commenting on the call of
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev at a meeting with the delegation of the
Committee for Policy and Security of the Council of the European Union
on the need for SIC sanctions against Armenia because of "occupation"
As Sharmazanov noted, Aliyev is the country's leader, where there is
no democracy and a country that conducts an open xenophobic and
anti-Armenian policy, and this is realized throughout the world,
therefore, his words are devoid of any reasoning. "He is the initiator
of the April war. Aliyev is the person who awards criminals who cut
off the heads of Armenian soldiers during the April war, like the
fighters of ISIS. What values can the words of such a person
represent," the vice speaker of the Armenian parliament said,
stressing that Azerbaijan is the aggressor, and the international
community understands this.
Concerning Aliyev's statement that Azerbaijan will "return the lost
territories" in any case, Sharmazanov advised him to leave the world
of dreams, return to reality and recognize Artsakh's right of self-
determination, which is already a fait accompli and an irreversible
Yesterday at a meeting of the delegation of the Committee on Politics
and Security of the Council of the European Union, Azerbaijani
President Ilham Aliyev once again accused Armenia of "aggression". He
noted that the international community should react to the fact that
Armenia continues to remain in the "occupied territories" and proposed
to apply sanctions against the RA. Then, from the standpoint of
Aliyev, the conflict will be quickly resolved. He also said that
Azerbaijan in any case "will return the lost territories" and the
status quo for Baku is not acceptable.
Posted 07 October 2017 - 08:47 AM
Posted 07 October 2017 - 08:49 AM
Pinocchio!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The nose getting bigger by the minute.
Interfax - Russia & CIS General Newswire
October 5, 2017 Thursday 7:00 PM MSK
Aliyev accuses Council of Europe of groundless attacks on Azerbaijan
BAKU. Oct 5
Protecting human rights and developing democracy will remain
priorities for Azerbaijan even if it withdraws from the Council of
Europe, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said.
"I'll tell you openly, like a friend, that if Azerbaijan leaves the
Council of Europe, nobody will care very much. Nothing will change in
our lives, we won't start living better or worse, or richer, or
poorer. Our attention will continue to be focused on human rights and
democracy," Aliyev said at a meeting with a delegation of the Council
of the EU led by Political and Security Committee Chair Walter Stevens
"We are doing this not in order to please the secretary general of the
Council of Europe, which is currently in the center of groundless
attacks on Azerbaijan. We are doing this in order to develop our
country," he said.
Aliyev regretted that some Council of Europe officials have recently
criticized Azerbaijan. "They have threatened to deprive us of
membership and apply sanctions against us. Naturally, our politicians,
parliamentarians, journalists, and citizens have reacted accordingly,"
He suggested that the Council of Europe should first enforce more than
10,000 judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights
(ECHR) in relation to its member states. "It's only then that they can
talk about depriving Azerbaijan of its membership or imposing
sanctions. If this happens, this fact would mark the triumph of double
standards," he said.
In joining the organization, Azerbaijan expected that the Council of
Europe would assist Baku in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,
Aliyev said. "However, the Council of Europe has not achieved any
success in this issue. Moreover, I was the first leader of our
delegation and know what kind of organization it is and what its
attitude is toward Azerbaijan. Its attitude was extremely negative,"
Nevertheless, Aliyev confirmed that he would take part in an Eastern
Partnership summit in Brussels in November.
"I've received an invitation from President [Donald] Tusk in February
and said I would certainly take part in the summit. I believe it's
very important to be present there. Azerbaijan has supported the
Eastern Partnership program all along," he said.
While Azerbaijan pins great hopes on this summit, it has always sought
an individual approach in its relations with the EU, Aliyev said. "We
are a modern, independent country with vast opportunities, living at
its own expense, and maintaining itself from the standpoint of
politics, security, economic, and financial resources," he said.
Aliyev said he regrets that the European Commission did not truly
approve of Azerbaijan's position before. "On the contrary, we were
sometimes rebuked. We were accused of demanding some special
agreement. This is not so. In fact, we wanted to arrange a special
contact with the European Commission. The start of active negotiations
on a strategic partnership agreement actually indicates that this
approach is starting to prevail. This is good. The Eastern Partnership
is, of course, an important framework. However, it seems to me that a
separate agreement between Azerbaijan and the European Commission is
the most important issue within this framework," he said.
Azerbaijan also stands ready to develop its cooperation with European
institutions, he said.
Posted 10 October 2017 - 09:31 AM
I read the said article and felt the same way, decided not to post it so that it doesn't get any exposure. But it would have been a good article for ridicule, because the way it's written even an uninformed reader would see the bias and writer for hire situation.
Absurd Propagandist for AzerbaijanBlames California ArmeniansBy Harut SassounianPublisher, The California CourierNot a week passes without another propagandist for Azerbaijan writing anti-Armenian disinformation against either Armenia or the Diaspora.The latest such article was written by Andrew Korybko, an unknown individual described as an “American Moscow-based political analyst.” We don’t know what education or background qualifies him as an “analyst” on the Armenian Diaspora to make false accusations on the basis of the little he seems to know. One gets the impression that Korybko’s article is not simply the result of his ignorance, but a deliberate effort arranged by entities that are not difficult to guess!Korybko’s article, published by the Center for Research on Globalization, Canada, is titled: “The US-Based Armenian Lobby is on a Mission to Provoke Azerbaijan and Russia.” Even from the title, it is obvious that the author is trying to incite a conflict between Russia and Armenians, whereas in reality, there is no such conflict. A note at the end of the article indicates that the article was “originally written for the ‘Moscow-Baku.ru’ online information portal,” which provides a clear evidence of who the author is trying to please!In his first paragraph, Korybko attacks the Armenians of California for their extreme nationalism and working for the United States against the interests of Armenia. Of course, none of these statements is true! The author’s aim is to start a baseless controversy. Here is the first paragraph of Korybko’s faulty commentary:“One of the most influential weapons that Armenia has in its foreign policy toolkit is its US-based diaspora lobby in California, which supports their homeland’s most nationalistic and firebrand policies. Instead of behaving as a responsible and pragmatic instrument of the Armenian government in what could have been a calculated policy to balance between Great Powers, it’s oftentimes the case that the roles are reversed and Yerevan is used as an instrument and tool of the US-based Armenian lobby in working against the country’s national interests in order to promote the US. All states aspire for their people to build robust and influential diaspora communities abroad, but the Armenian one is heavily politicized and regularly exerts negative influence on Yerevan in order to bring it under further American control.”First of all, California Armenians neither try nor have the power to influence the policies of the Republic of Armenia. Secondly, anyone who has the slightest knowledge of Armenian-Americans knows that they are often quite critical of United States relations with Turkey, position on Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh), and Turkey’s undue influence on U.S. government leaders who refuse to use the term ‘Armenian Genocide.’ Therefore it is completely untrue that California Armenians blindly serve the interests of the United States.Korybko then blames “the US-based diaspora” for taking a congressional delegation in mid-September, not only to Armenia, but “whisked off on a highly publicized visit to the occupied regions of Western Azerbaijan.” By describing the Republic of Artsakh as “the occupied regions of Western Azerbaijan,” Korybko makes amply clear whose interests he is serving! Strangely, the author goes on to describe the congressional visit, not only as a pro-American move, but “to Russia’s overall strategic detriment.” Thus, Korybko is accusing Armenian-Americans of undermining Russian interests in Armenia which is totally untrue because they have neither the wish nor the ability to undermine Russia! The author is simply showing who his second master is, in addition to Azerbaijan!Korybko then resorts to an extreme exaggeration by fabricating the following untrue scenario about Armenian-Americans: “In fact, they want to do everything that they can to ruin the historic Russian-Armenian friendship in their feverish attempt to tear Yerevan away from Moscow and bring it under Washington’s proxy tutelage.”To back up his fake claim, the author mentions that complaints by citizens of Armenia last month about a government official’s announcement to provide more support to Russian language programs “closely aligns with the position pushed forth by some elements of the US-based diaspora and their American-linked associates in Armenia." The fact is that not a single person in the entire diaspora said one critical word about the Russian language. Korybko then resorts to another unwarranted exaggeration by claiming that the Armenian Education Ministry “felt pressured to cave in to their diaspora’s demands and reaffirm that Armenian is the only national language in the country…. Whether he intended or not, [Education Minister Levon] Mkrtchyan fell into the information warfare trap laid out for him by the cunning minds organizing the US-based diaspora’s political activities.” This is yet another pure invention by the author!Exceeding all logical bounds, Korybko alleges that “the Armenian lobby in the US is very similar to the Gulenists in Turkey, in that they represent a shadowy power network with a concrete geopolitical agenda advanced through manipulative means, and both serve the interests of Washington against their homelands.” Korybko with a completely erroneous conclusion claims that “the US-based Armenian lobby is getting dangerously close to seizing full control over their homeland’s foreign policy.”There are other falsifications in Korybko’s article too numerous to mention. Whoever commissioned this article must realize that such authors, by their ridiculous falsehoods, are causing more damage to the interests of their paymasters than the Armenian community in California
- MosJan likes this
Posted 14 October 2017 - 10:23 AM
Author Anna Mkrtchyan
Being master of one's moods is the privilege of the larger animals, the hero of Albert Camus’s novel “The Fall” believed. The statement seems equally true and false once you get familiarized with the reaction of Azerbaijani leadership to the criticism by international community in general and the Council of Europe in particular.
On October 11, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted two critical resolutions on Azerbaijan with the first concerning the functioning of democratic institutions in the country and the second – the systemic repression of human rights defenders in light of the country’s continuous non-execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
The Azerbaijani leadership fired back through comments by assistant to president Ali Hasanov, who stated that “the biased documents are based on subjective perceptions and attempts to pressure make Azerbaijan reconsider its relations with the Council of Europe.”
As Hasanov claimed, the reports were adopted with the efforts of ‘anti-Azerbaijani circles’ disapproving country’s ‘independent policy’ and ‘own path of development.’
The Hasanov’s logic reveals that everyone - the Armenians, NGOs, racists, islamophobes are guilty for the situation in the country, except Azerbaijan itself paving its way due to own mood, headed by its “big” leader without yielding to others’ considerations.
The title and the heroes of the mentioned novel by Camus come to perfectly showcase the current European policy of Azerbaijan at the formal and the lobbying domains alike. It is in downfall and gives much food for thought to both the Europeans and the Azerbaijanis.
The Absheronian country complains about as they claim the policy of double standards by Europe. They are angry with the European Union’s reluctance to unequivocally recognize its territorial integrity, deem inadmissible the calls of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to free political prisoners as well as disregard the PACE reports, threatening to reconsider relations with the European structures.
Europe, on its part, is in perpetual existential searches while building relations with Azerbaijan. There are geopolitical and energy interest from one hand, from the other hand, Azerbaijan appears to be out of Europe not only geographically but in terms of the value system. It could be enlisted among Asian dictatorships, rather named as an eastern neighbor to EU for strengthening political dialogue based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The recent revelations about the Azerbaijani dirty lobbying schemes clearly showed the country is unable to organize its internal life through democratic and legal mechanisms, likewise it is not shy at employing immoral and illegal schemes in international relations.
With all this in mind, the Azerbaijani disappointment with the European criticism seems bizarre that otherwise would be tolerated should they had gained consoling formulations from the PACE about the NK conflict.
In its previous reports on Azerbaijani poor human rights record, democratic institutions PACE used to include certain pro-Azerbaijani formulations regarding the Karabakh conflict. However, the things have changed over the past years with Azerbaijan suffering defeats here as well, failing to maintain the balance and thus laying the grounds for its desperate appeals to withdraw the organization.
By and large, why does Azerbaijan need the Council of Europe advocating for democracy if it fails to receive desirable documents on NK conflict? No secret. Azerbaijan is completely anti-democratic state run by a family-clan regime with no signs of democratization in the visible future. This type of ‘freefall’ at European structures compels Azerbaijan to look for other directions to break its isolation in Europe and struggle the alienation.
Instead of blaming others for own failures, at this stage Azerbaijan should confess it is in total fiasco with its European policy. Accepting a defeat with dignity is a virtue that Azerbaijan lacks as well.
Posted 15 October 2017 - 10:18 AM
Assarbaijan democracy at work!
Pan Armenian, ArmeniaOct 14 2017Azerbaijani opposition journalist detained in Kiev at Baku's request
Azerbaijani opposition journalist Fikret Huseynli, a political migrant in the Netherlands, was detained on Saturday, October 14 after arriving at the Boryspil airport in Kiev.
He managed to inform by phone that he was detained after Azerbaijan sent a request to Interpol. However, he does not know the essence of charges brought against him, Contact.az reports.
Huseynli has already obtained Dutch citizenship and cooperates with the broadcasting television channel Turan TV from abroad.
The journalist fled Azerbaijan 10 years ago after he was abducted and severely beaten. The kidnappers were never identified.
Posted 19 October 2017 - 06:01 AM
Where are the human rights activists?
Intellinews - Ukraine Today
October 17, 2017 Tuesday
Ukraine extradites Azerbaijani journalist to Baku under murky circumstances
Fikret Guseinov, an Azerbaijani journalist who was living in exile in
the Netherlands, was detained at Borispol airport in Kiev and deported
to Azerbaijan on October 13, according to the Caucasus Knot.
Over the years, Guseinov had written for a number of outlets, most
notably Turan news agency. His articles were critical of the
Azerbaijani government and in response Baku opened a case against him
for fraud and the illegal crossing of the border when he left the
country. Guseinov had been living in the Netherlands for a decade and
had obtained Dutch citizenship.
While Baku had reported him to Interpol, it is unclear on what grounds
he was detained in Ukraine. In recent months, the regime in Azerbaijan
has proceeded to report individuals to Interpol for various reasons,
including visiting the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is
a criminal offence in Azerbaijan but nowhere else in the world.
While the notoriously opaque regime in Azerbaijan has consistently
ranked as one of the most oppressive power systems for freedom of
speech in the world, its persecution of journalists has gotten worse
in recent years. Jailing, harassment of the journalist themselves and
their families and even the kidnapping of exiled journalists in
foreign countries have become common occurrences. Earlier this year,
in a similar case, Belarus extradited a Russian-Israeli blogger to
Azerbaijan for having visited the occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The blogger was sentenced to three years behind bars, but was released
after being severely beaten and reportedly becoming suicidal.
Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe, and therefore a
signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, Baku
has thus far refused to abide by a decision of the European Court of
Human Rights which demanded that the regime release political
Under mounting pressure from revealed corruption scandals implicating
European politicians and a relentless crackdown against freedom of
speech, Azerbaijan's future in the Council of Europe is uncertain.
Posted 22 October 2017 - 09:53 AM
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
October 20, 2017 Friday
Russia bans screening of anti-Armenian film made by Azerbaijanis
YEREVAN, OCTOBER 20, ARMENPRESS. Russia has banned the screening of an
anti-Armenian film made by Azerbaijanis in its territory. ARMENPRESS
reports the Justice Ministry o Russia has included the film in the
federal list extremist materials.
“The film with duration of 1 hour 5 minutes and 59 seconds that starts
with the words “Azerbaijanis in Caucasus since the resettlement of
Armenians” and ends with the words “Azerbaijan as victim of
aggression” has been recognized material with extremist content”, says
the press release of the Justice Ministry of Russia.
By the decision of Kirov Lenin district court of Russia the screening
of the film has been banned in Russia.
Posted 23 October 2017 - 09:33 AM
ARMINFO News Agency, Armenia
October 21, 2017 Saturday
Tigran Balayan: Azeri President envies exemplary relations between
Armenia and Muslim countries
Yerevan October 21
Tatevik Shahunyan. The President of Azerbaijan envies the exemplary
relations of Armenia with the Muslim countries, so he gives the
desired for the valid. So in his biker blog on Twitter responded the
spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Tigran Balayan
to the statement of the head of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev that "Armenia,
which destroys mosques, can never be a friend of Muslim countries."
Aliyev in Istanbul, speaking at the IX summit of the Economic
Cooperation Organization D-8, once again complained about "Armenia's
occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories," reported
"about a million Azerbaijani refugees and hundreds of victims",
demanded the unconditional implementation of a number of international
resolutions, which, according to the Azerbaijani leader, allegedly
requires the Armenian side to "liberate the occupied territories".
Further, the President of Azerbaijan again tried to attach a religious
implication to the Karabakh conflict: "Azerbaijan is seriously
fighting against one of the most serious threats in the world today -
Islamophobia." But Armenia, which tries to impersonate itself as a
friend of Muslim countries, destroyed mosques and religious monuments
in Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas. "The country that is
destroying the mosque will never be able to become a friend of Muslim
The program of restoration of the Upper Mosque Goar Aga is being
carried out within the framework of the "Development Initiatives of
Armenia" Fund (IDeA Foundation), the Government of the Republic of
Artsakh and the "Revival of the Eastern Historical Heritage"
Foundation in the city of Shushi in Artsakh. Under the program, it is
planned to completely restore the mosque, retaining its original
appearance, to equip the adjacent territory and to carry out works on
the capital strengthening of the madrassa building located next to the
mosque in order to prevent collapse of the structure. The program will
preserve this architectural monument and further use it as a cultural
and tourist center. Part of the work on the restoration of the
monument involved the Iranian architectural company Part Saman Jahan
and specialists from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Let's remind that
in 1995 the restored Blue Mosque began to operate in Yerevan - one of
the most remarkable monuments of Yerevan in the second half of the
Posted 06 November 2017 - 02:18 PM
The Azerbaijani opposition has survived, even though the civil society has been significantly repressed. They have observed Ukraine and Georgia and learnt from the two countries successes and mistakes. Next time Ilham Aliyev’s power is shaken, they will be ready to act.
November 6, 2017 - Valentin Luntumbue -
Image by wilth
Walking uphill from the Heydar Aliyev embankment, along the Koura Rver, we stroll the grounds of Tbilisi’s Saburtalo district. After passing shiny modern buildings under construction, we arrive on Almasiani Street, a dusty lane squeezed between two huge concrete Soviet apartment blocks. There, we are planning to meet exiled members of Azerbaijan’s shrinking civil society.
I go to a nearby store looking for something to snack on and come back holding a churchkhela, Georgia’s national candy, a sausage-shaped fried grape juice. I share it with our small group. Through friends, we had been put in contact with some Azerbaijanis living in the Georgian capital and are now eagerly waiting to meet them.
Our contact, Lala Aliyeva, arrives a few minutes late. She is a journalist working for Chai Khana, a new online platform covering various aspects of life in the South Caucasus in five languages (English, Russian, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Armenian). Lala invites us to the offices of the Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center, a local NGO, where we meet Zohrab Ismayil. Back in Azerbaijan, Ismayil had been the chairman of the Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy (PAAFE), a Baku-based NGO focusing on transparency, government accountability, economic freedom and respect for property rights.
Between 2013 and 2015, following the EuroMaidan revolution in Ukraine and the shady re-election of Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev (the son of the former president Heydar Aliyev) for a third term, the Azerbaijani government, already one of the most restrictive regimes on the European continent, introduced a series of new laws and regulations affecting NGOs, their funding and activities. This allowed for an unprecedented crackdown on the NGO sector between 2014 and 2016.
Ismayil was summoned twice to the prosecutor general’s office to be interrogated. His NGO’s bank accounts were seized after a closed court hearing and his own assets were frozen. Ismayil’s case was far from isolated. Journalists and media outlets (including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), human rights advocates and political activists were pressured, forced into exile or, on the contrary, forbidden to leave the country. Dozens of local groups faced charges and NGOs, including international ones such as Oxfam and the Open Society Foundation, had their accounts seized and offices closed.
Most of the prominent members of Azerbaijan’s civil society ended up behind bars or in exile. Even though some activists like the journalist Khadija Ismayilova, human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, or human rights activists Anar Mammadli and Rasul Jafarov have been released, their criminal records remain in place, and in the case of Intigam Aliyev, his travel ban as well. To this day, there are still around a hundred political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Zohrab Ismayil, the activist we are meeting in Tbilisi, has been in exile since August 2014. He has had worked as a fellow at Michigan State University for a year before joining other Azeri activists in Georgia, such as Amin, a young lawyer. Amin is also a member of the Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center, which conducts research, organises regional projects and training for young activists and advocates for greater transparency.
Azerbaijan is a “captured state” – a concept fathered by the IMF to describe a form of grand corruption. It means that the entire decision-making process and the state apparatus are used to serve private interests and the enrichment of a small caste of oligarchs. Azerbaijan is Europe’s most captured state. Its fragile economy rests solely atop its oil reserves. The oil and gas rent, however, does not seem to benefit anyone but the Aliyev clan and the vanity architectural works in Baku – partly Dubai-style pet projects, partly money laundering schemes.
Most of the rent (well over one hundred billion US dollars over the last decade) is accumulated within the State Oil Fund – Azerbaijan’s sovereign wealth fund. In 2015, its foreign currency reserves were depleted by 65 per cent in order to stabilise the Azerbaijani currency – the manat – which was devaluated by 97 per cent over the course of the same year. Little was done to address the socio-economic crises following the decline of oil prices and in 2016 Azerbaijan entered a recession. Currently, the average monthly salary is 515 manats (270 euros), which is less than in Georgia and Armenia. “Oil corrupts, it corrupted political systems everywhere. Azerbaijan is not any different,” Ismayil tells us. “If we get rid of oil, we can rebuild the state. Azerbaijan is not a state, it is a mafia.”
With the socio-economic situation getting worse, repression strengthens to defend the fragile stability. But with a silenced opposition and an entire state apparatus answering to the Aliyev clan, the Azeris have slowly lost the will to openly oppose their government. Half of them work, in one way or another, for government-related organisations. In every family, at least one member is a state employee. They could face repercussions, be forced to resign, have their advancement blocked or be fired if one of their relatives is whispered to be a member of the opposition.
Moreover, there are few opportunities for the opposition in the media, nor is there any money. While the opposition exists, it is in a worse shape than under the Soviet Union, when it could only operate underground. To join the opposition would be very risky due to the reasons outlined above. Besides, there is not much to join. There are a handful of opposition parties which are too weak to properly organise any campaigns or protests. Moreover, there are no free unions. The state has successfully created cynical citizens willing to protest, but unable to do so, repressed by social pressure and fear. “We have lost, as a nation, the will to gather together,” Amin explains to us.
When protest is in the air, the Aliyev regime has a secret weapon up their sleeve: Nagorno-Karabakh – the never-ending frozen conflict with Armenia over the disputed separatist region. No one benefits from the Karabakh conflict as much as the Aliyev family. Not only does it give them legitimacy as Azerbaijan’s defenders, it also chokes the entire public political debate.
When in April 2016, after several years of socio-economic crisis and a growing critique of the government, the Azerbaijani armed forces launched an offensive against the Armenian positions in the mountainous region, the opposition mainly fell in line and unanimously supported the troops. No prominent opposition force in the country thinks Azerbaijan should give up on Karabakh. As Ismayil puts it: “Many Azeris believe that if Azerbaijan has strong economic development, a strong democracy, a strong army and real power, it will be useful for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” Even when it comes to economic development, getting Karabakh back remains a means to an end.
The picture was not always so grim. Azerbaijan has a track record of democratic rule. When it declared independence from the Russian Empire in 1917, it was the first democratic republic in the Turkic world. It was also the first Muslim-majority country to grant women equal political rights to men and in 1918 one of the first countries ever to allow women to vote. It had a free and diverse press, including the famous progressive satirical journal, Mollah Nasreddin, which has since achieved cult status and became the symbol of the century-old tradition of Azeri progressive secularism.
At the fall of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijani civil society was strong and active. When Heydar Aliyev took power in the 1990s, he was opposed by huge political organisations and republican movements. Azeris are proud of that heritage and they suspect that the European institutions do not pressure the state the way they do Belarus, as they are afraid that without Aliyev in power, the country will turn into an Islamic republic. Amin and Zohrab Ismayil claim, however, that Azerbaijani society and the opposition are deeply secular and there is no real threat of extremist religious groups.
They both have hope. The opposition who challenged Heydar Aliyev has survived, even though the civil society has been significantly repressed. They believe that the authorities cannot reach them everywhere, especially in Azerbaijan’s rural areas where the state is less present. The opposition has observed Ukraine and Georgia and learnt from their successes and mistakes.
Next time Ilham Aliyev’s power is shaken, they will be ready to act, they assure us: “Political rights are okay, but when you work 60 hours a week, you don’t need values. We should focus more on the economic and social rights than political rights,” Ismayil says. A remark that seemed directed at the European Union.
When talking about LGBT and gender issues, among the many other topics tackled by Chai Khana, Ismayil deems them “not a priority” but is quickly corrected by Lala who adds: “for now”. As we all try to suppress a smile, seeing him apologise to the young woman, he concludes that “it will come. First we need to address torture and freedom of assembly.”
But the two issues are not so far apart. After all, most journalists in Azerbaijan are women and when the change arrives, women will likely be its prime vector.
Valentin Luntumbue is a Belgian writer, independent researcher and College of Europe alumnus based in Brussels.
Posted 08 November 2017 - 02:38 PM
A French court has rejected a lawsuit by Azerbaijan’s government against two French journalists it accuses of defamation in a case described by the defendants and media freedom activists as an attempt by the South Caucasus nation's authorities to export censorship beyond the country's borders, RFE/RL reports.
Broadcast journalists Elise Lucet and Laurent Richard were accused in the lawsuit of defaming the Azerbaijani government by referring to it as a "dictatorship" two years ago, when then-French President Francois Hollande was visiting the Caspian Sea country.
The case was the first time that a foreign government had brought a defamation suit against journalists before a French court.
"The press law has been put in place to prevent political censorship," the president of the court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said in the November 7 ruling.
Introducing an investigation program about the background to Hollande’s trip on the France 2 television channel in September 2015, Lucet described Azerbaijan as "one of the world's harshest dictatorships."
In an interview with France Info radio, Richard referred to Azerbaijan as a "dictatorship."
Richard and his cameraman were briefly detained in Baku at the end of their reporting trip in May 2014 and their equipment was seized.
"This decision was a very strong signal to the Azerbaijani government that they could not carry out their censorship outside the country," Richard told RFE/RL after the decision was announced.
Posted 09 November 2017 - 09:58 AM
In an exclusive interview with Current Time reporter, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova touched upon the noisy corruption scandal which involves the Aliyev family.
In recent decades, Baku, outwardly, reminds of a western city, where the desire to quickly overcome European integration challenges is noticeable.
There are many similar buildings in the central part of Baku where some street names are written only in English.
Though, all this is only an outward impression. In fact, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt countries in the world where there is no freedom of speech and media, and any manifestation of critical thinking is punished with imprisonment.
Continuing the traditions of his father Heydar Aliyev, Ilham also prefers to keep the levers of power and almost everything under the control of his family.
After the referendum held in 2016, the post of Vice President was added in Azerbaijan which Ilham Aliyev conveyed his wife Mihriban Aliyeva, and their eldest daughter was appointed as the director of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
“Since 2008, due to the large flow of foreign investments, about 130 billion dollars was invested in Azerbaijan, but it is not known how the money was spent,” said investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova.
Khadija Ismailova, former Azeri correspondent of Azerbaijani service the radio Freedom, is perhaps the only investigative journalist in Azerbaijan who managed to reveal the details of the state scale scandalous corruption history with the participation of Aliyev family.
“It turns out that the oil boom started in here and ended, but nothing has changed in our country,” said Ismailova.
It should be reminded that the Azerbaijani authorities had never reacted to the facts presented in the articles of Khadija, but in autumn 2015, Khadija was sentenced to 7.5 years’ imprisonment on charges of tax avoidance, illegal entrepreneurial activity, and abuse of office,
As a result of harsh criticism and pressure by many international human rights organizations and activists against the verdict, imposed on these political motives, in 2016, after six-month imprisonment, Khadija was released.
“I have investigated the details of the activities of the businessmen belonging to the Aliyev family, and I can say that all these companies have one common thing: they are all badly guided… There has been no case in Azerbaijan, disclosed by us, that the Prosecutor General’s Office investigated. There has been no such case. We have discovered that offshore companies linked with British companies also belong to Aliyev’s daughters. When this story came to the surface, negatively affecting the income and reputation of those companies, the Aliev family decided to sell them. And whom did they sell them again? To the Government… And it turns out that we – citizens, had to pay for it again… The family works here, but they have created such a system that nobody in this country, no one, except them, can afford to make big money. And not only large amounts of money, but in general, to make any money. It’s like a game called Tables, when closing and holding all your positions, you do not have any opportunity to move. Because starting from that moment, when people begin to move freely, that is, to earn enough money and live a good life, they will start to raise other issues … this is what our government does not wish,” Investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova told a correspondent of The Current Time.
The latest investigation by the British magazine The Guardian, in which Khadija also took part, revealed a secret bank account owned by the government of Azerbaijan, with $ 3 billion used to bribe high-ranking European politicians.
Ali Hasanov, Aliyev’s advisor, called the publication of The Guardian as “poisonous”, adding that the initiators are British secret services, the Armenian Diaspora, and the United States of America.
Posted 10 November 2017 - 09:17 AM
Democracy a la fake sultan style! Western politicians will permit this as long there is oil and laundromat payments. Fake sultan rules with dictatorship while Western governments with bribe.
Panorama, ArmeniaNov 9 2017EurasiaNet: Azerbaijan moves to drastically cut number of lawyers
EurasiaNet website has made a reference to the amendments to Azerbaijan’s civil code adopted by the country’s parliament on 31 October, characterizing the move as a test of patience of the western governments.
According to the source, the amendments would effectively bar roughly 90 percent of the country’s legal professionals from practicing law. The changes will take effect on 1 January 2018.
“Observers characterize the move as the latest and most decisive step in an escalating crackdown on the country’s few remaining human rights lawyers. Less than 24 hours after Azerbaijan’s parliament ratified the changes, several lawyers reported being summoned to their local police stations, where they were told they were no longer licensed to practice law and would be subject to arrest or fines if they continued,” EurasiaNet wrote.
The article noted that Azerbaijani lawyers are either vəkillər, licensed bar members who pass a series of written tests and a highly politicized oral examination, or hüquqşünaslar, registered lawyers who have not passed the bar but, until now, have been entitled to represent clients in all non-criminal courts.
“Under the amendments, an estimated 8,000 registered lawyers stand to be barred from representing clients in any Azerbaijani court, leaving a nation of nearly 10 million people with only 934 registered legal professionals. At roughly nine lawyers per 100,000 people, that would be a ratio that is 18 times lower than the European average, and by far the lowest figure of any Council of Europe member.
The amendments’ adoption has occurred against the backdrop of two overlapping Azerbaijani political-legal dramas – a showdown between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe over Azerbaijan’s continued failure to comply with a 2014 ruling ordering the release of Ilgar Mammadov, and the continued international political fallout of the revelations of large-scale bribery and money laundering known as the “Azerbaijani Laundromat.”
The amendments could turn out to be an attempt to bully independent-minded hüquqşünaslar into submission, rather than legislate them out of existence.
They also may constitute a test case in which Azerbaijan is pushing the boundaries to see how far western governments will permit Baku to stray from its international norms governing basic rights without facing serious consequences,” reads the article.
Posted 11 November 2017 - 09:47 AM
YEREVAN. – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons will hold its next meeting in March 2018 in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, according to Zhamanak (Times) newspaper of Armenia.
And Armenia will be represented at this event by National Assembly (NA) vice chairperson and head the NA delegation to the PACE, Arpine Hovhannisyan, and chairperson of the NA Standing Committee on European Integration, Naira Zohrabyan.
“It can be assumed as to what kind of a panic this information has caused in Baku, considering the tense relations between Naira Zohrabyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
“In his speech during the EuroNest summit in Baku in 2013, Aliyev had stated that Armenian fascists who have defiled his grandfather’s grave are sitting in the hall. In response to that, Naira Zohrabyan had yelled from her place that, ‘You are the fascist.’
“It is not ruled out that the antifascist fight will get a continuation this time, too,” wrote Zhamanak.
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