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What is to be Done With Pseudo-Democracies. Hikmat Hajizade's Presentation on January 25, 2012
EMDS Final Report on Azerbaijan's Parliamentary Elections on November 7, 2010
"Resource Nationalism Trends In Azerbaijan, 2004-2009," Research by Vugar Gojayev, March 2010
February 16, 2010 - NHC Report: "Nakhchivan: Azerbaijan's Dark Island"
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90 Years Anniversary of First Muslim Democracy - Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
|Last Words of Ganimat Zahid
The EU Is Tough on Minsk, But Easy On Baku
|Ilham Aliyev, his wife Mehriban Aliyeva, and Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the Belarus dictator's visit to Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Baku, Azerbaijan
By Gorkhmaz Asgarov
Someone should tell the leaders of the European Union to stop pushing around Belarus dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
After all, next week European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will meet with Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. And last week the same Barroso visited Azerbaijan and met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, whose human rights record is comparable to that of his Uzbek counterpart. And the same week, the EU extended an invitation to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan to visit Brussels and discuss energy and trade cooperation.
What makes Lukashenka any different from the dictators mentioned above? After all, you can’t blame him because Belarus doesn’t have any oil or natural gas.
It's no secret certain post-Soviet countries look very different when European leaders view them through the prism of oil and gas. “I know that your country has a very dynamic society,” Barroso told Aliyev during his Baku visit.
Dynamic? Maybe. But you wouldn’t know it by considering that every single election there has been rigged since 1993, when Aliyev’s father, Heydar Aliyev, overthrew the democratically elected government and became head of state in what observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe described as a coup.
You wouldn’t know it by considering that Azerbaijan’s government has consistently scored abysmally on the corruption ratings of Transparency International and President Aliyev has been listed as a predator of journalists by media watchdog groups.
Last month, Lukashenka caused an uproar in the EU and triggered talks of possible sanctions with a brutal postelection crackdown. He might have taken his cue from Aliyev, who did precisely the same thing in both 2003 and 2005.
The Endless Presidency
In March 2009, Aliyev altered the constitution (through a managed referendum, of course) to abolish term limits for the presidency and setting the stage for him to “run” endlessly for president. When a journalist from EuroNews asked him recently if he considers himself a king, Aliyev simply shook his head. But it is hard to imagine what powers a king might have that Aliyev does not.
Yet Lukashenka is a ruthless dictator to be shunned by good European society, while Aliyev is a true friend presiding over a “dynamic” country.
The EU needs alternative energy routes, and the gas deal for a “southern corridor” through Azerbaijan makes a lot of economic sense. From the economic point of view, cooperation with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also makes sense.
By why not restrict relations to the framework and rhetoric of the necessary cooperation? Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and other countries have hydrocarbons to offer and the EU has the cash to pay. So is it really necessary for European officials to clap their arms around the shoulders of authoritarian rulers and spout nonsense about their “dynamic” development?
Why must Barroso make the gratuitous comment that "we want to make clear that our relations are not limited to oil and gas" when everyone knows that 98 percent of EU imports from Azerbaijan are oil and gas?
Adding Insult To Injury
It has been said before but, obviously, it needs to be said again. When EU leaders make high-profile visits to such countries and praise their rulers, they add highly valued political capital to these commercial transactions. The authoritarians conclude that they have the EU in their pockets as long as they are willing to take European money. Lacking legitimacy from their own people, they happily take scraps of legitimacy from the lips of people like Barroso.
This is a game the authoritarians are happy to play. After all, the EU is an example to citizens of countries like Azerbaijan of a strikingly different political model. So the “energy dictatorships” feel the need to discredit it, to show their people that Europe’s talk of democracy and human rights is just a veneer of lies.
When they shake hands with top EU officials like Barroso, they send the message that past criticism (mostly from European organizations) never mattered and has been forgotten. In Azerbaijan’s case, the message is even worse. Aliyev has repeatedly argued that “some countries” manipulate issues of democracy in order to force Azerbaijan to make economic concessions. When EU officials sign deals and talk about “dynamic” Azerbaijan, everyone in that country understands that democracy, rigged elections, arrested journalists, and beaten demonstrators are just bargaining chips to get cheaper gas and oil. At least, that what Baku wants everyone in Azerbaijan to think.
And it doesn’t help that when Barroso held a joint press conference with Aliyev in Baku, none of the country’s independent media outlets were present. Later, when Barroso held an individual briefing organized by the EU office in Baku, journalists’ questions were screened in advance.
Why would the EU participate in this Kabuki dance with the Azerbaijani government?
Here are some noncommercial facts for the EU to think about. Eynulla Fatullayev is an Azerbaijani journalist who was arrested in 2007 on trumped up charges because the two newspapers he founded were critical of the government. He was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison on charges of libel, slander, inciting terrorism, and tax evasion.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights cleared him of all charges and directed Azerbaijan to release him and compensate him in the amount of 28,000 euros. In anticipation of this ruling, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court quickly convicted him of new charges of drugs possession and additional tax evasion. He remains in prison today.
The Strasbourg-ordered compensation was paid to a bank account that had been frozen because of Fatullayev’s imprisonment, allowing Baku to claim it had complied with the court ruling while ensuring that Fatullayev cannot receive the money.
Barroso claimed he discussed the case with Aliyev. "The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in his favor and I have argued for his release,” Barroso said. “And these matters, I brought them, in the spirit of openness and friendship, very clearly to the attention of President Aliyev."
On January 21, Baku's Appeals Court will consider Fatullayev’s appeal for his release. It will make a good test for Barroso’s friends in Baku.
And here’s another example of the extreme cynicism with which the Azerbaijani government treats its European partners.
More than a year ago, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) named a special rapporteur for political prisoners in Azerbaijan, German Social Democrat Christoph Straesser. However Straesser has not been given an invitation by the Azerbaijani government to visit the country and implement his mandate.
The Council of Europe has asked Baku to resolve the problem, but to no avail. Straesser will probably get his invitation around the same time Fatullayev gets his compensation.
Lukashenka may get sanctions; Aliyev will have the last laugh.
*This article was first published by RFE/RL.
Azerbaijan in International Media
"Iran Threatens Azerbaijan," by Alexandros Petersen, The National Interest, April 29, 2013
"A Trip Into Baku's 12th-Century Old City," Photogallery from RFE/RL, April 26, 2013
"Airmiles Andy is Back at the Despot's Table," by Nick Craven and Will Stewart, The Daily Mail, April 13, 2013
"News by and for the Authorities," by Christopher Walker and Robert Orttung, The New York Times, April 5, 2013
"Leaks Reveal Secrets of the Rich Who Hide Cash Offshore," by David Leigh, The Guardian, April 3, 2013
"EU's Problem Neighbors," by Rikard Jozwiak, RFE/RL, March 20, 2013
"Editor of Azerbaijan's Independent Newspaper Sentenced to 9 Years In Jail," The Washington Post, March 12, 2013
"Azerbaijan Police Use Rubber Bullets to Break Up Protest in Baku," The Washington Post, March 10, 2013
"As International Scrutiny Fades, Azerbaijan Scrambles to Silence Critics," by Rebecca Vincent, AlJazeera, March 6, 2013
"The Land of No Anti-Semitism," by Anshel Pleffer, Haaretz, March 1, 2013
"Inside The Department Of AliyevScience" - by Shahla Sultanova and Charles Recknagel, RFERL, Feb 24, 2013
"Azerbaijan is Rich. Now It Wants to be Famous," by Peter Savodnik, The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2013
"Novella's Sympathetic Portreyal of Armenians Causes Uproar in Azerbaijan," by Shahla Sultanova, The NY Times, Feb. 1, 2013
"On a Second Thought..." by Henry Grabar, The Atlantic Cities, Jan. 30, 2013
"Mexico: Statue of Ex-Leader of Azerbaijan Removed," The NY Times, Jan. 26, 2013
"Officials in Azerbaijan Claim to Restore Order to Rioting City," by Andrew Roth and Shahla Sultanova, The NY Times, Jan. 25, 2013
"Minor vehicle collision in Azerbaijan sparks mass riot, attack on local official’s son", The Washington Post, Jan. 24, 2013
"Mexico to Remove Controversial Statue to Former Azerbaijani President," The Washington Post, Jan. 23, 2013
"Tough Year Looms for Azerbaijan," by Ilan Greenberg, The National Interest, Jan 18, 2013
"Hundreds Gather in Baku in Social-Media Organized Protest," The Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2013
"This Should Have Been the Year..." by Helen Goodman, The Huffington Post, Dec. 20, 2012
"Despite Migration, Azerbaijani Village Life Goes On," RFE/RL, Dec. 6, 2012
"My Experience with Lax Embassy Security," by Matthew Bryza, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 3, 2012
"Is Russia Running a Secret Supply Route to Arm Syria's Assad?" by Simon Shuster, Time, Nov. 29, 2012
"Filthy Rich: Britain's Favourite Dictatorship..." by Will Stewart, The Daily Mail, Nov. 24, 2012
An internet conference in a surveillance state, by Sarah Kendzior, Al-Jazeera, Nov 13, 2012
"Statue of a Foreign Autocrat Sits Uneasily With Some", by Elizabeth Malkin, The New York Times, Nov 12, 2012
Azerbaijan: “A Country that Portrays Social-Networkers as Mentally Ill”, by Hisham Almiraat, Global Voices, Nov 7, 2012
"The Internet is Not Free in Azerbaijan," by Emin Milli, The Independent, Nov. 6, 2012
"The Prince, the Brutal Dictator and a Friendship He Just Won't Give Up," by Tom Peck, The Independent, Nov. 1, 2012
"Prine Andrew Continues to Take a Close Interest in Azerbaijan," by Tim Walker, The Telegraph, Oct. 31, 2012
"Azerbaijan: The wrong kind of model," by Howard Eissenstat, The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2012
Azerbaijan in International Reports
May 14, 2013 - Report of Civil Rights Defenders, Sweden based international human rights organization, on Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan
April 2013 - US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights in Azerbaijan
April 3, 2013 - ICIJ Report - Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze
January 2013 - Annual Report on Human Rights Watch - Chapter on Azerbaijan
December 2012 - Freedom House - Nations in Transit - Azerbaijan Country Report
October 29, 2012 - Amnesty International Report "Azerbaijan: Human Rights Abuses Placed Under the E-Spotlight"
October 25, 2012 - "The Struggle for Internet Freedom in Azerbaijan," by Vugar Gojayev
September 27, 2012 - Report on "Local and Regional Democracy in Azerbaijan," The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe
May 24, 2012 - "Caviar Diplomacy: How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe. Part 1" - European Stability Initiative
May 9, 2012 - "Spotlight on Azerbaijan" - Foreign Policy Centre's Report on Human Rights Record of Azerbaijan
April 18, 2012 - EU Parliament's Resolution on EU-Azerbaijan Association Agreement
April 18, 2012 - EU Parliament's Resolution on EU-Armenia Association Agreement
April 2, 2012 - Sandie Shaw Calls on Azerbaijani Government to Stop Harassing Journalists - Amnesty International Report
February 29, 2012 - "They took everything from me" Human Rights Watch Report on Forcible Evictions In Azerbaijan
February 20, 2012 - The Amnesty International Briefing on Human Rights In Azerbaijan
October 4, 2011 - Norwegian Helsinki Committee's Report on Political Prisoners In Azerbaijan
September 23, 2011 - Human Rights Watch Letter to Azerbaijani Minister of Justice On Disbarred Lawyers
April 12, 2013 - IPGA Statement on Political 2012-2013 Political Persecutions in Azerbaijan
April 8, 2011 - US State Department's Human Rights Report on Azerbaijan for 2010
March 7, 2011 - Amensty International: Azerbaijan Must Halt Crackdown On Protest Organizers
February 15, 2011 - CPJ Report "Attacks on the Press 2010: Azerbaijan"
January 27, 2011 - ODIHR/OSCE Final Report on Azerbaijani Parliamentary Elections of Nov. 2010
November 8, 2010: ODIHR/OSCE Preliminary Statement on Azerbaijan's Parliamentary Elections
October 30, 2010: ODIHR/OSCE Second Interim Report on Azerbaijani Elections
October 26, 2010: HRW Report - Azerbaijan: Beaten, Blacklisted and Behind Bars
October 21, 2010: Azerbaijan: Free Expression Under Attack
September 2010 - Article 19 Report - Living As Dissidents: Freedom of Expression In Azerbaijan
September 3, 2010 - International Crisis Group Report: "Azerbaijan: Vulnerable Stability"
March 2010 - Resource Nationalism Trends In Azerbaijan - PETROSAM Program of Reasearch Council of Norway
March 11, 2010 - U.S. State Department's 2009 Report on Azerbaijan
February 24, 2010 - Global Integrity Report on Corruption in Azerbaijan
February 16, 2010 - NHC Report: "Nakhchivan: Azerbaijan's Dark Island"
OCCRP Names Aliyev "Person of the Year" - Dec. 31, 2012
"Sudden, Violent Demonstration Erupts In Northern Azerbaijan," by Karl Rahder, FPB, March 2, 2012
"Azerbaijan: Early 20th Century Satirical Magazine Offers Edgy Exploration of Eurasia," Eurasianet.org, Nov. 24, 2011
US Amb. Ross Wilson's Speech at the Atlantic Council Conference On Europian Energy - June 1, 2011
"Azerbaijan: Prominent Lawyer Disbarred, Youth Activist Arrested," by Karl Rahder, FPB, Feb. 6, 2011
"Azerbaijan Backtracks in Ukranian Organ Transplant Investigation," Eurasianet.org, Dec. 3, 2010
"More Troubles In Baku, Local Press Reports On "Magic Tree"," by Karl Rahder, FPB, June 20, 2010
"Azerbaijan Grapples With New Media Freedom," by Karl Rahder, ISN, June 7, 2010
"A Journalism (r)evolution in Azerbaijan," by Mark Briggs, Lost Remote, May 24, 2010
"IMF: The Party Is Over For Azerbaijan," by Shahin Abbasov, Eurasianet. org, May 24, 2010
"Alienating Azerbaijan?" by Karl Rahder, International Relations and Security Network, Apr. 27, 2010
"Colors and Flowers... and Soviet Spoils," by Ben Tanosborn, April 27, 2010
"The U.S. and the Persecution of Azerbaijan's Bloggers," by Joshua Kucera, trueslant.comm Nov. 11, 2009
"Story of a Father and Son," Frontline Club, Sep 28, 2009
"Hooligans?," RSF about arrested youth activists in Azerbaijan, July 11, 2009
"I Rule Here and Blind Democrats in Europe," by Ilgar Mammadov, REAL, June 27, 2009
Azerbaijan Marks Anniversary Of Its First Republic - Frontline Club, May 29, 2009
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely - by Farid Guliyev, ResetDoc.org, April 16, 2009
So Much For Azerbaijani Democracy - by Michael J. Totten, Commentary Magazine, Oct. 21, 2008
Azerbaijan: Election Day Proves A Snooze - by Mina Muradova, Eurasia Insight, Oct. 15, 2008
Finding Elmar's Killers. Azerbaijan Special Report - by Nina Ognianova, CPJ, Sep. 16, 2008
Azerbaijani Opposition Mulls Presidential Election Boycott - by Liz Fuller
Naxcivan: More Tales From Azerbaijan's North Korea
It's National Press Day in Azerbaijan, But There's Little Cause For Celebration
March 29, 2013 - Battle to Save Homes from Demolition in Baku
January 24, 2013 - Ismayilli Protests Continue
January 23, 2013 - Popular Uprising in Ismayilli
January 23, 2013 - Amazing Azerbaijan! Short Film
January 12, 2013 - Baku Protests Against Soldier Jeyhun Gubadov's Death
December 20, 2012 - British MP Helen Goodman Attacks Human Rights Record of Azerbaijan
December 19, 2012 - AZAD Forum "Azerbaijan's Untapped Potential for the West: Engaging Azerbaijani Society as a US Ally"
December 10, 2012 - Azeri Police Arrests... Government Supporter at Opposition Rally
December 10, 2012 - Public Chamber's Protest Action in Downtown Baku
October 20, 2012 - Opposition Protesters Demand Dissolution of Azerbaijani Parliament
October 1, 2012 - Million Dollar Bribe for a Parliamentary Seat: Secret Cam Recording with English Subtitles
September 21, 2012 - Interview With the US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on Azeri Minority in Iran
July 4, 2012 - Al Jazeera Interview with Khadija Ismayilova
Photo Essay on Heydar Aliyev's Cult of Personality in Azerbaijan - February 19, 2013
Popular Uprising in Ismayilli - January 23, 2013
Public Chamber's Rally - April 22, 2012
Youth Protest Rally in Bayil - March 12, 2012
Anti-French Protests In Baku - January 25, 2012
Youth Protests in Downtown Baku - December 3, 2011
Rally of the Public Chamber of the Azeri Opposition - June 19, 2011
Azeri Diaspora Rallies For Demoracy In Stockholm, Sweden - June 18, 2011
Public Champer Marks the Republic Day - May 28, 2011
April 17 Rally of Azeri Opposition - April 17, 2011
Azeri Diaspora Rallies For Democracy in Den Haag - April 6, 2011
Azeri Diaspora Rallies For Democracy in Strasbourg - April 2, 2011
Rally of Azerbaijani Democratic Forces - April 2, 2011
Free Azerbaijan Rally of AZAD - March 19, 2011
Musavat Rally Against Aliyev Regime - March 12, 2011
Youth Protests Against Aliyev Regime - March 11, 2011
Democratic Forces of Azerbaijan Commemorated M.A. Rasulzade - January 31, 2011
Hijab Protest In Nardaran - December 18, 2010
Parliamentary Elections In Azerbaijan - November 7, 2010
Azeri Diaspora In Netherlands Protested Against Ilham Aliyev's Regime - November 5, 2010
PFPA and Musavat's Joint Rally In Baku - July 31, 2010
Azeri Opposition's Protest Action In Baku - July 3, 2010
Azadlig Bloc Held "Unauthorized" Rally In Baku - June 19, 2010
Musavat and Union for Democracy Held "Unauthorized" Rally In Baku - June 12, 2010
Azadlig Bloc's "Unauthorized" Rally In Baku - June 5, 2010
International Act of Protest for Eynulla Fatullayev In Front of Azeri Embassy - June 3, 2010
Azadlig Bloc's Rally In Novkhani - May 28, 2010
Protest of Azadlig Bloc in Baku - May 15, 2010
Protest of Azadlig bloc in Baku - April 26, 2010
Surprise Youth Protest Action in Baku - Nov. 22, 2009
U.S. Azeris Commemorate Oil Academy Shooting Victims - May 10, 2009
Student Protests In Baku - May 10, 2009
Mirza Sakit Released From Jail - April 9, 2009
Azeris Marked Khojali Massacre In Front of Armenian Embassy - February 25, 2009
AZAD Holds Protest Rally In New York Against Unlimited Presidency in Azebaijan - January 9, 2009
AZAD Holds Protest Rally in Washington DC Against Unlimited Presidency in Azerbaijan - Dec. 30, 2008
Protests Against Constitutional Changes in Azerbaijan - Dec. 24, 2008
Ganja Celebrates Ilham Aliyev's Birthday - Dec. 24, 2008
Jailed Azeri Journalists, Brothers Ganimat and Sakit Zahidov at Their Fathers Funeral
Sacrifice Holiday in Azerbaijan - December 8, 2008
Military Parade in Baku - June 26, 2008