Azerbaijan: Oh so modern!

Books of Akram Ayisli being burnt in the city of Ganja.

Books of Akram Ayisli being burnt in the city of Ganja.

Azerbaijan chose the week in which it launched its first communication satellite into space to crack down on a writer who dared challenge the official narrative of history and relations with Armenia. Observers could not fail to notice the irony that whilst the space launch was being hailed as an example of Azerbaijan’s success as a modern state the burning of the books of Akram Ayisli and threats by a pro government politician to put up a prize for the author’s ears, sounded more like medieval acts of intolerance. Akram Aylisli was last week officially stripped of his “People’s Writer” title and his presidentially awarded pension. He was also expelled from the Union of Azerbaijani Writers. The actions were taken because of Aylisli’s novel “Stone Dreams,” published in a popular Russian magazine last year. It focuses on clashes between Azerbaijanis and Armenians in Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s and challenges stereotypical characterisations that have been part of the official narrative of events. “Spontaneous” public protests against Aylisli and rituals in which Ayisli’s books were burned have now been followed by a bizarre offer by a pro government politician to pay a prize of 10,000 manats (around US$12,700) for the ear of Ayisli. Aysili is now saying he is considering leaving the country because he is afraid for his life.

source: CEW staff

Prominent activist arrested in Azerbaijan.

Prominent Azerbaijani activist, Ilgar Mammedov was arrested in Baku on Monday, (4 February) and charged  with instigating unrest in the town of Ismaili. During several days of rioting in Ismaili in January a hotel and several cars were burnt by angry crowds protesting against corruption by local officials.

Ilgar Mammedov is Chairman of the Real Alternative, Movement for Social Change.

It is not yet clear how Mammedov has been implicated in the affair. Ilgar Mammedov is a well known activist, considered cautious and considerate in his criticism. Writing on her facebook page, prominent female activist Khadija Ismailova said that “his arrest is a signal to those who think there is a safe way of doing opposition politics. There is no safe way.”

The arrest of Mammedov is considered as a sign that the Azerbaijani government is upping the stakes in its “cat and mouse” game with opposition forces ahead of presidential elections in October.

Source: CEW Staff

Azerbaijan: testing the boundaries of the political space.

Five young activists were jailed on 26 January for protesting peacefully in the centre of Baku.

Five young activists were jailed on 26 January for protesting peacefully in the centre of Baku.

Azerbaijan imprisoned five young activists over the weekend and heavily fined several dozen others, after they participated in an unsanctioned public protest in the centre of Baku on Saturday, (26 January 2013).

Those arrested included the well-known blogger and dissident Emin Milli who a few years ago was imprisoned for seventeen months on trumped up charges of hooliganism, who was sentenced for fifteen days. Abdulfaz Gurbanli, Rufat Abdullaev, Turkal Azerturk and Tuncal Guliyev were sentenced for thirteen days each. Several other protestors were given heavy fines. They were part of a crowd of several hundred that converged on Baku’s Fountain Square in solidarity with protests that had been held in previous days in the town of Ismaili, 150 kilometers northwest of Baku. More…

Skeletons fall out of Saakashvili’s cupboard. Prosecutor General says there is worse to come.

President Saakashvili denied all knowledge of the affair and proposed a new law to protect citizen's privacy.

President Saakashvili denied all knowledge of the affair and proposed a new law to protect citizen’s privacy.

Just when the memories of the prisoner abuse scandal in Georgia had started to fade, another scandal involving gross abuse of power of the Georgian government led by President Mikheil Saakashvili, defeated in the 1 october 2012 elections has emerged.

The scandal involves the activity of a unit within the Military Police Department of the Georgian Ministry of  Defence which was tasked with the entrapment of gay public personalities, who were lured into sexual activity, filmed and then blackmailed. Prosecutors say that senior members of the former government working in the Ministry of Defence were involved in the operation. The former Defense Ministry officials, prosecutors charge, extorted money from their victims and coerced them into cooperating with the secret services. In some cases, this allegedly involved voicing public support for Saakashvili and the government his party controlled. More…

Azerbaijani Government is committed to full internet freedom says senior official.

Elnur Aslanov

“Azerbaijan’s principled and consistent position is to create all conditions to fully ensure freedom of the Internet”, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Political Analysis and Information Provision Department Head, Elnur Aslanov said. He was commenting on European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes’s statement on control over the internet and electronic media in Azerbaijan and restrictions on their dissemination. (see report in CEW, 20 November 2012.) More…

Is online activism an alternative to street action? 1

The President of Azerbaijan has signed into law amendments that will steeply hike the penalties for unsanctioned public gatherings. Marion Kipiani talks to experts and activists as they ponder online activism as a possible alternative to street action.

The amendments to the law “On freedom of assembly”, to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences were passed by the parliament on 2 November and will come into force at the beginning of 2013. The legal changes mean that the fines for participating in an unsanctioned rally will be increased from the current seven to thirteen manat (approximately the equivalent in Euros) to a hefty 500 to 1,000 manat. (The average monthly salary in Azerbaijan currently stands at just under 400 manat, as eurasianet.org reports). Those who will be charged with organising such unsanctioned gatherings may face fines of up to 3,000 manat – and up to twice that amount, if they hold a formal position such as the leadership of a political party. More…