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…

Ilham Aliev: “We are not a post Soviet country”.

President Ilham Aliev addressing a meeting of the cabinet of Ministers in Baku on 15 January 2013.

President Ilham Aliev addressing a meeting of the cabinet of Ministers in Baku on 15 January 2013.

Azerbaijan has become the latest country to shed off its “post-soviet label”. The term long frowned upon by the Baltic states and Georgia amongst others, is often used to describe those countries that emerged from the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, who later this year will seek re-election for the third term, told a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers that Azerbaijan had made great achievements in the economic field and in the sphere of international diplomacy. the President said that next month the country will also launch its first telecommunications satellite into orbit. Aliev said, “ Azerbaijan is becoming a space-faring nation, we are developing a space industry. a few years ago it was hard to imagine that there would come a time when Azerbaijan would become a space-faring nation. But that time is coming, and in the next few days we will celebrate this historic event. this, in itself, is a great achievement in every sense – for the prestige of the country, for its modernization and for the development of new technologies. It is also beneficial for business, because it is an economically viable project.

But most importantly, it demonstrates the development and intentions of our country. It demonstrates our overall outlook and policy because we are building a modern and strong state. We have long gone beyond regional boundaries. We have long left in the past the notion of a post-Soviet country. We are not a post-Soviet country. Sometimes in meetings with foreign partners the phrase “post-Soviet country” is used. I say to them, “Wait. Azerbaijan is not a post-Soviet country. Perhaps some countries are post-Soviet, but we are not. We are the independent state of Azerbaijan.” More…

Azerbaijani Political activism searches for ways of expression.

baku protest 2Political activism in Azerbaijan continues to search for ways of expressing itself in an environment that whilst not being totalitarian, leaves little space for the expression of dissent.

For many years street protests were the way that Azerbaijanis vented their political opinions. But opportunities for that have become increasingly limited, with the government restricting public demonstrations, and banning them completely from the centre of the capital, Baku.

Despite technical and financial problems, several anti-government newspapers continue to publish. Journalists report harassment of all forms, especially when reporting on corruption, but many remain undeterred.

In recent years many young activists have taken to cyberspace, where many young activists now blog regularly in Azerbaijani, English Russian and other languages, connecting not only with their own compatriots at home and abroad, but also internationally. The government has by and large tried to ignore this phenomena, using positive methods to counter it, largely by strengthening its own on-line presence.

Youth groups have become increasingly active and increasingly artistic in their methods. Increasing international attention has made the Azerbaijani government more sensitive to the way it handles dissent, and there are some signs that “soft policing” may be more in fashion now. Both sides however are testing the water. More…

2012: DEMOCRACY IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS – TIME TO BE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC.

cew collageIn an end of year essay on the state of play in the South Caucasus, long time regional analyst Dennis Sammut says that democrats in the South Caucasus, and their friends, need not be ecstatic about the achievements of 2012. But they can allow themselves a moment of optimism and satisfaction.

Fragile gains give hope

There has not been a single revolution. The three Presidents who held office at the beginning of the year were still sitting in their palaces as the year end approached. Yet in many respects 2012 has been an unprecedented and momentous year for the countries of the South Caucasus and one that is bound to leave its mark on the future politics of the region.

By and large democracy has won. An opposition party thrashed the ruling party in parliamentary  elections in Georgia. Parliamentary elections in Armenia were deemed better than previous ones and five political forces gained seats in the new National Assembly, and in Azerbaijan pro-democracy activists carved a larger space for their activity through clever use of new media, whilst a much predicted post Eurovision crack-down on dissent failed to materialise.

The fragile gains of 2012 give hope that the region has turned the corner in its efforts towards democratic state-building, but democracy is far from secure. There remains a serious democratic deficit and none of this year’s gains are as yet consolidated, so they can easily be swept away. But for once, it does no harm to be optimistic. 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…