Is Azerbaijan still a democracy? Does anybody care?

Is Azerbaijan still a democracy? Does anybody care?

In recent years the Caucasian republic of Azerbaijan, independent since 1991, has experienced rapid economic change. With oil and gas revenues skyrocketing, its capital Baku is in the grips of a feverish construction boom. The new oil rigs, the sources of the country's wealth, pump oil from the Caspian seabed. Since May 2006 this oil is then transported via a 1,776 km new pipeline, the second-longest in the world, onwards to the Turkish Mediterranean coast and to global markets. For educated young Azerbaijanis the recent boom created many opportunities. Born in a communist empire that has since ceased to exist, having come of age during a tumultuous transition, they are now able to take advantage of new possibilities to study abroad and to reap the rewards – jobs at international organisations, multinational companies or Azerbaijani institutions – after returning home.

Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, two young Azerbaijani activists, sentenced to prison on charges of hooliganism in a show trial in 2009, are members of this generation. Adnan studied in the US and later found a job with British Petroleum, the largest international investor in the Azerbaijani energy sector. Emin studied law in Germany and returned to Baku to work for various international organisations. Unable, like many others, to set aside their concerns about the increasing authoritarianism that they found at home, they became democracy activists. Instead of closing their eyes to the inequities of Azerbaijan's new gilded age they started to worry about the democratic gap between their country and the Western world. As Emin put it in a presentation at Columbia University in 2009, while corruption was permeating all spheres of public life Azerbaijan was facing the consolidation of an authoritarian regime: "The regime expands and strengthens its repressive apparatus to intimidate opposition forces and to prevent the formation of independent social groups." A few months later he and Adnan were arrested. Read more …

Introduction – A Caspian Democracy   Losing its soul – How the Council of Europe is failing in Azerbaijan
     
A judicial Farce
Generation Facebook on trial
  Places
The country Heydar Aliyev built
     
Oil and Democracy under Ilham Aliyev
Oil and Democracy under Ilham Aliyev
  Baku's dissidents
Baku dissidents
     
Recommended reading   Azerbaijan online resources
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