Friday, May 29


When, on May 10th, a large group of youth activists was arrested because of carrying flowers, wearing black as well as protesting the celebration of the Flower Day (and the President's birthday), the reasoning behind the arrests was that one cannot do this- taking flowers to a university where 10 days ago 13 people were killed- on the day of the President's birthday- as if this was any good of an explanation?!

So what was the reasoning behind the arrests that took place yesterday, during the celebration of 91st anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic? Oh, wait a sec, I think I know the answer already- one cannot wear t-shirts with A.D.R. (Azerbaijan Democratic Republic) Initials on the day of the Republic's anniversary?! Because its against allowed fashion for that day?!

Whatever the reasoning (actually, now that I think about it, its too big of a word to use for our police or whoever stands behind this puppet show, but not to ruin the esthetics of this post, I will stick to the original word) I go back to my older post from May 11, titled "Things you can't do in this country" adding few more points to the list: 
- you can't wear t-shirts with the Republic's initials;
- I guess you can't express your festive feelings even while celebrating the anniversary of you country;

Tuesday, May 26

Periodic table- a new way to learning and teaching?

Having been focused so much on politics and what was going on in Azerbaijan over the last few months, I have forgotten how entertaining it could actually be to write about other things apart from politics and in a way get my mind off things.

Earlier today, during the usual morning procedure of checking e-mails, news, and facebook updates, I came across this video: that was posted by a friend. I decided to see if there more of these but turns out this short animation was done by Christopher Hendryx's, recent graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design. You can check his personal website and blog:

"Oxygen" was Christopher's thesis for the Computer Animation program at his school. It tells a story of little "oxygen" who goes to "Element-ary" school where he is trying to make friends during the recess with other "elements". The narrative is centered around the chemical reaction between Oxygen and other elements in the periodic table. 

I think this is a great way to educate kids in school. It makes chemistry more fun and learning periodic table so much easier.  

Hope there will be more of these to come, in fact, maybe it should be sent as promo video to ministries of education in English speaking countries. One of them bound to pick it up. Maybe someone could translate into Azerbaijani and Russian for our schools as well? 

Anyway, hope everyone enjoys this video.

Tuesday, May 12

Was it really worth it?

These are just a few videos of the tragic events that took place on April 30th at Azerbaijan State Oil Academy.

Below are photos I took myself 10 days later from the celebrations of late Presidents' birthday. 
No mourning was declared and the celebrations took place as planned. Among those who were killed, was a new bride, married just two weeks prior to the shootings. She went to work as she did on her usual day, an hour later her mother received a phone call that her daughter was dead.

I am not a judge but how right it was to have the celebrations- the visit to Haydar Aliyev park that day was followed by a concert at the boulevard, and fireworks later in the evening. Was this how the state paid its respect for those who were killed in the shooting or a simple message that it didn't care?! Judge it yourself!

Detailed account of the events on May 10th and prior

Friday- Saturday (8- 9th of May): 5 people arrested, mostly leaders of youth movements- Musavat and AXCP. All received 3 to 10 days of imprisonment on the grounds of resisting local police forces ("polise mugavimet"). Among detained was the leader of AXCP youth movement Ebulfaz Qurbanov as well as the leader of Musavat youth movement, Tural Abbasov.

Sunday (10th of May): the total number of those arrested reached 76 people.
The following is the break down of the those arrested:

Police station no. 39: 36 people arrested.

Police station no. 22: 16 people arrested (including Eming Milli, Rashad Shirin, Nigar Fatali, and director of National Democratic Institute Arjen de Wolf). A lot of people showed up outside of this police station from LiveJournal, including Shahin101.

Police station no. 9: 24 people (including the leader of Democratic Reforms Party's youth movement, Ramin Hacili).

What happened?
  • Throughout the day large number of people was coming to the State Oil Academy, leaving flowers with the guards and going to the boulevard all dressed in black. They weren't detained as these were mostly small groups (3- 4) of people;
  • Around 10- 12 female students were walking on the boulevard all dressed in black with black head covers were detained and brought to the police station no. 39. When they were released, people outside of the station greeted them with applause;
  • 7 female students all dressed in black gathered around the statue of C.Cabbarli and were planning to head to the State Oil Academy to leave some flowers- were arrested and taken to the police station no. 22;
  • Emin Milli, blogger Arzu Geybullayeva, blogger Ali Novruzov, and other active members from the Alumni Network, as well as authors on LiveJournal (in total 16 people) were sitting on the stairs of Music Academy. When they decided to go to the State Oil Academy, most were arrested and taken to the police station no. 22;
  • Around 20 people, mostly girls were walking around one of the metro stations with black ribbons covering their mouths;
  • After misinforming local police on the place of protest, around 100 students- some students of the Oil Academy, some members of several youth movements gathered at the newly renovated Sahil Park, where they carried out their protest- whistling. As a result police surrounded them. There were approximately four police officers to one student. They took all those they managed to catch to the police station no. 39;
  • In front of McDonalds downtown, a band was performing, there were a lot of people around. Suddenly around 300 small cards saying "HAMI GUL BAYRAMINA" (Everyone to the slave holiday- the word "GUL" here is carrying an ironic dual meaning- gül- means flower but if you write "gul" then the meaning changes completely- slave) came from the air- no one knows who did this and from where. Everyone was surprised;
  • During the evening concert held as part of the celebrations around 30 students turned their backs at 9.30 (the time when the oil academy was attacked) and after standing like that for about a minute, they all left as a sign of protest;
  • 4 members of Dalga youth movement were arrested when they were sitting on a bench, eating ice cream;
  • The last detained were released at around 23.00 in the evening.  
This information was provided by Adnan Hajizada, member of OL! youth movement.

Monday, May 11

"We need this!" says military officer during the celebrations yesterday

The above video though in Azerbaijani is only one of several video clips posted yesterday and this morning about the events on May 10th.

This one is my favorite as it shows random citizens interviewed who said very positive things about the country, how much care the Azerbaijani government has given to making the capital so pretty, and etc. 

On the other hand it has clips about youth activists who were detained yesterday for simply walking on the street, holding flowers and wearing black.

In the beginning of the video, Emin Milli tries to call out on all internet users to share this video with as many people as possible, to show the reluctance of Azerbaijani government to the tragic events that took place on April 30th at the State Oil Academy. 

A woman talking next looked completely unaware of what had happened and said she was happy that this holiday was taking place. Just as another woman interviewed with her grand daughter. Who proudly mentioned the fact that she was a member of New Azerbaijan Party (Aliyev's party). Then comes the officer, who says that "we need this...its the birthday of our all- nation leader!".

Then there are clips of people who were detained and those waiting outside of the police station number 22 giving an account of how things developed. 

Good job Ol! Well- done!

Things you can't do in this country (the list is longer I just included only few)

- You can't wear black;
- You can't mourn when the state doesn't allow you to;
- You can't walk in groups because police will arrest you;
- You can't speak freely;
- Azerbaijani police are bunch of thugs;
- You cannot do anything on the day of the President's birthday- no mourning, no protesting, no nothing.
For those who speak Azeri below it the link of several video clips from yesterday by OL youth movement:
"They couldn't even explain why they detained me" said Emin Milli, one of the arrested youth activists yesterday. 

"We were trying to get to the oil academy an leave the flowers on the steps when we were caught by the police who told us we can't do this on a day like this- President's birthday celebration" said another detained youth activist upon her release to OL! (the interviews available in Azeri can be viewed at the link listed above)
What I am curious about is that when the late president passed away, there were people visiting the cemetery even at night, he was on TV all the time, songs were written in his name. So there is (or was) tradition of mourning in our country. Then why, when 13 (not just one) students died at the university nothing was done?! Just because they weren't presidents? Or their death wasn't as important as that of the president? I guess I already know the answers for both of these questions, but what a disappointment and a let down once again...

Sunday, May 10

Our glorious nation

Today, Azerbaijan was celebrating 86th birthday of its late president (father, leader and all the other glorified names people call him around here) Heydar Aliyev. But it wasn't just a simple birthday celebration- it was the Flower Day!

If this was held on any other day it would have been fine (not that I would have gone to the celebrations anyway) but today, only 10 days later after what happened at the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, people who came to the event (and there were a lot of them), the atmosphere seemed more festive, as if nothing happened.

Below is a brief story of what happened today:

I left my house around noon, heading to the Haydar Aliyev Park, where the so- called celebrations were to be held. As I arrived I saw hundreds if not thousands of people entering the park to see expensive flowers brought from Africa for this special occasion (it is said that 15 million manats were spent for this occasion). But it wasn't a simple celebration. There was police everywhere- civilian and in uniforms. They carefully guarded the part all around so as not to let any provocateurs inside to spoil the event. They knew that students and young activists might be having small- scale protests. They were afraid.

It seemed peaceful, people seemed happy, kids running around, parents eating round pastries sold on the street next to the park. 

But not everyone was happy. A group of 15- 20 young people were sitting on the stairs opposite to the park by the State Music Academy, holding carnations in their hands and observing the crowd. At about 2 in the afternoon we decided to start walking towards the State Oil Academy to leave carnations on the steps of the building and then go home as a sign of regret for what was going on. But no, nothing can be simple in this country.

Immediately after we got up, a group of civilian dressed police (or thugs) saw us getting on our feet- there was a lot of talking on the phone and most probably some sort of chain of command going around. As we took the side steps, I saw myself, how one big fat general on the phone, pointing the other civilian dressed fat thug at us. Literally in seconds there were other officers around them looking at us. We crossed the street and as soon as we did, the big fat civilian dressed guy with his phone (perhaps it was a walkie- talkie) came chasing after us. We only took few more steps that when I turned around I saw that same guy shouting at the smaller thugs around him to take all of us in. "Hamsini gotu run" ("take all of them") he said in his loud Azeri voice, there were already police cars by the place where we were standing and lots of civilian dressed men around my friends assisting them to their cars. 

Among those taken in were another bloger Ali Novruzov, creators of AN Network Rashad Shirin, Emin Milli, Nigar Fatali, and Arjen de Wolf (head of NDI)- who was there actually to observe- and a number of other yout
h activists.

We weren't protesting out loud, we were peacefully walking on the street, heads down, talking. I guess that is also a crime or some version of hooliganism as our police forces liked to call it. And the only reason why didn't catch us at first was because they weren't sure how many we were exactly, the tactic was to make sure we were a small group, otherwise it would have been harder.

But the worst thing was when the thugs grabbed a 15 year old girl who
 was standing at the bus stop in the vicinity where all of this occurred. She was crying when she was forced to get into the car but the fat guy on the phone kept on shouting at her and forced her to get into the car.

I am amazed how I wasn't detained. I was miraculously saved simply by standing two meters away from where all of this was going on and taking photos.

The aftermath:

As soon as police cars took off, the fat guy (he seemed like the guy in charge of the "operation") started shouting at other people who were passing by. "Dagilin" ("spread out") he was saying with an angry voice and waving with his wobbly hands. 

After learning where everyone has been taken we all went to the police station. It was number 22.

At first they told us that our friends will be released in 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes turned into long 4 hours. Just as our friends weren't told why they were detained, so were we, standing outside of the police station, not knowing the reason behind their arrest.

The first person to come out was that 15 year old girl. She was detained for wearing black clothes. Obviously our police also didn't know what a word "punk" is either. She was crying as soon as she came out and told Radio Azadliq reporters who were with us since the beginning of the whole thing that she had nothing to do with the protest, she was only waiting for the bus.

Then came Arjen, Rashad, and Nigar. Arjen was the hero of the day as he was called out but he refused, saying that he wont leave.

Then came two girls, also dressed in black. They said they were forced to sign a document as they were leaving, a written apology for their actions. Who was supposed to ask for forgiveness from whom I guess is also dubious in this case! The girls faked their signatures and said they didn't do an apology. Then came the others though not all at the same time- one by one or few people at a time. 

There was no violence inside of the detainment rooms though the officers were rude from what my friends inside told me. They also kept all their mobile phones with them, that was how we kept in touch with them. 

The worst detainment was taking place at the police station number 39. There were around 30 people (even more) detained there, beaten for sure since the station had to call in a doctor who refused to say anything as he left the station to the journalists waiting outside. They were arrested at another park where students were protesting for the celebrations.

By around 6 in the evening everyone was released. I guess they simply wanted to keep us away from the main area and not ruin the day. 

I would like to thank Radio Azadliq, Joanna Ganson from US Embassy and everyone else who came with us or joined us later in front of the police station, (in)patiently waiting for our friends to be released.

I am deeply saddened by what happened today. Not only it was ridiculous and stupid but also it proved once again that our government is relentless when it comes to human rights and freedom of speech. It also proved that no matter what our government is willing to do whatever it takes! Today, I truly hated the fact that I am a citizen of this country! Right now they are doing fireworks on boulevard! 

Saturday, May 9

In fear of what might happen

Last night five youth members of opposition parties were arrested on the premises of hooliganism- opposing fellow police officers that were there to arrest them. These are only the few of the youth demanding national mourning day for the tragic events at the State Oil Academy on April 30th and cancellation of the flower day on May 10th (tomorrow).

Each of the arrested boys were given a sentence- from 3 to 10 days of imprisonment. For further information on the names please see the following link (in Azerbaijani):

It seems like all the plans for celebration are underway- passing by the park around midnight the night before I saw people working at the park, preparing for the celebrations. 15 mn manats were spent for this day but only 30,000 manats given to the families who lost their children in the shooting at the State Oil Academy.

Friday, May 8

The tragedy...

30th of April, I am in Istanbul, heading to work, seems like just a normal day, the weather is finally sunny. But everything changes once I arrive to my office, a colleague tells me if I have heard what happened at one of the Baku's Universities- hurriyet (Turkish newspaper) had already published the news. I turn on my computer and check the news- 22 students died (the actual number was 13 according to the latest news that day) in tragic shootings at Azerbaijan's Oil Academy. First comes the shock, then comes sadness, followed by anger. 

I frantically check the news every 15 minutes- nothing much, still the same, x number of people dead, x number of people wounded. I check my Facebook, news are everywhere- all my friends' upload the latest numbers.

More shock and sadness followed by anger.

Then comes the video uploaded online- students carrying their fellow friends covered in blood, lying on the stairs and waiting for the ambulance to pass by. Seems like chaos, people everywhere- shouting, screaming, crying. And the aftermath- stairs by the entrance to the main building have blood stains all over them.

But still no precise news about the perpetrators, the reason behind the shooting and the true story. The next day I receive an e-mail with a link to a blog (, where the author tells his version of the shootings- completely different from that of the official one. More sadness and anger building up. Why there are no explanations? Was is it really a simple act of hooliganism or well thought through plan to murder innocent students? And why even that? To anger the government? A pay back? 

And while, we are still all saddened by the tragic events of what happened on 30th of April, our government is preparing to celebrate the "flower day" coinciding with late President- Haydar Aliyev- birthday. Is it just? Can you hold celebrations after what happened? I thought funerals and mourning was part of Azerbaijani culture- 40 days. But maybe I am wrong? Or maybe the government thinks that paying 30,000 manats to the families who have lost their children and 15.000 manats to the families whose children are still in hospitals in intensive care will erase the pain? Surely no one from these families will be at Haydar Aliyev's park on May 10th to see thousands or possibly millions worth of flowers bought for this special occasion! 

2,000 students marched after what happened in protest to declare national mourning day and to cancel the celebrations but nothing happened. The other day, students of Baku Slavic University boycotted Misir Mardanov- Minister of Education as well as the director of the university for not taking care of the security in universities and making sure that students were safe. Angering both, the director promised to find those responsible for the act and punish them! Really? Is that what you do when your students demand security? Especially after seeing negative reaction from both the university director and the minister himself?! 

But I guess everyone has their own priorities... 

I will be going on Sunday to witness the festive atmosphere myself and once again assure myself that our government is nothing more than a self- indulgent state. 

Thursday, May 7

"West should withdraw support for regime in Baku"

By Bart Woord

"(This is the English translation of the extended version of the article that was published today in NRC Handelsblad - the published one is about 800 words, the one below is I think over a 1000. Its not a very good or precise translation but the best I can do for the moment)

On the 7th of May the Eastern Partnership will be signed by the EU and 6 of her eastern neighbors. In the run-up a lot of attention has been devoted to the situation of human rights and democracy in Belarus. Oddly enough the situation in Azerbaijan is being ignored, whereas it should be just as much of concern, if not more.

Of the three Southern Caucasian republics, Azerbaijan is least known among the European public. It is at the crossroads of Russian, Persian and Turkish civilizations and has been dominated, both politically and culturally, by Russia since the start of the 19th century until the end of the 20th. Baku, the capital, was the center of 19th century petrochemical industry and the Nobel brothers as well as the Rothschildt family set up businesses in this swiftly westernizing city. Baku hence still feels very European, both in terms of construction style as well as living style.

The short lived Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920) was the first Islamic country that implemented full (women) suffrage, remarkably earlier than many Western countries. At the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties the Azerbaijani independence movement was one of the most strident of all within the Soviet Union and was at the base of the final disintegration of the communist bloc. Especially in the first part of the nineties, Azerbaijan was characterized by a dynamic democratization and a pluriform society, with partly fraudulent but still heavily fought elections.

Unfortunately there is very little to be seen back from that emerging democracy that Azerbaijan promised to become in the nineties. Freedom House marked the country as partly free until 2003, but since then it has been part of the non-free countries. The current dictator, Ilham Aliev, has continued the work of his father, the late leader until his death in 2003, in an all too effective manner and marginalized the opposition by intimidation, bribing and incarceration. Critical journalists are beaten up and students who bring attention to corruption at their universities are kicked out. The remaining media is of a depressing state, as became painfully clear at the recent, and for Azerbaijani standards absolutely unique, shooting attack in Baku where 13 students were murdered. News could only be gathered via Turkish and Russian TV and for those able via some new media, whereas the national media only brought the issue to light a couple of hours later.

Western governments have been closing their eyes for the deteriorating state of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan for years. Belarus has opportunistically been dubbed the last dictatorship of Europe whereas Azerbaijan as member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE is just as much part of Europe and the government is just as notorious, if not more. During the scarce moments of honesty, Western representatives speak of this discrepancy as resulting from geopolitical considerations, meaning that good relations with the Azerbaijani government are that important for Western interests that human rights issues should be ignored. These considerations come down to the geographical position of Azerbaijan in the middle of Iran and Russia, as well as the role of Azerbaijan as an important alternative oil and gas provider for Russia.

Such opportunistic reasoning obviously turns Western human rights policy into a caricature. What might actually be even more problematic is the fact that such so-called realism testifies a shortsighted understanding of Western interests vis-a-vis Azerbaijan and that this could have disastrous effects already on the short term.

First, only a democratic Azerbaijan is a genuine alternative for Russian energy. The ties between the current Russian and Azerbaijani political elites are just as warm as they were in the past, politically, economically as well as personally. In the case of a further deterioration in the relations between Europa and Russia it will be unlikely that the authoritarian Azerbaijan will drop their Russian colleague. The renown Nabucco tap can be closed in a jiffy after a single call from the Kremlin.

Secondly, the close association of the West with the current regime has led to a sharp decline in the reputation of the West in Azerbaijan as a supporter of democracy. The remaining opposition is still very bitter over the lack of support after the fraudulent presidential elections in 2003, when the West withheld its support for the opposition whereas it did the opposite in similar situations in Georgia and Ukraine. In an environment with lots of dissatisfied youth, and in which the big southern neighbor is Iran, alternative associations are easily found. It is a public secret that radical muslim sects from Iran and the Arabian peninsula are actively promulgating.

Azerbaijan still has the potential to turn into a pluriform, stable democracy, which can be built on top of earlier, autonomous democratic traditions and institutions and hence does not need to be started from scratch. It is time that the West will be taking her own interests seriously and extends her explicit support to the few remaining democratic forces that remain in Azerbaijan, before it is too late."

Tuesday, May 5

"Moral Choice in Azerbaijan: “Flowers for Great Leader” or “National Mourning Day”?"

Moral Choice in Azerbaijan: “Flowers for Great Leader” or “National Mourning Day”?
By Emin Milli (Baku, Azerbaijan)
More than 2,000 students defied an unofficial ban on rallies in the city center of Baku on May 1 and gathered near the assaulted university with slogans “No to Terror!”, “No to Corruption!”, and “Declare National Mourning Day!”. Students are shocked with the terror act in the Oil Academy of Azerbaijan which destroyed lives of innocent students and teachers. The students said that if their demands are not met and mourning is not announced, they will gather to another mass demonstration on May 10. May 10 is the birthday of Azerbaijan’s late president Heydar Aliyev (father of the current president) and the government plans to celebrate a "Holiday of Flowers" on this day under the open air and near the same place. Government is refusing to declare mourning day and instead celebrates birthday of "savior of the nation" with the "Holiday of Flowers".
Is this humiliation ? Is this ignorance? Is this arrogance? Is this Ddsrespect of entire nation? Here is the video of the rally (on May 1):
Here are the pictures:
(If you can not open page on facebook, then have a look at photos in attachment)
Fifteen million manats will be spent just in one day in times of financial crisis for flowers to glorify “the greatest leader of all times”. For comparison the government is planning to spend this year only 10 million manats to send students to study abroad.
Regime in Azerbaijan is on the road to its destiny. It reminds me of all the mistakes and mismanagement of the "safest political regimes" like those mentioned in the “State of Africa” book written by Martin Meredith: ,
May 10 will be another important moral choice for citizens of Azerbaijan and its current leadership. What will we choose?
(Feel free to send to everyone in your list and put it on blogs)