My heart was racing. I was standing at the passport control at Haydar Aliyev International Airport. I was nervous. After being called a traitor, an agent and many other negative things by our beloved media, it was my first time home since my last visit to Baku in December of last year. I was nervous and millions of unpleasant thoughts for pacing through my mind.
Few minutes down the waiting line, a woman in crispy uniform with a pretty smile said "Welcome home!" and stamped my passport. I was smiling too. Now when I think of that moment, I can feel the heavy weight lifting off my shoulders.
I was excited to be back.
But Baku didn't change. Apart from new constructions, a bit of usual glitz here and there everything was the same. The sad and stern looks on people's faces were everywhere- on the streets, on public transportation. The daily concerns did not disappear as quickly and as easy as some parts of old Baku destroyed for new construction projects and other mind blowing changes planned for the new Baku.
And though this may sound too dramatic, it felt like I was back in a country that had no future. Yes, and you might not agree with it. You don't have to agree with it. But, we, the citizens of Azerbaijan have no future because our future is being taken away from us. The life, the standards, the country we could possibly have one day, remains a distant dream, hidden inside of people like Bakthiyar Hajiyev who is still serving his unjustly given sentence in prison.
I thought of the people sitting behind their desks up there watching their Baku and ours, taken apart piece by piece, people forced to misery- all aware of where we have come. Surely, these officials are also aware that no matter how many new buildings they construct, or facades build, they will never cover the reality- poor health care, deteriorating education, non- existent social care and most importantly human relations (you might say how is that relevant, but it is. If you suffocate people so much, no one is going to care about others, its all going to become one big survival of the fittest struggle, if not it has already become so).
New Baku looks nice, but who is it for? You can "renovate" as many schools as you want, as many hospitals as you want, but if those who work there hold on to their old habits, all of this "beautification" is pointless. If young men on the metro don't know how to behave, if people litter the streets, if no one respects a line in front of an ATM machine- then none of them are going to understand the new Baku. They simply don't care! And why would they- if they struggle with their daily lives, if they need to take care of sick parents, if they need to pay a bribe at their local school or university...
Its just sad. Seeing how much is wasted, the potential human resources, and most importantly the potential future we might have. Its recklessly going away as if we are eternal, as if what have is infinite. We all are going to leave this world one day, but its the next generations who are going to stay behind and struggle with what we are leaving behind.
Albert Camus once said "by definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more". Today Azerbaijani government has a policy- arrest, silence, forget, bribe, renew, rebuilt and don't look back. The question is, what policy will it have tomorrow?