Friday, December 7

Azerbaijan's syndrome of "positive developments" vs. negative reality

"Lets also look at the positive developments. Not everything is so bad in Azerbaijan". I have been hearing these words over and over again and especially more so lately. For obvious reasons, proponents of the Azerbaijani government dislike anyone who voices criticism when it comes to the situation with the human rights, freedom of press, social services, and pretty much everything that concerns average Azerbaijani citizens. And these are the magic words of "wisdom".

But lets be real here. What I am about to say kind of goes back to the post I wrote yesterday about what Roland Kobia, the head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said about the President and the upcoming elections- "he has done a good job". Yea, well, I hate to disappoint but he hasn't really. And here is why. 

Yesterday, I spoke at the European Parliament, on the present day of Azerbaijani political plurality, freedom of expression, women rights and more. While much of my focus was on the situation from a perspective of a blogger, and I chose to cover only some of the pressing issues at home. But it was really a question from the audience that prompted me to write this post and address this issue of "positive development". 

Lets start by looking at some numbers and indicators:
- 73% of daily Internet users in Azerbaijan are male;
- 72% of Facebook users are male;
- 17% of women ever used the Internet

- 16% of parliament members are women (all of them members of the ruling party; there are no opposition representatives in the parliament as of last parliamentary elections);
- 0% of women head ministries (minus the Committee for Family Women and Children Issues);
- 14% of judges are female;
- 26% are members of the local governments

And this is in a country that likes to bring up the facts about its history and the place of women. Like a right to vote that was granted to women in Azerbaijan in 1918.

Economy and social condition (see this report for further statistical data by the European Commission)
- 151.9AZN is average pension;
- much of economic growth is generated through oil and gas sector;
- the share of agriculture went from 15.9% in 2000 to 6.4% in 2009;
- indicators for manufacturing, and non- oil activities all dropped in the last several years;
- increased public expenditure is not directed toward human development especially if you look at heatlh and social care services not to mention education (and the rate of corruption, especially in education);
- if in 2003, expenses for social security stood at 18.2%, according to available statistics of 2009, it dropped to 9.7%;
- similarly education expenses dropped from 23.7% to 11.6% in 2009 and etc.;
- while in absolute terms, social expenses have increased, in relative terms they have decreased;
- the employment rate is low for age groups 15- 19; 20- 24; 

I wont link to the international reports about the situation with regard to the human rights and the freedom of press, or Azerbaijan's yet another "amazing" performance on the corruption index of the Transparency International. This was just to put things into a context especially for those who say things in Azerbaijan are not that bad and there is progress and development.

When are you people going to understand that your audience 90% of the time knows the real facts and that its completely inappropriate (not to say inadequate, unrealistic, and delusional) to speak of 2003 elections as democratic and that such remarks only make you look like fools. 
And so, when I am told or asked to speak of the positive as well, my only response is that only once we resolve and deal with some of our pressing issues as we should be I will speak about the positive. We, an Azerbaijani nation, of some 9.2 million inhabitants, deserve a future that is not mocked or criticized. Our government is accountable for acting within the principles of our constitution and our laws. Our political leaders who consider themselves mighty Gods need to look beyond their noses and narrow- minded vision. The future is not about Shakiras, Rhiannas, Flame Towers, Eurovision concert halls and what not. The future is what we do today. And you, and your cronies around you have done nothing positive for the people.

So lets cut to the chaise, and instead of talking positive, deal with the negative...

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