Meet David Merkel who served under the U.S. Secretary of State and Treasury, spent time at the U.S. National Security Council, Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives Policy Committee to name a few. Currently he is the Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.
In a recent interview with one of Azerbaijan's media outlets Trend.az (!), David Merkel said "only ill-informed and biased people can criticize Azerbaijan". As it turns out the mounting criticism Azerbaijan is facing is the work of misinformed, inexperienced and dubious "others".
You see Merkel, as it turns out is of the camp of international "experts" on Azerbaijan. In his written "testimony" to the paper Merkel writes of progress he has seen in the country during his numerous visits since 1994.
"Regrettably those who speak most loudly" know nothing about the country writes Merkel. Because according to Merkel, only one conversation with you and the country's citizens will open one's eyes into the world of development and progress.
One of these important developments are elections writes Merkel. "The polling results would make any US or European leader envious" notes Merkel. Alas dear sir, you do not want to have similar election results in your country. Moreover, I am pretty sure, there will be plenty of people who would not let you know to have fraudulent elections, because there are still some people over there who value of freedom of thought, expression and choice.
Progress isn't measured in a number of new hotels, boutique stores and developments that you can only see in the capital of Baku Mr. Merkel.
Our economy grew no doubt during the boom of the oil sector, but this is no longer the case. Perhaps Merkel should have made time to visit some more places outside of Baku and then talk about the progress or observe the elections with real observers who reported ballot stuffing and vote count violations. I saw it myself during 2013 Presidential elections and guess what happened? I was told I was "disrespectful" to my elders when I was pointing out the violations. And that "get reddol burdan" (since Merkel doesn't speak the language I would translate, "get the f*** out of here"). Is this the progress?
I am from Azerbaijan and I also criticize my country. And I have a full right to as a citizen who still hopes for a better future for my country.
Perhaps Mr. Merkle needs to realize it is him who is using double standards and has little knowledge of my country.
In Azerbaijan, to avoid floundering in the elections, the ruling party and hence its head, resort to all corrupt and dirty means possible. Including but not limited to buying votes, forcing people to vote (to "he who shall not be named"), extracting votes through use of fear and intimidation (job loss, imprisonment and etc.) and a lot more.
What is compelling in Merkel's full blown support and justification of Azerbaijan's ruling elite is his genuine blindness (wonder how much that cost?!).
This tendency to scapegoat is becoming exhaustive and at the end of the day will only hold its value for those like Merkel.
Loyalty surely has its price. And we all know, what happens to all those loyal to Mr. Aliyev and his cronies. Good salaries, life insurance of staying alive and untouched (although more recently looks like this one is having some kind of expiration date on it) and much more. Basically, the more you suck up to certain individuals, the safer you are. There is nothing new in this theory and in Azerbaijan we all know that tribal and class loyalties are still very much alive and thriving.
But when someone from abroad decides to bash out on those critics who are loyal to values of democracy, it gets slightly more frustrating. It would be have been absolutely lovely had Merkel visited some of the "youth" he is referring to in his "speech" who is stuck in jail because people like Merkel himself.
These young, brave, smart men would tell people like Merkel the story of true progress in Azerbaijan, the one that only exists in the heads of Aliyev's tribe.
So next time you visit our beautiful and progressive country dear Merkel, perhaps have a chat with the families of 100 or so political prisoners, pensioners, and the rest of the common folk to get a better picture of Azerbaijan.