Friday, December 18

Dispatches from Azerbaijan: preparations for Formula 1, reactions to critical of Azerbaijan bills and investigations and more

Ah my dear Azerbaijan. What has become of you?! Your diplomats are seeking political asylum in foreign countries, some of your most honest and dedicated people are in jail, some of your best have left the country in search for better jobs and opportunities, others building their lives back home while the rest are stuck between the daily struggle of survival and existence.

Depressing? Worse! Its a disgrace! For a country that made billions worth in revenues, to keep its people in such conditions is nothing but shameful. 

But no one is taking the blame or feels the least bit ashamed of their acts- and I am speaking about official Baku, those greedy officials, parliament members, who are rubbing their full bellies, rich on their greed and lip service. And they won't do or say anything to jeopardize their comforts because they know all too well what their lives would be like otherwise. And why not?! There are always scapegoats and "foreign powers jealous of prospering Azerbaijan" to blame.

Take for instance Azerbaijan's few diplomats who were recently stripped of their diplomatic credentials after breaking down the usual diplomatic mantra of "yes President Aliyev, right President Aliyev, we salute you President Aliyev and we will do whatever you say President Aliyev, even if means selling ourselves". Arif Mammadov who was former Ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the EU; Nahid Jafarov, former consul general of the Azerbaijan Embassy to the Netherlands, and Anar Hasanov, former secretary of the Azerbaijan Embassy in Australia- all have been dismissed, just like that, as if their time "expired" like daily food products. 

The moment they opened their mouths in the direction of truth, exposing corruption and the unjust Aliyev's regime, they were "called in". 

In the meantime, preparations are in full swing for the Formula 1 race. It is happening. Next year. And rumor has it, Azerbaijan is hosting the race because Heydar Aliyev junior is a big fan- of course this is just a rumor but nonetheless it is costing Azerbaijan serious $$$. The minister of youth and sports confirmed today that the country is spending some 12millionAZN [AZ] for the race. 5millions were already spent. Who knows how much the country is spending in reality. But whatever it is, the budget won't get filled by the series of ridiculous fines the parliament of Azerbaijan recently introduced. And do not worry, 30,000 tickets will be sold and Azerbaijanis will be able to purchase tickets on 40% discount. I am just not sure whether 30,000 tickets is what they are planning to sell in addition to 40% discount tickets. Otherwise if a few ministries are forced to buy these tickets (as we have seen happen in the past to fill out the venues) not sure how we are supposed to make any revenues from that? But hey, I am no economist, and perhaps there is something I don't see (I am relying for this on my usual critics/trolls who have a tendency to shower me with their opinions on this).

And last but not least we have some developments from the Council of Europe and US. On December 16, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland, launched an official inquiry into Azerbaijan's implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Jagland said he will "send representatives to Azerbaijan to seek explanations from the authorities concerning the country's implementation of the Human Rights Convention". Surely Azerbaijan officials were quick to respond. Aydin Mirzazade, MP said this decision exceeded Jagland's powers. However, someone needs to remind Mr. Mirzazade that under article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Secretary General- in this case Mr. Jagland-can actually launch an inquiry to find out how domestic law in any member state is implemented. Mr. Mirzazade should actually be ashamed of the state of freedoms and liberties in Azerbaijan rather than criticizing European institution. 

Also on December 16, United States Representative Chris Smith (R, NJ), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, introduced draft legislation entitled the "Azerbaijan Democracy Act of 2015" (ADA). "The bill is a strong policy response to [this] unprecedented attack on democracy, human rights and civil society in Azerbaijan. The legislation is modeled on the Belarus Democracy Act, which was passed into law during a harsh crackdown on civil society in Belarus. It recognizes the important national security and economic interests that do exist between the United States and Azerbaijan but sends the message that cooperation in areas of mutual interest is hindered by Azerbaijan's gross human rights violations including repression of the political opposition, the media and the religious minorities". 

For Hikmat Hajiyev, Azerbaijan's foreign ministry spokesperson this document is of course the outcome of "Armenian lobby". Oh God, for once, come up with a credible excuse!

Siyavush Novruzov, MP was quick to dismiss [AZ] the bill adding he had doubts the bill will get accepted anyway so there was no need to worry.

The head of the national parliament Ogtay Asadov demanded [AZ] that the US Embassy in Azerbaijan made an official statement clarifying whether this was just one opinion of one congressman rather than official position of the country. During the meeting at the parliament on December 18, Asadov hinted that Azerbaijan's "friends" in the US congress (of which the country apparently has enough) will stop this bill from going any further.

The question is what will be official Baku's next move- will it jail more people? Or will it change its mind about the list of prisoners the president pardons at the end of the year? Or some other hideous fine list? Who knows?! We shall wait and see...

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