On March 2nd President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree encouraging "citizen participation" in protecting public order.
I was not sure how to interpret this new development at first although it did send a wave of chills down my spine.
And here is why...
Within this new police-and-civilian-partnership-capacity, public order will be maintained by preventing anyone from engaging in activities that would disrupt the order.
The most worrying part is that according to this new decree, these men (and women I would assume) are going to report to the police with "precise" information on anyone and anything that could potentially endanger one's life, health, environment and so on.
These volunteers will have to go through a training within the Ministry of Interior first before they start the "job". And they will be financed through the state budget.
Imagine that a person standing next to you on the metro is actually some kind of informant. And if he or she doesn't like what you are reading, on talking about on the phone with your friend, they might actually go and report on you. Ok this might be a slight exaggeration but consider this for a second, the President just issued a card blanche for the people to spy on each other.
And its not like we did not have the "civilian police" or the "men in black" who would always appear at protests, arrest people, yell at them, harass them (and they always got away with it mind you).
Can this development force already muzzled voices and the society to self-regulate even further out of fear their "misdeeds" could be reported?
In Ceausescu's Romania thousands of schoolchildren were recruited to report and spy on their school friends, parents, teachers and so on- anyone who expressed political opinion contrary to the status quo.
I don't have to remind you of Hitler's time I suppose. Did you know that during World War II German counterintelligence recruited over 1.4 civilian "resident agents"? "In East Germany, the Statis employed more than 175,000 informers and one in every ninety seven citizens served as an informer". I especially found the observation by Darius M. Rejali's in his book "Torture and Democracy" awfully similar: "While it is possible to rely on cues, depend on spies and paid informers, or use torture, there is no substitute for the kind of information provided on a regular and voluntary basis by scores of local sympathizers".
So is this what is happening in Azerbaijan? Did Aliyev just sign a decree to encourage a Stasi-style informant society? If the answer to these questions is yes, then in an already silenced community of independent voices, this might as well just be the last drop to completely shut everyone up.
I just hope my read on this is completely wrong.