"Azerbaijani government still feels vulnerable" - opinion from Baku
Anar Mammadli on human rights in Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijani government still feels vulnerable, human rights activist Anar Mammadli says. According to him, a strong government would not be afraid of NGOs, political parties, media, and public associations.
Mammadli, head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Research Center, also touched upon the problem of the activity of Western countries and organizations on human rights in Azerbaijan.
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“The only activity recorded in recent years”
According to Mammadli, the activity of diplomatic corps and international organizations with regard to Azerbaijan has not been noticeable in recent years.
“As a person who has been cooperating with these entities for many years, I can say that there is no serious activity.
“Yes, Azerbaijan, as before, cooperates with the Council of Europe, but the activity of this organization in Azerbaijan has not increased in recent years. The situation is the same with the OSCE, the UN and the European Union,” the human rights activist said.
Mammadli maintains that, after the second Karabakh war, some foreign organizations and diplomatic corps accredited in Azerbaijan are active in trying to build peace in the region:
“The activity of the European Union is obvious. The EU began to act as a mediator in resolving the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I would say that this is the only activity recorded in recent years.
“Visits are carried out annually, delegations from various international bodies come and hold meetings. But I am not a supporter of presenting this as a novelty.”
“Freedoms in the country must be ensured”
Talking about major economic contracts between Western countries and organizations with Azerbaijan, specifically about the contribution of such agreements to the democratic process in the country, Mammadli stressed that it is difficult to assess the number of projects by Western countries:
“I don’t think that huge sums are being poured into Azerbaijan. There are bank loans, there are EU grants, but one should not expect an impact on democracy.
“In order for something to influence the democratic process, it is necessary to enable the activities of such institutions. Freedom in the country must be guaranteed. Political parties, trade unions, civil society bodies, think tanks, various public groups should work freely. We do not have that.
“Several public organizations, five-six political parties and independent bloggers work in Azerbaijan. But there are obstacles to the activity of large political parties and other institutions, and it seems to me that these obstacles cannot be overcome with financial help.”
“Azerbaijani government feels vulnerable”
Anar Mammadli also raised the issue of narrowing the constitutional rights of citizens in parallel with the development of cooperation between the West and the Azerbaijani government:
There is no political will to overcome these problems. The Azerbaijani government still feels vulnerable. A strong government will not be afraid of non-governmental organizations, political parties, media, public associations. In short, the government avoids criticism. For this reason, they try to preserve these restrictions as much as possible. They are not able to respond adequately to criticism, they prefer violence.
“Let them trade, but at the same time they direct and confront the human rights situation”
“Both in closed meetings and publicly, I have pointed out shortcomings in the activities of Western countries in Azerbaijan. It seems to me that the attitude towards Azerbaijan as an energy supplier makes them turn a blind eye to human rights violations. In other words, assigning Azerbaijan the role of an energy supplier, or a transit country for importing energy resources, puts their vigilance and integrity with respect to human rights into the background. It is unacceptable.
“If normal economic relations have been built, if both sides have a need for them, where does the favor come in? Let them trade, but at the same time direct and confront the human rights situation.
“The increase in Western demand for alternative sources of natural gas after the start of the war in Ukraine has turned Azerbaijan into an important country. And this is beneficial to the government. Taking advantage of this, they are trying to neutralize the West’s pressure on human rights issues,” Mammadli said in an interview with Abzas.
“If Ukraine manages to defend its democracy…”
Mammadli noted that the most serious factor affecting the socio-political situation in Azerbaijan will be the result of the war in Ukraine:
“Because this is a struggle not only for the sovereignty of the country, but also for its democracy. In other words, Russia attacked Ukraine not to violate its sovereignty.
“If Ukraine manages to defend its democracy, this could be a serious signal to neighboring peoples. After that, Azerbaijan can make a choice between blocs of democratic and non-democratic countries in the post-Soviet space.
“The second question is that the efforts of Russia or another third country may further increase the tension in Azerbaijan’s relations with Armenia.
“Finally, the factor of international organizations strengthening their activity within the country can affect the socio-political life in Azerbaijan. Here we are talking about organizations such as the Council of Europe and the European Union.
“With regard to internal factors, the most serious of them is the socio-economic situation. If this continues to worsen, it may lead to an increase in social agitation. In other words, I think that at present the most serious factor that can increase the growth of socio-political activity is the deepening socio-economic inequality in society.”
Anar Mammadli on human rights in Azerbaijan