Who will be facing sanctions?
The hearing entitled: “Azerbaijan: Do Human Rights Matter? was held in the U.S. Congress. The Azerbaijani rapporteur addressed the hearing via Skype video conference, since she was banned from leaving the country.
Khadija Ismail, a journalist, who is known for her scandalous investigations and who spent 1,5 years in prison on different charges, was among those, who addressed September 15 hearing.
“You don’t let me leave the country. And I’m going to tell about your shame without even leaving the house. And that’s far more effective, Khadija wrote on her FB page. “Participation in this or that event was time and money consuming. I regret the time spent in the plane, while I was participating in some event in one country, I couldn’t attend the other one in another country. This afternoon I’m at a conference on one side of the ocean, whereas in the evening – on the other side.
Turkel Karimli, the son of Ali Karimli, the head of the opposition Popular Front party, was another rapporteur. He wasn’t allowed to leave the country either. “The Azerbaijani government refused to reissue the passport and my father has been banned from leaving the country for a decade already, says Turkel. “My family has been targeted constantly for years. My uncle, who was put in prison, has recently received death threats. Other activists’ family members have been also subjected to reprisals.
Both rapporteurs told about numerous (over 100) political prisoners in Azerbaijan, as well as about multiple violations of the citizens’ rights and freedoms, including the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
Richard Kauzlarich, U.S. ex-ambassador to Azerbaijan, stated that ‘quiet diplomacy’ that the U.S. government opted for, ‘has not worked’. “Quiet diplomacy has turned political prisoners into the bargain objects, he said.
Kauzlarich is also a co-author (along with David J. Kramer, senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership) of “The Washington Post‘s recent article, that has become highly publicized in Azerbaijan and that has resulted in recalling the Azerbaijani ambassador to the USA (for consultations).
As the article authors pointed out, it was only the sanctions threat in spring this year that made the Azerbaijani government release 16 political prisoners. Thus, the USA should act on Azerbaijan, since new arrests and the upcoming September 26 constitutional referendum, enhancing the president’s powers, will further intensify the authoritarianism in Azerbaijan.
One more sanction threat is the legal act, referred by its co-author, Congressman Jim McGovern (another co-author is a well-known Republican senator, John McCain), as well as by Mass Media, as ‘The Magnitsky List’ or the ‘Global Magnitsky Act’, which implies individual sanctions against the citizens of other countries suspected of human rights violations. As McGovern stated following the hearing in the Congress, the act ‘will move its way through the Congress by the end of the year’. “But if it doesn’t, we are going to call on the Administration to be more aggressive and to do what they already are entitled to do –to impose sanctions against individuals, who are guilty of corruption and human rights violations.
Officials in Baku have not responded either to the hearing or the individual sanctions theme, though earlier, the government was expressing its opinions in this regard. For example, as far as the last year’s bill ‘Azerbaijan Democracy Act’ is concerned, the MFA, the government officials, politicians and government-controlled press, termed it as the bill ‘drafted by the pro-Armenian forces’   . This time, it has been only an unofficial position of the pro-governmental Mass Media that have termed the hearing as ‘pro-Armenian’ and have accused the USA of ‘orchestrating disturbances in Azerbaijan .
The Congress hearing and sanctions theme is not much discussed on social media, except for journalists and political activists, who are congratulating one another:
“The most important thing is that those bureaucrats and lobbyists, who are paid from our budget, don’t screw up the whole matter. Then, if Allah grants, everything will be fine!
“Oil has lost its power and now time has come for the West to start thinking about democracy. Nothing is eternal.
There is a single comment from some Parviz on the website that published the news on the congress hearing:
“The history shows that such regimes always take a path of self-isolation. Azerbaijan, or, to be more precise, Aliyev’s regime, has long chosen a self-isolation path for itself. Globalization, Europe and integration are just in words, whereas in fact we have quite the opposite.
It turned out that ‘in real life’, some people had been looking forward to the results of the Congress hearing long before the latter was held:
A conversation in the shop:
– I read about them long ago, so where are they? If the Americans hadn’t dragged it out with those sanctions, we wouldn’t have ended up in such a situation, says an elderly man. “I’ve already gone on smoking ‘Java Gold’ [cheap Russian cigarettes], whereas a year ago I was smoking ‘Davidoff Gold’.
A shop assistant answers:
“Do you really think, the Americans will be buying you cigarettes?