Archive for the ‘ News ’ Category

Terrorists in Azerbaijan. Again?

Last month a friend of mine contacted me from France, asking “what the hell is going on in Azerbaijan?!”. Apparently, she saw the notification that the Embassy of the United States has posted on its webpage, which warned about a terroristic threat and advised its citizens to “remain vigilant, particularly in public places associated with the Western community.” A reminder was posted again on February 11th. Some media sources reported the same alerts being posted on the UK embassy’s webpage, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.

On February 14th news about the temporary closure of the Israeli embassy for “technical reasons” broke. The next day it was reported the embassy was back at work, but again, some media sources denied this information.

Today, around 18.00 one of the central streets (BulBul Avenue) was shut down because of an information about a bomb planted. The pedestrians were asked not to cross the street, the traffic was forbidden. According to RFE/RL Baku, the situation was provoked by an anonymous call about an unknown box left on the street (which is more than a common thing to see in Azerbaijan, but still). The police closed the subway and kept the box surrounded for 45 minutes. The paramedics were also waiting at the scene. It turned out the suspicious object was just an empty shoe box.

The last terrorist attack took place in Azerbaijan in April 30, 2009 in the State Oil Academy. The officials report about 13 people killed and 10 injured. The terrorist, a Georgian citizen of Azerbaijani descent, reportedly committed suicide at the scene.

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Corrupted No More

One of the good things about living in small communities is that rumors usually turn out to be true. No, not the gossiping-about-people-and-their-sex-lives kind of rumors, but the ones about important news.

Right after Tunisia held the revolution and in the middle of the Egyptian one, the air in Baku started to change. A wave has flown around Baku, whispering that, taking bribes is now forbidden – there is no corruption anymore. And, well, after living your whole life in a country, where you know you’ll have to bribe whatever you do and wherever you go – it sounds kind of shocking at first. And since you also know “where the news come from” you don’t believe the media sources either.

And that’s when you go to the people and ask them if it’s true. It turns out it is. A friend of a neighbor was supposed to pay 100 000 EUR annual bribe for his 4 supermarkets. When he came to the Tax guys, they silently sent him to the cashiers, where he paid his official 10 000 EUR and went back home absolutely happy.

Another guy brings cars for sell from Europe to Azerbaijan. He would usually pay around 80 000 EUR for several cars on the customs. This time, however, he was also sent to the cashiers and paid 5 000 EUR. He went back to “his guys” and offered to give them the rest, but the horrified used-to-be-bullies sent him home and told not to come back with these kind of offers. The guy celebrated all night and all day.

Then you read about dozens fired in ministries, reforms to be implemented in the most corrupted structures and special services created to address people’s problems and complaints. And for the first time in your life you feel the scent of the Change.

But the saddest part is, the first thing to come to your mind is: “I wonder how long it will last”. Because, let’s be honest, why does it take two revolutions thousand miles away to fix the biggest problem, that harmed and drove away two generations of your people and made the country #134 in the world corruption index?

However, since as any desperate activist I’m not only a cynical critic, but also a believer, I’ll lean back in my chair and wait. I’ll wait for the 19-year-old to be released from the prison; I’ll wait for my friends to be taken off the hook of a conditional release for the crime they did not commit; I’ll wait for the irrational projects and economical solutions to be abolished or fixed; I’ll wait for the day when I will not need rumors to believe the news.

Amen.

Sandmonkey on MSNBC

Famous Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, who I recently interviewed for RFE/RL and who later was arrested, assaulted and basically robbed by the Egyptian police, is talking on MSNBC from Tahrir square here.

A Teenage Convict

On April 30th, 2010 I was taken to the police station for participating in a peaceful protest action along with a number of other people. It was my second time (the first one was also for peaceful protest) and I knew exactly what they were going to ask me.

“What were you doing there?”

“Who were you with?”

“Are you a member of any opposition party?”

“Are you a member of any opposition party?”

“Are you a member of any opposition party?”

They pressed no charges, didn’t open a case and let us – non-partisans – go in several hours. All the members of oppositional parties were taken to the court and sentenced 10 to 15 days of detention. Not their first time, not their last time.

***

On February 5th a 19-year-old member of AXCP’s Youth Committee (one of two biggest opposition parties in Azerbaijan) Jabbar Salavan was arrested in Sumgayit city for drug possession. Police found (?) 0.17 grams of narcotic substances (the kind is unclear) with him.

His family was looking for him for 6 hours. While he was held in the police station, his phone was taken away, he was being interrogated. When his mother finally called the police to report her missing son – they told her he was in the police station the whole time.

His friends claim he doesn’t use drugs. The fellow party members say, he was spotted and ever since followed by the police after a conflict between opposition and police on January 20th.

Today, the court sentenced Savalan 2 months of pre-trial detention.

Why I don’t believe he’s guilty? Because using drugs and being in opposition in Azerbaijan is a suicide. They’re usually being followed and threatened, their parents lose their jobs, their phones are under surveillance.

But, since we’re supposed to analyze things objectively, let’s pretend he was. He’s 19, he’s fed up, bored, angry and is using drugs (as most of the young men in his city).

Will imprisoning teenagers solve a pretty serious drug problem in Azerbaijan?

Why are so many people who use and sell are still free?

Are those who imprisoned Savalan aware that convicts use drugs while IN prisons?

I think they are.

I also think, they know exactly what this detention will turn this young guy’s life into.

And it’s heartbreaking. Not the first time, not the last time.

***

The blog young activists prepared for this case. News there are being posted in Russian, English and Azerbaijani.

The Facebook group for Savalan.

The case of Jabbar Savalan and other oppressions of Azerbaijani youth on RFE/RL by Ali Novruzov.

Eurasianet about the Egyptian influence on Azerbaijani politics.

A Week of Egypt

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A collection of pictures and videos I collected from the protests this week. I’ve put the names of the authors that were available. If you know the authors of other pictures, please inform me in comments.

 

Cairo yesterday:

Feb 2nd. Egyptian Christians protecting Muslims during the prayer. By NevineZaki

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Democracy Freedom and Dignity

Creative poster of an Egyptian protester

As the resistance in Egypt continues today, these are today’s updates.

Egypt in Tweets:

@alfredoboca: If your government shuts down the internet, shut down your government.

@hasanalikhattak: women expected to take active role in protests today after men spent the night protecting neighborhoods #Egypt #Jan25

@samihtoukan Arab people are not extremist nor terrorists.Our time has come.We deserve democracy and to live with freedom and dignity #jan25 #egypt

‎@sandmonkey: 5 years ago my beliefs made me a minority opposition, today I am the people #jan25

@chrisalbon: AJE in Egypt is shut down. If there was ever a time for citizen journalism, this is it.

UPD: Dan Nolan updates information on the closure of Al Jazeera on his Twitter.

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Emin and Adnan: 17 months that changed things

This post is not about me.

It’s about two people, worth love and respect who had to go to prison. And came back.

And their friends and close ones, who stayed on the other side and didn’t give up.

***

Emin Milli (Abdullayev) being released from prison

Azerbaijani bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were arrested on July 8th, 2009 with the charge of hooliganism after being beaten by two athletic strangers in one of the downtown cafes. Evidences, such as street camera, which showed them, beaten, going to the police station to file complains, as well as many other evidences that could prove them innocent, were not accepted by the court. Testimonies that could help them, were not heard either. After four months of pre-trial detention, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were plead guilty and sentenced 2,5 and 2 years of detention respectively.

But let’s start from the beginning.

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