It has been a year since Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was taken into custody, marking a watershed in the government’s domestic crackdown on free speech. Individual freedoms have continued to erode since then in Azerbaijan, and the jailing of journalists and rights activists has developed into a cause celebre in the West.
After sustaining severe beatings from her partner, Asya telephoned the police, seeking help in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s southern capital.
“They said, ‘Did he use a knife? Did he try to kill you?’ I would say, ‘No,’ and they would say, ‘Okay, you call me when he tries to kill you, because we have more important things to do,’” Asya said, recalling two incidents from 2012.
One afternoon in late August, members of Tajikistan’s last real opposition party turned up at the Sheraton Dushanbe Hotel for a news conference, intending to discuss the latest wave of government intimidation they were facing.
Just three months ago, Azerbaijan was playing host to the inaugural European Games. These days, it seems as though Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s administration is prepared to make a break with the European Union.
Imam Rashot Kamalov, a popular Muslim preacher in southern Kyrgyzstan, faces over 10 years in prison for a sermon he gave last summer. Much of the case against him hinges on the words of a frequent witness for the state, a psychologist who speaks neither of the languages used in the sermon but claims a good feel for the “hidden meanings” of body language.
Authorities in Azerbaijan assert that playing host to the European Games marks the emergence of a self-assured nation capable of staging a major international sporting event. But some residents of the host city, the Azerbaijani capital Baku, are reserving judgment. To them, the accuracy of such statements will be determined by developments after the closing ceremonies on June 28.