WASHINGTON -- The United States should hold Azerbaijan accountable for its human rights record, even as the energy-rich country has come into renewed focus as a potential key player in weaning Europe off of Russian gas in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, U.S. officials say.
In mid-November, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Rashad Ramazanov, an Islamist blogger, to nine years in prison on charges of drug possession. Two weeks earlier, Taleh Bagir-zade, a young and charismatic Shi’a cleric, received a two-year prison term after being convicted on similar charges.
Just over two years ago, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair signed on as a political consultant with the government of Kazakhstan. His performance as an adviser to the Central Asian nation remains a source of contention. But what is indisputable is that Kazakhstan's democratization record is far poorer today than it was when he started.
At a cabinet meeting in mid-July, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev lashed out at the European Parliament for supposedly conducting a “dirty campaign” against Baku. The shrill tone of Aliyev’s comments indicate that European pressure on Azerbaijan to respect basic rights is stinging the Aliyev administration.
Uzbek leader Islam Karimov has taken cosmetic steps lately, such as voicing support for probing journalism, to try to put a more human face on his regime. But the true nature of the Uzbek government can be discerned in a treason case against a former military intelligence official.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that dissidents in much of the former Soviet Union were a bunch of foul-mouthed junkie pornographers.
In March, police in Azerbaijan arrested Mahammad Azizov on drugs charges. A few weeks later, they picked up Dashgin Malikov. Days later, Taleh Bagirov was nabbed. On May 9, it was Rashad Ramazonov's turn.
Seven years ago Aijan was walking home from her waitressing job in central Bishkek with two girlfriends. They did not notice the three men following them. As two men tackled the other women, one dragged Aijan, 21 at the time, into a waiting car.
Later this May, European Union officials will meet a delegation from Turkmenistan during annual human rights consultations. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s authoritarian regime in Ashgabat is one of the most repressive in the world, yet the meeting poses perhaps the biggest test for the EU side.
Azamatjon Ermakov used to have a relatively peaceful life ferrying traders and their goods around on his donkey cart in a village in Uzbekistan’s Andijan province. He had embraced Islam in 1995 and became a regular at the local mosque.
Hilal Mamedov, who is currently on trial in Baku on charges of spying for Iran, fuelling inter-ethnic hatred, and illegal possession of drugs, has been awarded the Azerbaijan Institute of Peace and Democracy’s Isakhan Ashurov Prize in recognition of his human rights engagement.