Leyla and Arif Yunus met as young history students in the late 1970s, at a party hosted by one of their professors at Baku State University.
As the evening drew to a close, Arif offered to walk Leyla to the subway station. There was something about her he liked -- a lot. A week later, he appeared at her mother's doorstep, asking for Leyla's hand in marriage.
The 19-year-old Azerbaijani man claims he awoke one morning in mid-August to the sound and feel of gasoline splashing on his body and his mother angrily screaming. Through a sleepy haze, he saw her burning a piece of paper. Suddenly, he alleged, his mother’s intentions became clear; he was about to be burned to death for being homosexual.
Azerbaijan in recent months has launched a clear assault against various civil-society activists and non-governmental organizations. While rough treatment of critics is nothing new in this energy-rich South-Caucasus country, one question remains unanswered: Why pick up the pace now?
Even in the best of times, the Azerbaijani government is not a talkative bunch. But their stone-wall silence after northern neighbor Georgia triumphantly confiscated roughly $175-million worth of liquid heroin on the Georgian-Azerbaijani border has sparked questions about the reasons for their reserve.
Baku is gaining international recognition as a center of cutting-edge architectural design thanks in part to a major award given recently to London-based architect Zaha Hadid for her Heydar Aliyev center. The Azerbaijani capital’s new look has plenty of local fans, but also some detractors.
Russia is putting the moves on Azerbaijan, as the South Caucasus country’s two neighbors, Georgia and Armenia, prepare to formalize partnerships with rival unions. But ever the pragmatic belle, Baku is resisting Russia’s advances.
Amid growing concern about its treatment of government critics, Azerbaijan on May 14 assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent’s main human-rights body.
May 14 marks a new low in European cynicism: Azerbaijan, a country ruled by an authoritarian government, which in recent years has stifled a free press and muzzled free speech, is assuming the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the organization’s decision-making body.
There are few outward signs to indicate the Azerbaijani city of Sumgayit, a Soviet-era hub for the petro-chemical industry, is a seedbed of Islamic militancy. Shops and restaurants sell alcohol, and residents dress casually.