The United States and European Union appear to be taking a stronger stance against Azerbaijan over Baku's poor rights record. Recent US and EU criticism is bolstering the resolve of local critics of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's administration, even though there are no immediate signs that Western leaders and institutions will follow up on their words with actions.
Earlier this month, "The New York Times" published documents demonstrating Azerbaijan's efforts to expand its relationship with think tanks in the United States to bolster U.S. public opinion of the country and make it clear that Baku "is an important security partner."
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?