With less than six months to go before the country's presidential elections, a pornographic web site containing content that targets opposition politicians and other public figures critical of the government has been created in Azerbaijan.
Called İctimayi Palatka (Public Tent), the site features hard-porn videos allegedly showing prominent individuals ranging from Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan leader Ali Kerimli to investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova* supposedly engaged in sexual intercourse.
While it is clear that the individuals shown in the videos do not represent the people named ( the materials appear to have been filched from foreign porn sites ), the video captions create a different impression.
The site, launched over a month ago, does not contain information about its owners and employees; the “contacts” section lists only a Gmail address.
No one has yet taken responsibility for İctimayi Palatka and its content.
Interference into private lives and the distribution of pornographic materials via media and the Internet are both criminal offenses under Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code (Article 163 and Article 242), which carry prison terms of several years.
The General Prosecutor’s office, however, has not yet opened a criminal investigation and has not responded publicly to the illegal site. Spokesperson Eldar Sultanov told EurasiaNet.org that the office has no information about İctimayiPalatka, and declined to comment further.
The portal appears to function and be constantly updated without problems.
There is a war going on in ex-Soviet parts between governments and non-government organizations. While Russia already has started on an office search of hundreds of NGOs suspected of being "foreign agents," Azerbaijan now is writing a chapter of its own in this epic struggle by picking a bone with the local chapter of the Washington, DC-based National Democratic Institute (NDI).
NDI’s chief of party Alex Grigorievs denied the accusations, but General Prosecutor Zakir Garalov last week sent a letter to US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar laying out the government's grievances with the group.
But they could lie deeper than finances. The group has been accused of sponsoring youth activists' protests, which already have become a pain in the neck for the Azerbaijani establishment. Particularly during this presidential election year.
The fact that local NDI employee Ruslan Asad was detained twice after participating in two recent such rallies in Baku presumably has not helped NDI’s case any with the Azerbaijani government.
Azerbaijan is considering changing the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Baku and has threatened to expel the US-run National Democratic Institute.
It was not immediately clear which aspect of the work by the OSCE, Europe's key peace and democracy-promoting body, had caused Baku's disgruntlement, but an organization representative, speaking from the OSCE's headquarters in Vienna, confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that the organization's mandate in Azerbaijan was under discussion.
In Baku on March 15, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier declared in a released statement that ". . .I am confident that the OSCE will continue its co-operation with Azerbaijan.” He denied reports of government inspections of the OSCE office or other worries.
The OSCE representative in Vienna said that Azerbaijani officials in the past have complained about the OSCE’s record in a range of areas, but that any change in the mandate will not affect the peace negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which are handled by the Minsk Group.
Activities touching on this October's presidential election, in which President Ilham Aliyev will seek a third term, might come to mind as one of the most likely bones of contention. The OSCE in the past has criticized Azerbaijan for poor handling of the electoral process and crackdowns on political dissent. All OSCE-monitored elections in Azerbaijan have fallen short of the organization’s standards.
Azerbaijan’s ruling party announced today that their leader, President Ilham Aliyev, will run for a third term in 2013. Now who saw that coming?
The nomination was "definite," solemnly declared Ali Ahmedov, the executive secretary for Yeni Azerbaijan Party, as if the matter had not been as clear as day ever since Aliyev assumed the presidency in 2003.
Several days ago, Aliyev's opponents had argued that preventing the president from seeking reelection would be key to leveling the field for the 2013 vote.
“If Ilham Aliyev runs for the third time, there will be no room for a fair election,” Kavkazsky Uzel reported Panah Huseynov, one of the coordinators of the Public Chamber movement, as saying.
But running forever runs in the Aliyev family. Ilham Aliyev all but inherited the presidency from his late, glorified father Heydar Aliyev, who died a president. And when it comes to holding on to power, Ilham is his father’s son.
For now, the opposition’s plan is to mount a public push for democratization and to appeal to the international community for help. But the Aliyev government has shown in the past its taste for crackdowns, and Western governments, their eyes both on Azerbaijan's energy resources and its strategic proximity to Iran, usually do little more than wag a finger at Aliyev’s authoritarian practices.
Looks like the opposition strategists will need to think creatively if they don’t want to see another “definite” result in 2013.
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