“And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days.” Thus read the draft version of a proposed textbook for 10th-grade geography students in Azerbaijan in a section about how the universe was formed.
As Turkey focused its coup-cleanup operations on its education system, its close ally Azerbaijan on July 20 announced the closure of Caucasus University, the country's first private university, founded by supporters of the influential Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, now charged by Ankara with plotting to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The decision brought back memories of 2014 when, as Turkey started to raise the alarm about Gülen, a former government pal, Azerbaijani authorities closed 13 education centers and 11 high schools associated with the cleric’s movement. They were transferred to the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR).
One Turkish company Çağ Öğrətim (Era Education), believed linked to Gülen, however, had shared control of Caucasus University with SOCAR and another firm.
No more. SOCAR Vice-President for Human Resources Khalig Mammadov posted on his Facebook page that control over Caucasus University has been given to the state-run Baku Higher Oil School .
“Students . . . will continue their education as before,” Mammadov wrote. “The teaching staff of the university will also continue their work.”
The education ministry told APA that after receiving the relevant documents, it will create a working group to allow Caucasus University students to continue their education elsewhere.
Azerbaijan, a strategic ally of Turkey, has suspended a national TV station that reportedly planned to broadcast an interview with Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based imam who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames for instigating a failed coup.
Some Azerbaijani activists claim that international rights watchdogs, such as Amnesty International, have created a two-tier system for political prisoners that effectively hinders less prominent government critics’ chances for release from prison.
With the June 17-19 Formula One race in Baku drawing closer, Azerbaijani and foreign activists have tried to draw international attention to Azerbaijan’s human rights record. But do not think that the country does not have its own human rights intermediary. It does – 79-year-old Elmira Suleymanova. Controversy, however, persists about what she does to defend human rights.
Two days before her 40th birthday, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was released from prison on May 25. Questions persist about the Azerbaijani government’s motivation for the release, and whether it portends a loosening of restrictions on civil liberties at home and improved relations with the United States and European Union.