Thursday, July 12, 2012

President Aliyev denounces human rights campaign held during Eurovision

President Ilham Aliyev
President Ilham Aliyev reacted angrily on Wednesday to the human rights campaign “Sing for Democracy” held during the Eurovision, denounced its organizers and opposition groups. He also accused them of a grand conspiracy to smear Azerbaijan's reputation.

Speaking in the Cabinet of Ministers meeting reviewing country's social and economic development for the first half of 2012, President Aliyev branded the activists “traitors to the nation” and “betrayers”, as well as alleged their cooperation with Armenian lobby.

In May, Baku hosted the Eurovision Song Contest – an annual music competition held between countries - members of the European Broadcasting Union. Some civil society activists decided to use this opportunity to advocate for more human rights in Azerbaijan.

The campaign, called “Sing for Democracy” and human rights situation in the country got a lot of attention from European media and public. Two main opposition groups – the Republican Alternative and the Public Chamber also used the opportunity to draw attention to uneasy political situation in the country.

President Aliyev said the campaign was “unexpected” as there were no political issues raised before in the history of Eurovision. He said it was the work of anti-Azerbaijani forces gathered together to smear the reputation of the country.

These anti-Azerbaijani forces included – according to President's words – global Armenian lobby, Islamophobic circles in Europe and “third forces who can't tolerate Azerbaijan's achievements and economic development, especially during crisis years."

“Local anti-national forces, those who call themselves 'opposition' - not even forces, but elements” also joined this “nasty campaign based on lies and smear”, supported by both international and local press.

President Aliyev also accused activists of taking foreign guests out of the city center to show them suburbs that were in unfavorable conditions.

“But Azerbaijani people have witnessed once again who was who. Despite all efforts and smear campaign, it was us who won – Azerbaijani people and state.”

“We are strong, because we have people's support. We are also right and the right always wins and we will continue to win,” Aliyev concluded.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Azerbaijan's first and ousted President 'to quit politics' after 19 years

Ayaz Mutallibov / Credits - Unknown
Azerbaijan's first President Ayaz Mutallibov, 74, told the conference of his Social Democrat Party on Saturday that he was retiring from the party leadership and politics. Addressing the party conference through phone from Moscow, he said he would dedicate his time to family affairs and his declining health.

Mutallibov also praised current President Ilham Aliyev for his role in enacting of the law about former presidents which will grant amnesty to Mutallibov and remove all obstacles to his return to Azerbaijan.

Mutallibov couldn't return to Azerbaijan until now, for he could face 19-year old treason charges still pending. Though he briefly visited Baku back in August 2011 to attend his son's funeral after President Aliyev guaranteed him immunity on the highest level.

“The adoption of this law brought joy to me and my family, because it ended my exile and created a chance for me to return to my fatherland,” Mutallibov said. Though law doesn't forbid him to engage in politics, Mutallibov said he made a decision to quit politics for objective reasons.

Mutallibov's position was especially strong among indigenous population of Baku and wider Shirvan area that covers eastern parts of Azerbaijan – the region is now being courted by the First Lady's family – the Pashayevs.

First and Ousted President

Ayaz Mutallibov was the last and 14th communist party chief and – since 1990 – President of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. He was re-elected President in 1991 - this time of Azerbaijan Republic, but resigned in March 1992 after failing to prevent massacre of Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly by Armenian troops during Karabakh war.

After an unsuccessful attempt by ruling elite to bring Mutallibov back to power in May the same year, the opposition Popular Front lead an uprising that ousted him from power completely. Mutallibov went into self-imposed exile in Moscow and the Popular Front opened a criminal case accusing him of treason.

But the Front could retain the power for little more than a year and had to invite former KGB general and another communist party boss Heydar Aliyev into power after they faced a military coup.

Heydar Aliyev took control of the country and removed the Front from power, but he also did nothing to dismiss the treason charges against Mutallibov.