Azerbaijan’s efforts to use its energy wealth to win friends and influence opinion in the United States and European Union are well documented. Far less attention has been paid to Baku’s suspected efforts aimed at co-opting rights advocates inside Azerbaijan.
As Armenia prepares to join the Russia-led Customs Union, a surprise decision to erect a statue in the capital Yerevan in honor of the Soviet-era political leader Anastas Mikoian is raising hackles among intellectuals and rights activists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has consolidated authority to such an extent that any form of mass public protest in Moscow is practically inconceivable these days. However, room for dissent exists in other regions of Russia.
On a warm autumn day in early November, pedestrians in downtown Bishkek met an unusual sight: a 500-strong crowd of hijab-sporting female Muslim activists riding bicycles, heading to a state hospital to donate blood. “Passersby were in shock,” laughed Jamal Frontbek kyzy, whose organization Mutakallim helped organize the event. “We wanted to dispel stereotypes.
In the five weeks since incumbent Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was reelected for a third consecutive term, the authorities have cracked down on a prominent NGO, an opposition newspaper, and several bloggers, journalists, and academics in what Amnesty International’s John Dalhuisen has branded “[a] ruthless and relentless attack on any dissenting voices in the media.”
The December 26 trial of arrested Turkish journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener has pushed a shadowy organization known as the Gülen movement to the forefront of public attention in Turkey. The group’s influence has long been an open secret. Now, its weight is being felt at a time when the country’s democratic credentials are increasingly being called into question.