But maybe it makes sense to them. If Qurbanly was not high on something, then why would he be bashing the government and be involved in the Nida youth opposition movement? Was he not the guy handing out flyers with President Ilham Aliyev’s silhouette captioned “I Will Go in 2013 if You Join Nida”?
But that’s not the full list of the blogger’s heinous offenses, the thinking, no doubt, goes. He had the gall to criticize the government for making the poetry of President Aliyev’s elder daughter, Leyla, about her grandfather (the late President Heydar Aliyev ) a compulsory read in Azerbaijani schools.
Again, must be the drugs, Azerbaijani cops might say . . .
Granted, the police think they know what they're dealing with when it comes to bloggers. Back in 2009, there were those two foreign-educated intellectuals (who just happened to have criticized Aliyev's government online) picking a drunken fight with several men in a restaurant.
Then, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Baku was followed by an after-party of arrests of some troubled youth, who, again, had just happened to criticize the government online.
It is humble-pie time for social media power skeptics. Azerbaijan has accused a Strasbourg-based Azerbaijani blogger, Elnur Majidli, of attempting to overthrow the government with that modern weapon of mass destruction, Facebook.
Majidli was among the organizers of a few recent rallies, heavily promoted on Facebook and scarred by scuffles with police, that apparently hit Azerbaijani officials as a throwback to demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is showing himself to be quite a social-networker, even though his administration has a reputation for taking a tough line against citizens who express dissenting political opinions on the Internet.
Aliyev recently launched his own You Tube channel. Azerbaijani news services have noted that Aliyev’s channel is not subject to You Tube’s usual time restrictions, in which videos are not supposed to run longer than 10 minutes. A clip showing the Azerbaijani leader addressing the UN General Assembly earlier this September, for example, clocks in at just over 13 minutes.
Aliyev also started a feed on the social-networking site Twitter in early July. So far, the president is a moderate user to the micro-message platform, with less than 100 “tweets” overall. As of September 28, he had 736 followers on Twitter.
In addition, the president has an iPhone app for his official presidential website.
While making his own use of social networks to air political opinions, Aliyev’s administration apparently takes a dim view of private citizens in Azerbaijan who try to do the same. Azerbaijan has come under OSCE criticism in recent years for its restrictive media policies.
Perhaps the starkest symbol of the government’s intolerance of dissent was the 2009 trial of Azerbaijani bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli. The pair was convicted of hooliganism following a controversial trial. They maintained the case against them was politically motivated , citing the fact that, shortly before their arrest, they posted a video on You Tube that satirized Aliyev and his government.
Twitter and Facebook reports are coming from Azerbaijan about the alleged detention of yet another journalist critical of the government in circumstances similar to the arrest of bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli.
Natiq Adilov, who works for the pro-opposition Azadliq (Liberty) newspaper, was allegedly beaten and taken into custody on June 16, reports say. As was the case with Hajizade and Milli, an unidentified man allegedly attacked Adilov (this time, on the street in Baku) and then accused him of assault.
Police could not yet be reached for confirmation or denial of the reports.
What is democracy? For Ethiopia, it's "fair play"; for Poland, it's "like a keyboard." (?) And for Azerbaijan, it's "possible."
An Azerbaijani entry was the only contestant from the former Soviet Union among the 18 finalists in the "Democracy Is . . . " video contest sponsored by a collection of American universities, film and recording associations and the US Department of State, among others. Online voting will decide a winner by roughly June 18.
But the makers of the Azerbaijani video most likely know a thing or two about why democracy matters. The video links to a website of Azerbaijan’s youth movement Ol! The founder of the movement, blogger Adnan Hajizade, is serving a two-year prison term on what are widely believed to be trumped-up charges of hooliganism.
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