Thursday, March 07, 2013

Dissident blogger Emin Milli on the hopes for change in Azerbaijan

Emin Milli is a blogger from Azerbaijan who was imprisoned in 2009 for two and a half years for his critical views about the government. He was conditionally released in November 2010, after serving 16 months of his sentence.

In an interview with Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty he speaks about the current situation in Azerbaijan:
Aliyev has always presented himself as a guarantor of stability in Azerbaijan. Now, he is becoming a guarantor of increasing instability. His father kept some space open for the opposition -- there were always five or six members of the opposition in parliament and he would meet opposition newspaper editors. He pretended there was a dialogue. 
Things are very different now. There has not been a single opposition member in parliament since 2010, new laws have been adopted to fine people for participating in peaceful but unsanctioned rallies, the financing of nongovernmental organizations has been made almost impossible.
the hopes for change:
Many things are changing in Azerbaijan, and the pace of change is so fast that I cannot even keep track. What changed in Azerbaijan is that the old and the new oppositions are uniting with a single candidate. Even more importantly, they will sign a document outlining their whole strategy, how they share their resources, what their common goals are, who will assume which responsibility in bringing a democratic revolution to Azerbaijan, and how the country will be run once the single candidate comes to power. This has never happened in Azerbaijan. It’s a change in narrative.
and the role of social media in the struggle for it:
A new-media revolution is taking place in Azerbaijan. Out of 9 million people in Azerbaijan, more than 1 million are now on Facebook. Research showed that 7 per cent had daily access to the Internet two years ago. This year, the same research - done by U.S. professor Katy Pearce - shows this figure has gone up to 11 per cent ... Things that would never have been public before are now read and shared by hundreds of thousands of people.
His concluding remarks are rather shaming:
Everything Azerbaijan’s democratic movement is doing now and all the changes that will happen this year will take place not thanks to Western support, but despite Western support to Aliyev’s regime. 
All we want from the international community at this stage is for the international media to pay more attention to what is happening in Azerbaijan and for the U.S. and British governments to realize that they are threatening their own military and economic interests in Azerbaijan by supporting Aliyev.

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