Azerbaijan: An Illusion (1 of 12)

11 more in collection THE ILLUSION OF AZERBAIJAN

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when you hop in a taxi from the airport and drive along the massive high way towards the “windy City” Baku you see building upon building half way done. Standing as skeletons side by side as grim monuments of the wealth and prosperity the country is undergoing.

The country’s president Ilham Aliyev and the government aims to convince the world that they are an emerging democracy with respect for its population and human rights. It has spent millions on hiring companies for PR and engaging former European top politicians to speak on their behalf.

But the facts show Azerbaijan as a nation with severe issues like massive corruption, poverty and a disregard for human rights. Examples are; multiple arrests, often violently, during peaceful protests. Forced evictions of families from their homes. Harassing and imprisoning independent journalists. A basic disregard for free speech.
In creating a toxic environment of paranoia and fear the leaders of Azerbaijan are violating civil rights.
The capitol is an awesome show city with massive boulevards and elaborate buildings and immense beauty.
Though if you try and go to the outskirts of the city you stumble upon another landscape and poverty becomes an integrated part of the scenery. The wealth of the nation does not trickle down from top to bottom.
If you lead a quiet life and do your job raise a family and do not ask question you are well of and most people do. But the country’s leaders do not tolerate too critical look at themselves from anyone. The fact is that the people of Azerbaijan do not have the liberty to live a free life.
The Land of Fire, which is Azerbaijan’s nickname borders on Iran, Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and the Caspian Sea. It has an enormous diverse nature ranging from desert to mountain chains and underneath it all oil and natural gas are found in large quantities.
Azerbaijan was a part of the former Soviet Union but gained independence in 1991. A formal constitution was signed and put into effect on November 12, 1995

The capitol of Baku is scattered with buildings like this all over the city. The big boom in the economy has made it all possible.
But many of these elaborate financial gestures are not inhabited. According to Max Tucker Amnesty International’s Azerbaijan spokesman it is partly because people cannot afford to live there and partly because the large building sites in some cases are used to extract money from the government to private companies often owned by a secretary from the government. One of the examples of ways corruption is a central part of the way business is done here.

If the government needs space for new construction, as it was the case with the Eurovision venue, Crystal Hall, it is not uncommon that people are forced to sell their houses at very low prices. The houses are then demolished. If people speak out or refuse to sell, they are harassed or the house is demolished with their things still in it. In some cases violence is used to get people out of the way.

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