*Azer Hasret, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Following a short period of independence amid the turmoil at the end of World War I, Armenia was divided between Turkey and the Soviet Union by 1922. Most Armenians in the Turkish portion were killed or driven abroad during the war and its aftermath, but those in the east survived Soviet rule.”
These thoughts are coming from the Armenian part of the Freedom House`s “Freedom in the World” report which was published recently. For now we would like to leave these ideas to the readers` reprobation. Just only attracting attention to one point: how a report with such introduction can be objective? Let everyone to think for a time…
We understand and see that human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan are not in the same level as for example in the United States or European countries. We know the reasons of this situation too and struggle with them. But we understand and see also that sometimes some organizations don`t or can`t take into consideration objective reasons.
We appreciate attention of international organizations to our country, especially of those dealing with human rights. Just with one desire: this attention must be objective, well-founded and not biased. Unfortunately this is not always so.
Even this doesn`t have anything to do with Freedom House, I will give one example. Somewhere one month ago the International Pen has published a list of journalists in prison in Azerbaijan. To our surprise the name of Nazim Quliyev, an editor-in-chief of newspaper-racketeer “Ideal” was also included into the list. And it was claimed that he is imprisoned “due to journalism activity”. Just now in Azerbaijan with exception of some people let`s ask mass media, human rights and NGO activists if they consider this same Nazim as a journalist. Except some human rights manipulators no one of course will consider him as a journalist!
There is a reason to bring above said to the attention. Surely, such kind of un-founded information dissemination has played a significant role while compiling Freedom House`s report on Azerbaijan. For example, we read in the report: “Approximately 80 percent of newspapers are owned by the state. Independent and opposition papers struggle financially and have faced heavy fines and imprisonment of their staff”. If to take into consideration that objective approach is needed here, we can ask a question: are there evidences proving that 80 percent of newspapers belong to government? We can agree with the claim in regard to financial difficulties. But why not to note alongside with this state financial support allocated to the same independent and opposition newspapers?
One more example from the report: “The government has repeatedly blocked some websites featuring opposition views”. It is interesting, why being a person dealing especially with this sector I don`t have any information about this? Or is there anyone who has information about blocking of internet sites within Azerbaijan in 2012? If yes, please share facts with us too.
In another example there is a claim that the government creates obstacles for the religious activists: “The government restricts the practice of “nontraditional” minority religions—those other than Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Judaism—through burdensome registration requirements and interference in the importation and distribution of printed religious materials”.
It is very interesting, how can be in other way? For example, must be allowed the existence of the followers of bin Laden, the world known terrorist, different Wahhabi or linked to Iranian mullah regime so-called religious, but terrorist groups? If so, why the U.S. has eliminated bin Laden?
This passage of the report had to attract our attention anyway: “Some members of ethnic minority groups, including the small ethnic Armenian population, have complained of discrimination in areas including education, employment, and housing. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azeris who were displaced by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s remain subject to restrictions on their place of residence and often live in dreadful conditions”.
Firstly, it is impossible to speak about discrimination imposed on any ethnic minority representative in Azerbaijan. Yes, we also know that some people claim that there is such kind of problem. But where are evidences? The Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers, different ministries and all state structures are full of ethnic minority representatives and no one at any time due to their ethnic background tells them “you have an eyebrow on your eyes”.
Or one more passage says that the rights of people to place of residence, who were forced to become the IDPs, are violated. Yes, right, these rights are violated. But wouldn`t it be correct to note that these rights are violated due to occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia? In this situation not well-informed reader, who reads this report would think that the war in Nagorno Karabakh is a problem created by Azerbaijani government and that`s why the rights of people to place of residence is violated. We mean, actually would be possible to note that the rights of people to the place of residence is violated due to Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands and forcible displacement of people as a result of this occupation.
There are quite a lot passages in the report which can be considered as vulnerable to criticism. Among them there are claims telling that people were violently forced out from their residences in the framework of rebuilding of Baku city or such absurd thoughts saying allegedly women are discriminated while hiring people to state structures. We could comment on these allegations too. But as it is said, “no need for guide to the mountain which is already seen”.
While writing this article our aim is not just to blackmail Freedom House`s activities and report which we highly appreciate. We only wanted to bring to the attention that with the report based on above mentioned “facts” Azerbaijan (just my country! – A.H.) can`t be placed in the same line with such countries like Syria, where it is already one year as peoples blood is flowing by river, or North Korea, where one minister was sentenced to death with launcher due to not enough crying while the leader of the country has died, or even with Armenia where people wake up only by afternoon due to hunger and the economy is under zero, or ten person is killed within one day while attending an opposition rally and newspapers of which are very far behind of Azerbaijani newspapers. No one can see Azerbaijan in this line of countries. But there are some people who can see and even claim that Armenia is freer than we. That`s why Armenia is placed one step forward, among those countries with partly freedom.
Now we turn back to the citation which was pasted at the beginning. Such a report, which claims that Armenia was “bigger and whole” some period of time ago, could not be enough objective towards Azerbaijan. If we could address a question to the person who prepared this report, was there a state or any political institution named Armenia in those times which could be then divided into two parts?
At the end, again, we would like to note that while commenting on some passages of the report we are not aiming to blackmail the Freedom House. We know that this organization is dealing with very useful activities and we appreciate it. That`s why we would not this organization to be based on unfounded claims disseminated by some people while compiling reports. If there is a need for fair, objective information, we are ready to provide this. As we had made this before and Azerbaijan once was named among partly free countries…
*Azer Hasret is a chairman of Baku based freedom of expression organization – Central Asian and Southern Caucasian Freedom of Expression Network (CASCFEN – www.cascfen.net)
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