“Through reporting and analysis of social and political issues, openDemocracy seeks to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world.” It is said in openDemocracy.net`s About section.
We believed and tried to voice our alternative opinion as well through this “platform of alternative voices”. While I had submitted my piece 6 weeks ago the web site machine said that your material is accepted and can be published within 3 weeks. But still no reaction. Waiting more than 4 weeks I have contacted openDemocracy.net`s editor-in-chief Mary Fitzgerald through e-mail. Just waiting several days with no reply I tried to reach her through Twitter account. And again no reaction, no reply.
Now I decided that this so-called “openDemocracy” platform is just to blackmail some governments with no right to reply. Or this platform is just only for those who can and want to target governments in any way they want. It seems this is not a platform for open democracy and alternative opinions.
As this “openDemocracy” ignored my opinion piece I am using alternatives to publish it. So below I am providing my piece which was submitted to openDemocracy.net 6 weeks ago and silently ignored by those “fighting” for democracy and pluralism.
Come back and build democracy with me in Azerbaijan
By Azer HASRET, firstname.lastname@example.org
Once upon, 10-15 years ago there was very famous human rights defender – Marek Nowicki. Of Polish decent he faced many troubles in a struggle for better life in his country – Poland. He was always in a forefront of democracy and human rights, rule of law and fair society fights. He was one of the leaders who suffered even imprisonment and unfair approach in his life. He was a hero, he was dedicated human rights fighter.
But he never was an asylum seeker. He never looked for better and easy life outside of his country – Poland. He thought that the better life, more democracy and respect of law must be inside his motherland. That’s why even instead of threats by former communist Polish authorities he tried to do his best to change his country. But again, never thought about getting political asylum. Because he was a real democracy and human rights fighter. Because he wanted changes in his country. Because he thought just about the blessing of his country and his compatriots.
Once upon an Azerbaijani female journalist and another human rights actor went to Poland to attend Marek Nowicki`s seminars. After the weeklong seminar a journalist asked Marek Nowicki to help her to find an asylum in one of the European countries.
“Why?” asked her Nowicki.
She answered that the government in Azerbaijan is repressive and if she gets back to Azerbaijan she`ll be imprisoned.
After listening carefully Nowicki answered: “Get back to your country, even if you`re going to be imprisoned. And continue your fight for freedom of expression and human rights. We have changed Poland this way. We have been imprisoned, beaten and forced continues pressures, but never thought about to leave our motherland. Because we believe that if you want more democracy, human rights in your country this is just a way to stay in and fight for them. We achieved new order – democracy in Poland using this approach. So you need to go back and change your country. If not, your country will not be changed”.
I totally agree with late human rights patriarch Nowicki that if we want more democracy, open society and rule of law in our new democracies we must stay in and help with building new life. If we leave our country and claim that the country face lack of democracy this will not help much.
Azerbaijani government can be seen sometimes not much democratic as required. It is understandable. Because the country is new in the way to democracy. We need more and more expertise to achieve those standards which exist in advanced democracies. And we need more and more brave citizens who will relentlessly move on alongside with government to ensure democracy in our country.
I am one of them. I lived through the times with less opportunities. I was a student while joined national liberation movement. I spent my days and nights on the streets and squares of Baku protesting Armenian aggression and Russian continues influence. I wanted my country to be totally free. In this my way I faced even hunger, imprisonment, beating and pressures. Having no roof above my head, with no money and good relations around I was a lonely wolf who believed that one day Azerbaijan will become stable, open and secular democracy where people will feel themselves free of any outside intervention.
The times have passed and year by year my country changed. We could overcome economic crisis. Even refugee and IDP crisis was behind instead of Azerbaijani lands occupied by Armenia still are under aggressors control.
Civil society, media and opposition voices got more and more opportunities to get in touch with responsible authorities and discuss burning issues. The government of President Ilham Aliyev became the most open one in the territory of former Soviet Union. Even the President himself launched friendly ties with media, civil society and political activists.
Now today Azerbaijan is the most stable and secure country in the world. We are tolerant nation towards other cultures and multiculturalism became our lifestyle. Christians, Jews, different Muslim confessions and even smaller religious communities are happy together in Azerbaijan.
Young people who wishes to get higher education supported by new technologies can get this with no obstacle. Even those wishing to be educated outside of Azerbaijan are welcome and the government through the Ministry of Education provides scholarships for them. As a result hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani young people study at the universities in the country. Plus a few thousands have studied and continue education abroad. The government year by year stimulates more young people to study at prestigious Western universities in order to bring more expertise to the country. Because there is still a great need for that.
As a result, thousands of young Azerbaijanis graduated from foreign universities are back to the country and serving the needs of the nation. There are dozens, sometimes hundreds of them in state services. Even some of them are serving as members of parliament. This means the government is interested to educate young citizens outside and bring more experienced talents back to Azerbaijan in order to use them for the blessing of the nation.
Why I feel a need to describe all these for the readers? Because there is a great need for this. Because sometimes some people use likewise open platforms to target and blackmail some countries.
I know and I understand that for more democratic societies we need continues struggle.
And I know, understand that any government on the globe does not love those democracy fighters. But all governments have to tolerate fight for democracy and rule of law.
The government of Azerbaijan is not an exception. It is open to dialogue, tolerant towards different opinions and is accessible for those who really want a change. But those who deals with propaganda using blackmail methods are pushed away by the government in Azerbaijan.
Is the government right with likewise approach? I think yes. Even if one understands that the person is approaching him/her in order to achieve not public blessing, but just evil intends, will not tolerate this individual or group. This is the case in Azerbaijan as well.
Some days ago I read a feature by Arzu Geybulla in openDemocracy.net titled “How Azerbaijan is losing its brains” where she claims that young brains are leaving Azerbaijan for better life and working conditions outside of country. Is she right? Can be seen like yes. But what says reality? Reality says that, yes, some young people have left and are leaving Azerbaijan for the reasons described by Arzu. But these are very few people, let’s say dozens maybe. In contrary, as we noted above, thousands of young Azerbaijanis are getting education abroad and coming back to Azerbaijan to help to build better future.
Those young people understand that Azerbaijan is our home, our country and no one except ourselves will build its stable and developing future. Unlike Arzu and others who are mentioned in her work, they think about getting more knowledge, more experience and build a democracy just here in Azerbaijan rather than moving to most developed countries to secure individual life.
Yes, we understand that Azerbaijan has some problems. But at the same time we understand that those are our problems and must be solved by ourselves. We, the people of Azerbaijan need to work more and more to change the country, the minds of those people whose do not suit to the today`s needs.
Those several young people, who claim leaving the country due to “repressions” or “misconduct” cannot be regarded as democracy and human rights fighters. They are just individuals who want easy and ready life wherever on the globe is possible. They don`t care about Azerbaijani democracy. If they do, I`m calling on them to come back and join me in efforts for more and stable changes. We are building our democracy step by step and no one is creating obstacles in this way. Just only in the case while someone forgets about responsibilities. But one needs to remember, that democracy, freedoms are guaranteed only alongside with responsibilities…
Azer Hasret is an Azerbaijani journalist based in Baku with more than 20 years of experience. He writes in English, Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijani languages. His work focuses on human rights, social and political developments, the media and corruption. He is a member of the International Press Institute and a Founder of its Azerbaijan National Committee. Since 2003 he has been a chairman of the Baku-based Central Asian and Southern Caucasus Freedom of Expression Network which won the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer Award in 2004. He has served as a member of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) Council between 2001 and 2005. He was among the founding board members of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and is a founding member of the Azerbaijan Press Council. Just recently – April, 2017 was appointed by the Parliament of Azerbaijan as a member of Public Broadcasting Council to serve 6 years term.