On 14 November, Foundation Max van der Stoel had the honour to meet Azeri dissidents and human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus. It has been one year since Arif was released from prison in Azerbaijan, on 12 November 2015, and FMS asked Leyla and Arif about their story and views on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the plans for the future.
After a former KGB general Heydar Aliyev came to power in Azerbaijan in 1993 – political repressions started. In 2003 the father was followed by his son, Ilham Aliev and repressions against dissidents became systematic. Human rights defenders of Azerbaijan regularly compose lists of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. Among them – Leyla and Arif Yunus, a couple of Azeri dissidents and human rights activists, who are now refugees in the Netherlands.
On April 5th a ceasefire was reached between Azerbaijan and separatist forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On April 2nd intense fighting broke out in the Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabakh enclave inside Azerbaijan. Although this is not the first violation of the truce, signed in 1994 by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, it looked like a full-scale war with tanks and drones marking a significant difference from the previous gunfire incidents over the years.
An Azerbaijani journalist Rasim Aliyev, age 30, died from internal bleeding in a Baku hospital on August 9 after being beaten the previous day by what he said was a group of supporters of the Qabala FK soccer player Cavid Huseynov. Aliyev said he was attacked due to the criticism he made of Huseynov on his Facebook page. Police have detained several suspects, including Huseynov’s cousin Elsan Ismayilov. Sport for Rights called Aliyev's death a "murder" that shows "critical voices are at greater risk now than ever before". The incident has hit the rock-bottom when it comes to human rights situation in Azerbaijan.
On 21 September Blinibioscoop and Foundation Max van der Stoel are organising a screening of documentary film "Age of Delirium," which focusses on the fall of the Soviet Union, followed by a panel discussion. The film screening will begin at 15:00, the panel at 17:00, to be followed by the Bliniscoop traditional pancakes. Entrance fee is 5 Euros, and includes pancakes. The working language will be English.
Azerbaijan has increasingly been criticized for its massive crackdown on human rights activists by international organisations and NGOs. On 19 August, the United Nations issued a report condemning their prosecution, underlining that the “criminalization of rights activists must stop.” The report came as the list of political prisoners was revealed and an Azerbaijani Court presided over an appeal trial of a young activist on August 20, in a case denounced as “politically motivated” by his followers.
Caucasus is under strain of renewed tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. An outbreak of fighting in Azerbaijan’s breakaway region left more than fifteen soldiers dead, while both Armenian and Azeri government accused each other of fuelling clashes. Recent events have been the deadliest since the 1994 ceasefire and raise concern about a degeneration of the conflict.
On 28 April the head of an election watchdog in Azerbaijan, Anar Mammadli, and two of his associates went on trial and face prison sentences. Besides these three men other critics of the regime - a human rights activist, a journalist and two opposition leaders - faced charges as well in the last two months.
European Union officials have expressed their concerns over the ‘continued pressure’ on opposition activists, civil society and independent media in Azerbaijan on October 3rd, ahead of next week’s presidential election.
In het mooie Oekraïense stadje Lviv organiseerde Foundation Max van der Stoel in samenwerking met de UK Labour Party tussen 16 en 21 juli een Zomeracademie. De 23 jonge deelnemers waren afkomstig uit Armenië, Azerbeidjaan, Georgië, Rusland, Belarus Moldavië en Oekraïne.