August 25, 2003
The Washington Post

Azerbaijan: An Unending Succession

A FEW WEEKS AGO, when the ailing president of Azerbaijan arranged to have power transferred to his son, a U.S. State Department spokesman was asked for comment. You might think that a pro-democracy administration would have some choice words for an authoritarian regime preparing to become the first hereditary fiefdom among post-Soviet republics. But the spokesman proclaimed the handoff "fully consistent with the Azerbaijani constitution" and had nothing more to say.

Maybe anyone working for President Bush feels awkward discussing matters of father-son succession. . . .


[ILHAM ALIYEV was inaugurated as president of the oil-rich Muslim country of Azerbaijan three months ago after an election condemned by international observers as blatantly fraudulent. When members of the opposition tried to protest, they were brutally beaten by police. There followed a massive, nationwide crackdown in which more than 1,000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders, activists from nongovernmental organizations, journalists and election officials who objected to the fraud. More than 100 remain in prison, including most of the senior opposition activists. A new report by Human Rights Watch documents numerous cases of torture, including severe beatings, electric shock, and threats of rape against the opposition leaders. Mr. Aliyev, who succeeded his strongman father, meanwhile has been consolidating dictatorial powers: Most recently he was named director of Azerbaijani radio and television.

Azerbaijan, in short, might look like a good place for President Bush to start implementing his frequently declared policy of "spreading freedom" to the world --Editorial, "Our Man in Baku," Washington Post, January 25, 2004]

[President Aliyev junior launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition immediately after his election, arresting hundreds and torturing many, according to human rights activists. Yet this month, with pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq undermining Washington's ability to criticise similar practices elsewhere, the Pentagon forged ahead with plans to increase its presence in the Caspian state.--Nick Paton Walsh, "US sidles up to well-oiled autocracy," Guardian, July 2, 2004]

"Protesters Call for New Vote in Azerbaijan," Reuters, November 20, 2005

[Azerbaijan, with its vast gas and oil reserves the object of competition between Moscow and Washington, is at a crossroads, the shape of its religious landscape still undetermined . . . A few years ago, some 100 people would come to Friday Prayers at Abu Bakr. Now, the mosque's imam, Gamet Suleymanov, says that number is more like 7,000.--Luke Allnutt, "Azerbaijan: The Struggle To Shape Islam," AFP, October 31, 2005]

back button