Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 364 -
is a major energy supplier to Europe and a
transit route for US troops in
Human rights groups say this has cushioned
the country against Western critics of its
record on democracy.
But it has not prevented domestic
opponents of its dictatorial regime making
their views known. Inspired by what is
going on elsewhere in the Muslim world,
notably the Middle East, they have been
demonstrating in Baku, the capital.
Protests over the past several weeks have,
nevertheless, been given short shrift by
authorities in the mainly Muslim country
of nine million people, with more than 100
detained in April and March. Flyers were
scattered on the ground calling on
hard-line leader Aliyev to resign and for
an "End to Dictatorship." An opposition
spokesman said several hundred had been
arrested in various parts of Baku.
Aliyev junior a multi-millionaire in
Azerbaijan is ruled by a dynasty, hailing
curiously from an Azeri enclave between
Iran and Armenia, Nakichevan, not
Azerbaijan proper. It, the dynasty, not
the enclave, began under Heydar Aliyev,
who ruled for thirteen years as the Soviet
satrap and then until 2003 as president of
an independent country. He then made way
for his son, Ilham, who achieved a 76%
victory in the elections of that year.
The latter clearly intends to rule
indefinitely, having abolished
presidential term limits in 2008, when he
won a handsome 89% victory; albeit the
opposition refused to participate,
denouncing the elections as a 'farce.'
But he is of course aware that he is
mortal. He is grooming his own 11-year-old
son to succeed him eventually. So that
Aliyev junior shall not be wanting in the
interim, nine luxury mansions in Dubai
worth millions of pounds have been bought
in his name. The waterfront properties on
the exclusive Palm Jumeirah development
have been registered with Dubai’s Land
Department under the name of Heydar Aliyev,
the schoolboy son of President Aliyev,
with the same name as grandpapa.
The Washington Post newspaper reported
that they were bought in a two-week
shopping spree last year for about $44
million (£29 million) — 10,000 times the
average annual salary in Azerbaijan. The
President’s daughters, Leyla and Arzu,
also appeared as the owners of Dubai
properties, bringing the total value of
the children’s alleged property portfolio
to $75 million.
The President’s official salary in
Azerbaijan is about $228,000 a year. It is
of course not his only source of income.
Azerbaijan is one of the most corrupt
countries in the world.
Azerbaijan is booming thanks to oil
revenues of $7 billion last year alone,
but most of its eight million people
endure harsh poverty, and up to a million
are refugees from the frozen conflict with
Armenia over the enclave of
Nagorno-Karabakh. The US State Department
condemned “pervasive corruption” in a
report last year that also criticised the
regime’s human rights abuses.
Dubai may have lost its shine in the age
of the credit crunch, but the villas on
the Palm still claim a host of famous
owners. If young Heydar loses his football
over the fence, he may find it returned by
David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Angelina
Jolie or Simon Cowell. Reports of the
alleged purchases shine a light on
allegations of corruption in the former
Soviet republic, which is swimming in
revenues from vast oil and gas reserves in
the Caspian Sea.
The Aliyevs certainly bought their seaside
homes at the right time. A self-styled
Eighth Wonder of the Word, the Palm
Jumeirah was supposed to cement Dubai’s
reputation as the new playground for the
rich and famous.
From their peak in mid-2008, however,
property values across Dubai have
plummeted. By early last year, top-end
villas on the Palm were selling for about
£2.7 million each, half their peak value,
as the emirate’s real estate market
collapsed and panicked investors bailed
The wrong sort of Aliyev
'Aliyev' is a common name in Azerbaijan.
The well-known clergyman there, the head
of the Centre of Religious Researches, Haj
Ilham Aliyev, has been arrested.
The clergyman has condemned the
anti-Islamic policy pursued by an official
Azeri delegation during a recent
conference. The Azerbaijani Aliyev noted
during the interview with “Islam-azeri.az”
news web-site that the clergyman would
never refuse to struggle and the issue of
hijab would always be on agenda.
Opening up to Iran and Turkey
The Azeri regime is canny for all that. It
goes in for merciless repression at home;
but more emollient behaviour abroad.
On April 17 a two-day
Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey trilateral forum
was held, which was attended by the
foreign ministers of the three countries,
concluded in Urmia, West Azerbaijan
Province. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali
Akbar Salehi held separate talks with
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar
Mammadyarov on the sidelines of the
Salehi and Mammadyarov stated that
providing customs facilities, increasing
the volume of trade between Iran and
Azerbaijan, and expanding cooperation in
various areas must be put on the agenda.
The three countries involved certainly
need to co-operate anew.
They have many gripes against each other.
They are best addressed through diplomatic
channels at this point – i.e. by foreign
ministers. The big moment will come when
the very presidents of the same, all
republics, are agreed in a communal
statement - by presidents, not just
foreign ministers. But that will take