Posts Tagged ‘Azerbaijan’

Minister’s close association with this dreadful state

Azerbaijan is ruled by a dictator Ilham Aliyev and is renowned for being a brutal state where torture is common and human rights flagrantly abused.  In the words of Human Rights Watch:

Azerbaijan’s government has escalated repression against its critics, marking a dramatic deterioration in an already poor rights record. In recent years , dozens of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, prompting others to flee the country or go into hiding. Bank accounts of independent civic groups and their leaders have been frozen, impeding their work, or in some cases forcing them to shut down entirely. New legal regulations make it almost impossible for independent groups to get foreign funding. While criticizing the increasing crackdown, Azerbaijan’s international partners have failed to secure rights improvements.

The problem is that the country is rich in oil and so there is a rush by western and other governments to secure contracts.  Hundreds of millions of dollars of the country’s wealth sit in overseas bank accounts controlled by the Aliyev family and they like owning large amounts of real estate in London as well.  (Daily Mail 21 December 2012)

Where oil and money are concerned of course, it is too much for western countries including the UK, to concern themselves with human rights especially as we know that the emphasis now is on trade.  Prince Andrew is a regular visitor to the country and Tony Blair was paid £90, 000 for a twenty minute speech.  They have been using ‘sports wash’ to improve their image and hosted the recent Formula 1 race.

Image result for dr liam foxAnother visitor is the Secretary of State for International Trade, the disgraced MP, Dr Liam Fox pictured left (Bing images).  In the words of the New Statesman, ‘he is in the most literal sense, shameless and should never hold high office again.’ (23 December 2016)  He was sacked for breaking the ministerial code.

According to the Observer (7 August 2016) he has been paid £5,700 for the right to translate his book Rising Tides into Azerbaijani.  He was paid a further £3, 500 or so to fly out there to promote it. Few read the book in English and no other country has translated it.  One passage from the book, referring to Burma, is interesting:

[…] freedom from fear and freedom of expression, including a free press and broadcast media and the right to dissent within the law. It requires an inclusive political solution that addresses the underlying causes of the conflict and takes into account the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all the people of a land. Until the rights, identities and hopes of all …, whatever their ethnic origins or religion, are treated as equal, peace and reconciliation will not be achieved.”

The reviewer of the Conservative Home site remarks:

A clear thread throughout the entire book is Fox’s emphasis on the values of liberty, democracy and human rights, and he makes a compelling case. He is not blindly idealistic, or reliant solely on the moral virtues of the argument – rather, he makes the case in terms of self-interest

It seems extraordinary that with these sentiments Dr Fox should consort with, and take money from, such a vile regime, beyond the needs of diplomacy.  It fits with a government reluctant to tackle abuses in Saudi Arabia for example as we have commented frequently before.  Final word to the Observer:

Dr Fox is a man for our debased times because his record with Azerbaijan shows the international trade secretary would not want to raise [human rights concerns] even if he could.  Our future is not going to be proud and independent, but grubby and murky and filled with bad deals with worse governments; a future, in short, where the foxes rule the henhouse.



F1 to take place in Azerbaijan this weekend where human rights are seriously restricted

It’s called ‘sportswash’ and it is the present day attempt by tyrannical regimes to get themselves some positive publicity by hosting a sporting event, in this case, motor racing.  And they do not seem to have any difficulty in persuading sponsors, drivers and others involved to come to their country and lend support to the host however poorly they behave.

Bernie Ecclestone, when questioned about the dismal human rights record in Azerbaijan said:

The moment someone tells me that human rights are, then we can have a look at it, and see when and where it applies.  (Source – Daily Mail)

One could mention the UN Declaration or the European Convention on Human Rights as a starting point but one gets the impression there wouldn’t be much interest.

But Kerry Moscogiuri, director of campaigns at Amnesty International UK, said:

The arrival of Formula One in Baku must not steer attention away from the Azerbaijani authorities’ human rights crackdown.

Behind the glitz the authorities are locking up their critics, have shut down NGOs and arrested or harassed their leaders.  The recent release of some of those jailed on trumped-up charges should not fool anyone into thinking that the wind in Baku is blowing in a different direction.

Azerbaijan has courted big international sports events to improve its image abroad and the Grand Prix is no different.  While the world’s fastest drivers take to the streets of Baku in this spectacle of speed, there are many who will not be able to enjoy the show.

F1 is in pole position to influence positive change in Azerbaijan.  We would like to see them publicly urge President Aliyev to end this crackdown and free all prisoners of conscience.

Rebecca Vincent of Sport for Rights commented:

Bernie Ecclestone’s attitude to human rights is an embarrassment for Formula One.  The Sport For Rights coalition has repeatedly raised the cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan with those in the F1 world, without anything resembling a sufficient response. The sport and its sponsors should be ashamed to allow themselves to be used as a propaganda tool for repressive governments such as President Aliyev’s.

They also claim that media outlets critical of Aliyev’s government have been harassed and intimidated and subsequently forced to close, while four journalists have also died in custody since 2005, according to Sport for Rights.

It all seems a long way from the Greek idea which informed their philosophy behind the idea of athletics and sporting prowess.  This philosophy was that the success of a democratic government depended on the moral character of the citizenry and sport was part of that philosophy.  This was a large part of the motivation for the combined athletic/moral training.  Now that sport is a business it only seems to matter who can pay the most.  Sport is now part of the apparatus of repression rather that something which uplifts the soul.  Thus any regime which oppresses its citizens and ignores human rights can host a football tournament, motor racing event or some other sporting attraction at will.  The people who take part in these events seem unconcerned at the misery which surrounds them and they are guaranteed uncritical coverage of their exploits in the media.