The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a collective of NGOs, resource industry corporations and governments whose primary goal is to fight corruption, has sent representatives to Azerbaijan in order to investigate a recent government crackdown on NGOs, journalists, and human rights activists. If their investigation bears fruit, EITI may suspend Azerbaijan’s membership. They plan to decide on a course of action by October 15th.
According to HRW, Azerbaijan has been using repressive laws to regulate and silence NGOs, including some fellow members of EITI. A number of leading human rights activists have also been imprisoned, including reporter Seymour Khaziyev, activist Leyla Yunus and her husband, historian Arif Yunus, lawyer Intigam Aliyev, and Human Rights Club head Rasul Jafarov. The whereabouts of Emin Huseynov, who ran the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, have been unknown since his office was searched and sealed by Azerbaijani authorities.
The crackdown has been in effect since the 2013 presidential elections, but the situation has gotten much worse over the course of the past year. Current President Ilham Aliyev was relected last October for a third term, though rumors of election fraud were widespread. Azerbaijan is ranked 160th out of 180 countries on the 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, down four places since last year, and 126th of 175 countries on “Transparency International’s Visualizing the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014.” For comparison, Transparency International ranks the US as 17th and Iran as 136th.
On September 20th, 2014, the oil company BP (one of the founders of EITI) and the government of Azerbaijan held a ceremony in honor of the groundbreaking for a new stage of an oil pipeline project. “This is a great day for Azerbaijan and a great day for energy,” Bob Dudley, the Group Chief Executive for BP, said. “What has been achieved here since 1994 is extraordinary. And for that I want to pay tribute to President Aliyev, his government and SOCAR. Together we have showed what partnership can deliver.” BP later told HRW that they welcomed the EITI investigation in Azerbaijan.
And here is the cheering up video that I now so desperately require. I can only preface this by saying that Noel Fielding is a genius, and one of my favorite comedians of all time. Just…accept the majesty of this performance for what it is. Oh, and the man at the end is his comedy partner, Julian Barratt.