Struggling for democracy in Azerbaijan
Activists fight for their rights despite the government's efforts to frighten them into silence.
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2011 08:16

Video editor: Hasan Rrahmani

Xan, whose identity we have concealed for his safety, describes the challenges facing Azerbaijan's activists in their fight for democracy.

Sometimes, I wonder if the wave of democracy will ever reach the shores of the Caspian Sea - but, still, we continue to struggle for democracy in Azerbaijan.

Despite the arrests of hundreds of activists under false charges, we look for new ideas and opportunities to fight against the regime. Unfortunately, all the dictators have the same vision towards their nations.

As a result of the targeted, anti-activist policy of the regime, many of the highly qualified and skilled young Azerbaijanis have fled the country.

According to my research (on Linkedin), most well-educated, young Azerbaijanis are now based outside the country, working for multinationals or have emigrated permanently. And more than half of young Azerbaijanis are still seeking ways to flee the country.

Despite the fact that the constitution of the Azerbaijani Republic provides a long list of rights, in reality, the situation is very frustrating.

The government continues to limit freedom of expression, using criminal defamations, legal action and violence to intimidate activists and journalists - this frightens many into silence.

Had I remained in Azerbaijan, I am sure that I would have shared the same fate as that of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Emin Milli, Adnan Hajizadeh, Tural Abbasli, Ahad Mammadli, Ruslan Bashirli, Eynulla Fatullayev, Arif Hajili and dozens of others who were arrested and sent to jail for criticising the government.

Fortunately, I am one of the activists lucky enough to have escaped the regime.

The situation deteriorated in the wake of the March 11 campaign, which was inspired by the peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. We started an online Facebook campaign, which quickly turned into demonstrations on the streets.

Frightened that the Egyptian scenario would be repeated in Azerbaijan, officials responded with heavy crackdowns on the activists. Hundreds of activists were detained and arrested.

Since the beginning of 2011, more than 75 people have been arrested on political grounds.

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, one of the active bloggers, was detained and violently interrogated, even threatened with rape, in connection with the March 11 Facebook campaign.

This is how we struggle for our constitutional and birth rights in our oil-rich country, Azerbaijan.

We hope that "change" will come to our country as soon as possible. And those of us who have been forced to leave our country, will return to our beloved Azerbaijan, winning back all our rights.

Al Jazeera
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