Azerbaijan: An activist speaks
Criticising the government of Ilham Aliyev can carry heavy penalties as one opposition activist explains.
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2011 13:47

Activist: Xan, whose identity we have concealed for his safety

Editor: Hasan Rrahmani

When it was established in 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic became the first democratic and secular republic in the Muslim world. The largest country in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1921. But when it gained its independence in 1991, the country was in a state of political and economic turmoil.

Now opposition to the authoritarian rule of Ilham Aliyev, the country's president, is growing. In March 2011, students galvanised by the Arab Spring took to the streets of the capital, Baku, to demand an end to Aliyev's regime. The authorities responded with brutal force: many young people were arrested and unlawfully detained for taking part in the demonstration. Human rights organisations have reported incidents of activists being beaten while in custody.

Criticising the government in Azerbaijan can result in hefty penalties.

In October 2011, three opposition leaders who helped organise the peaceful protests were found guilty of causing civil unrest, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to three years in Azerbaijan.

Xan, whose identity we have concealed for his safety, is an opposition activist. He spoke with the Activate team and shared his views on political repression in Azerbaijan and his experiences of challenging the regime; his forced exile and his ongoing campaign to demand a democratic future for his country.

Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Indonesia's digerati could be crucial to success in the country's upcoming presidential election.
Medical patients and doctors fear being targeted by Israeli air strikes, after a bomb killed four at Gaza health centre.
Activists worry that the Protection of Pakistan Act will be used to justify security forces' excesses.
Five Myanmar journalists were recently sentenced to ten years in prison, a move decried by rights groups.
Despite disappointing results on the pitch, many Brazilians are proud of how their country organised the tournament.
US Gulf Coast businesses, congressman want BP to reinstate internal claims programme, pay out reparations for oil spill.
join our mailing list