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.

Source: Al Jazeera