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Transmission

Azerbaijan Concerned About Human Rights -- In The United States

Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 18.
Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 18.

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U.S. Rep. 'Deeply Troubled' By RFE/RL Baku Raid

The leading Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs says he is "deeply troubled" by Azerbaijan's December 26 raid on RFE/RL's Baku bureau and subsequent forced questioning of employees.

Azerbaijani lawmakers have decided to take a good hard look at the issue of human rights -- in the United States.

With Baku facing mounting international criticism over its rights record, Azerbaijan's parliament held hearings on January 15 to probe issues including U.S. race relations, anti-Muslim bigotry, and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

“There is a race problem in the U.S.,” Trend News Agency quoted lawmaker Zahid Oruj as saying, adding that the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president "hasn’t eliminated the racial discrimination in the United States."

Another lawmaker, Azay Guliyev, asked why U.S. think tanks are criticizing Azerbaijan given that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is still open, according to press reports. He also raised the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, by a police officer.

The parliamentary hearing appeared to be an exercise in so-called "whataboutism," the Soviet-era rhetorical tactic of responding to criticism about rights abuses by citing real or imagined abuses committed by the West. 

Guliyev said the hearing was held because of U.S. criticism leveled at Azerbaijan. 

"We decided to hold these hearings and study the situation of human rights in the United States in an effort to find out on what grounds they are making such statements about Azerbaijan," he said.

Khadija Ismayilova
Khadija Ismayilova

Azerbaijan has come under international criticism for a wide range of human rights abuses, including the arrest of journalists and activists and the closure of numerous NGOs. The most recent criticism came after the detention and imprisonment of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on December 5.

On January 13, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (Republican-California) called on Azerbaijan to release Ismayilova and criticized the December 26 raid and closure of RFE/RL's Baku bureau. 

In recent months, Azerbaijani authorities have also closed down a number of NGOs, including the Baku branches of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).
 
According to the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), there are 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, including 13 journalists and bloggers. 

The NHC awarded its 2014 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award to Azerbaijan's political prisoners.

-- Luke Johnson

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Azer Hasret from: Azerbaijan, Baku
January 16, 2015 20:34
Are you sure? Nothing like that in Azerbaijani Parliament. Just there were hearings not by Parliament, but by civil society representatives where some parliamentarians participated as well. So if the civil society in Azerbaijan is discussing this issue why are you so concerned? Is there any taboo on HR problems in US? Aren`t the HR universal?

by: Aliyar from: Moscow
January 17, 2015 07:38
Firstly, information is wrong. Azerbaijani Parliament did not hold this event. It was organized by NGO Council of Azerbaijan and was invited many NGO leaders to tell their own opinion.
But unfortunetly I want to write very short my views in general. I have not seen US or Europe based "human right defenders" could critisize Armenia on agrresive attitude and not willing see peace in the region even once. I have not seen anybody from European Parliament, CoE, US State Department that can defend elementary rights of IDPs brutally fired out or killed. I am refugee and I live in Moscow which is pretty disciriminated place. Here I see unjustice towards Azerbaijan as well. But US or Europe don"t differ from Russia in this case.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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