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Belgian Post Complains Over Spin On Aliyev Vanity Stamp

The Belgian "My Stamp" showing the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev
The Belgian "My Stamp" showing the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev
BRUSSELS -- Belgium's postal service has complained to Azerbaijan's embassy after reports in the Azerbaijani media suggested the company had issued an official stamp to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the birth of late President Heydar Aliyev.

The 0.90 euro ($1.17) stamp was launched earlier this month in a step that Azerbaijan's ambassador to Belgium, Fuad Isgandarov, said would "help immortalize Heydar Aliyev on the European level."

Aliyev is the father of current Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded him shortly before his death in 2003.

An English-language report in the Azerbaijan State Telegraph Agency (AzerTAc) on May 12 carried the headline "Belgian post office launches stamp to mark 90th anniversary of Azerbaijani national leader Heydar Aliyev."

But a representative of Belgium's postal service (bpost) told RFE/RL the stamp is not an official bpost stamp.

Instead, he said it was issued under a service the company offers called "My Stamp," which allows customers to commission personalized stamps for a specific event, such as a wedding or birthday.

The feature -- similar to schemes in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere -- usually entails people sending in pictures of themselves or relatives, which bpost then makes into a limited number of stamps to be used for private purposes.

The tool has become popular in Belgium, with hundreds of thousands of requests sent in every year since the service was introduced about a decade ago.

The representative, who declined to be named, said bpost has contacted the Azerbaijani Embassy in Belgium to complain that the Aliyev stamp has been presented as an official stamp. He underlined that a person who orders a personalized stamp via bpost has exclusive responsibility for it.

He said someone had sent in a picture of Aliyev, which later was issued.

The Azerbaijani Embassy as well as the country's NATO mission in Brussels and various Azerbaijani diaspora organizations held a ceremony to celebrate the issuing of the stamp of the controversial leader earlier in May.

The elder Aliyev, who ruled Soviet and then an independent Azerbaijan for decades, was born on May 10, 1923.

The bpost representative also noted that the company vets images proposed for "My Stamp" to weed out those that "go against public order" -- for example, by showing nudity or well-known tyrants such as Adolf Hitler or Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

He said the company would continue to make as many background checks as possible in the future.

Majority state-owned bpost is the main company responsible for the delivery of national and international mail in Belgium and by far the biggest issuer of stamps in the country.
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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.