Azerbaijan: A Test Case for Democratic Solidarity

May 07, 2015
10:00 am - 11:30 am


  • Emin Milli, Managing Director, Meydan TV
  • Kenan Aliyev, Director, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service
  • Thomas de Waal, Senior Associate, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Moderated by

  • Miriam Lanskoy, Director of Russia and Eurasia Programs, National Endowment for Democracy

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About the Event

Azerbaijan has had a longstanding, dismal record on human rights but the dramatic crackdown over the last year has taken the government’s repression to a new level, decimating the country’s civil society and forcing dozens of organizations to close. Many of the country’s best-known human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists are now in jail. Because Azerbaijan remains a member of the Council of Europe and is an energy supplier for Europe, this unprecedented crackdown presents a particularly difficult challenge for international institutions that might otherwise hold the regime to account. At the same time, appeals from civil society organizations and prominent individuals to hold the government of Azerbaijan accountable are mounting. In April 2015, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) downgraded Azerbaijan’s membership due to its deepening repression of NGOs. Under these circumstances, what can be done to support the significant number of political prisoners? How can civil society remain active despite deepening authoritarianism? In this panel discussion, Emin Milli, Kenan Aliyev, and Thomas de Waal examined the domestic and international dimensions of this crackdown, as well as its broader implications for regional human rights standards.

About the Speakers

Kenan Aliyev is the director of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2004, Aliyev worked in Washington, DC as a broadcaster for Voice of America and was also a regular contributor for BBC World Service. Aliyev served as a Baku-based reporter for RFE/RL’s Russian Service and for the local Azadliq newspaper before he immigrated to the US in 1997.

Emin Milli is managing director of Meydan TV, one of few alternative and independent media platforms in Azerbaijan. Milli was politically persecuted and subsequently imprisoned in 2009 for two and a half years. In 2014 he was named as one of the “outstanding challengers from Central and Eastern Europe” in the project NewEurope 100 supported by Google and Financial Times.

Thomas de Waal is a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing primarily in the South Caucasus region, as well as in the wider Black Sea region. De Waal is an acknowledged expert on the unresolved conflicts of the South Caucasus: Abkhazia, Nagorny Karabakh, and South Ossetia. His latest book is Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide (Oxford University Press, 2015).