Azerbaijan is a country in the South Caucasus that has been ruled for decades by the Aliyev family clan, which holds on to power thanks to harsh repression in the country as well as a firmly established dictatorship based on oil. Azerbaijan is infamous for manipulating elections on various levels, suppressing freedom of speech, eliminating undesirable non-governmental organisations, persecuting independent journalists and holding members of the political opposition in prison.
In 2014, the Azerbaijani authorities dramatically increased pressure on non-governmental organizations and critics of the regime, targeting human rights activists, opposition politicians, independent journalists and dissidents. Many analysts consider this to be the biggest crackdown on the government’s critics since Azerbaijan became independent. Among those detained are significant human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov and Homo Homini laureate Intigam Aliyev, who were sentenced to many years in prison on trumped up charges.
Aliyev's regime released a number of these political prisoners in spring 2016. This is probably to do with the current poor state of Azerbaijan’s economy and related international pressure on the regime there. Around 80 political prisoners still remain in local jails around the country.
People in Need (PIN) has been working in Azerbaijan since 2013, primarily supporting human rights activists, civil society groups and the encouraging respect for fundamental freedoms. Independent lawyers and non-governmental human rights organisations are supported financially and through various training courses, while political prisoners and their families have been provided with moral, material and financial support. In addition, PIN has been calling attention to the violation of fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan on a Czech and international level. In collaboration with our partners, we have been trying to influence Czech and European politicians, policy makers and high level officials to place a greater emphasis on respect for human rights during dialogue with Azerbaijani authorities.
What can you do to help?
Screen a film to your friends: You are welcome, free of charge, to borrow the documentary Amazing Azerbaijan!, which was part of the One World Film Festival in 2013, and screen it to our friends and acquaintances anywhere you like. There are additional materials that can be downloaded for free as well to help you organise a debate. Get Your Audience!
Become a member of PIN’s Club of Friends
A quarter of all donations to the Club of Friends program goes directly to human rights defenders in the countries where PIN works. In Azerbaijan, the Club of Friends supports political prisoners and their families, as well as other human rights activists who are at risk.
If you are interested in reading more about Azerbaijan, we have more materials available, such as ‘Questions and Answers for the Amazing Azerbaijan documentary’, as well as the ‘How Can I Help’ leaflet.