Lobbyist’s Call for West to Champion Azerbaijan is Deceitful and Dangerous
When I saw former Rep. Dan Burton’s
about wonderful Azerbaijan in the Washington Times today, I wanted to
read it right away to my friend Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist for
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Baku. But I couldn’t.
That same Azerbaijan government Rep. Burton praises as so tolerant and
devoted to democracy imprisoned her two months ago.
They ransacked her office and scoffed at protests by journalists and
human rights defenders globally to release her. They are keeping her
behind bars even though the charge against her is crazy – inciting an
acquaintance to suicide – and even though the acquaintance didn’t commit
suicide and says the charge is wrong.
This isn’t the first attack against journalists by a government Rep.
Burton says shares our democratic values. It is far from an isolated
incident. The Committee to Protect Journalists tracks 10 journalists in
Azerbaijan detention. It isn’t even the first time the government has
come after my friend. A couple of years ago a government website carried
photos of Ismayilova and her boyfriend taken inside her apartment by a
planted camera. In Muslim Azerbaijan sex outside of marriage is
considered scandalous, and the extortionist attempt to quiet her was
Ismayilova’s real offense, you see, has been exposing the corrupt and
disgusting behavior of President Ilham Aliyev, the head of state that
Rep. Burton would have the U.S. embrace.
But it would be surprising if Rep. Burton did not know about Ismayilova.
Or about the top-level graft and corruption. Or the gold mine. He is,
after all – though he does not mention this in his column – chairman
of the Azerbaijan America
Some of the other things this paid lobbyist didn’t tell you about the
country he wants us to enfold in a warm hug:
Yes, the U.S. should take a keen interest in Azerbaijan. It does indeed
occupy a strategic place in the post-Soviet realm near Afghanistan and
Oh, and there is oil, lots and lots of oil, in Azerbaijan, which Rep.
Burton inexplicably also failed to mention.
So, our interests are tied up in this obscure Caucasian nation. We
should be involved – but not as friends of the current regime.
American aid ought to be on the side of democracy, freedom, and the
Azeri people. It must be linked to reforms, greater transparency and,
immediately, to the release of Khadija Ismayilova.
Shame on you Rep. Burton for penning a false and deceitful column.
Rosemary Armao is an associate professor of Journalism/Communication at
the State University of New York at Albany and a long time editor for
the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project based in southeast