AZERBAIJAN’S DARK ISLAND: Human rights violations in Nakhchivan

Nakhchivan is an Autonomous Republic under the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan in the Southern Caucasus.

Nakhchivan is the most repressive and authoritarian region of Azerbaijan, where the
political scene is characterised by uncertainty, and where a sense of public apathy is
likely to stem from and geographically.

Vasif Talibov, who is related by marriage to Azerbaijan’s ruling family, the Aliyevs has been the chairman of the local parliament – Ali Majlis (Supreme Assembly) – and unchallenged leader of Nakhchivan for the past twelve years. More than a decade of Talibov’s rule has left the society with little hope, while widespread poverty and a high unemployment rate have had a dramatic negative impact on living conditions. The authoritarian rule and the destruction of civil society has been reinforced by strict censorship and grave human rights abuses.

In 2003, Human Rights Watch characterised the situation in Nakhchivan as “even more severe than in other areas of Azerbaijan”. Nakhchivan’s record on human rights and political liberties has been dismal over the past decade, and has grown worse. Political opponents of the regime are under pressure, and human rights activists have faced increased harassment, intimidation and violence. Civil society and independent media have almost disappeared, while journalists working for foreign news services also face similar attacks. We have also seen cases of outspoken people being forced into mental asylums or facing deportation from Nakhchivan, in a chilling reminiscence of Soviet times.

According to Jeffrey Gedmin, President of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Azerbaijan is a dangerous place for journalists and activists, but “the risk is magnified in Nakhchivan, where arbitrariness seems to be the only rule”. Despite the elimination of formal censorship, newspapers and broadcasting remain exclusively under state control, and opposition journalists work under constant, rigid pressure from the authorities.

AZERBAIJAN’S DARK ISLAND: Human rights violations in Nakhchivan