Letters to the editor November 20
Azerbaijan a democracy? Think again
In his article on the relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan (“Israel’s emerging Muslim-majority ally,” Nov. 6), David Bernstein claims that Azerbaijan is “the world’s first Muslim-majority democracy” and should be supported by American Jews because of its friendship with Israel.
Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is not a democracy. It’s a family business, run by Ilham Aliyev, son of the last Soviet president of Azerbaijan and father of Leyla Aliyeva, who he is grooming to succeed him. The most recent presidential elections gave Ilham Aliyev in excess of 80 percent of the vote. Charges of ballot stuffing from international election monitors were simply ignored.
Azerbaijan also has joined a select group of countries that, taking Russia’s lead, require that human-rights organizations must register as “foreign agents” if they receive funds from outside the country, including grants from such dangerous organizations as USAID [the United States Agency for International Development] and Oxfam. This “democracy” is holding just short of 100 journalists, bloggers, human-rights activists and others who have been identified as “prisoners of conscience.” The standard prison sentence for criticizing the administration is six years, which does not include many months of pre-trial detention.
The relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan is clearly one of “convenience.” But given Israel’s increasing problems with her reputation in the world, American Jews must recognize that the risks of this relationship far outweigh the benefits.