May 5, 2015
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in coordination with the National Talysh Movement (NTM), will be convening a conference entitled “Azerbaijan: Double Standards and Crackdown of Minority Rights”. The conference, co-hosted by Laurențiu Rebega (S&D), Jaromír Štětina (EPP) and Bogdan Wenta (EPP) will be held at the European Parliament on 5 May 2015 from 12:00 to 14:00. It will tackle human rights double standards head-on, examining the deepening crackdown on minority rights and civil society at a time when Azerbaijan’s economic ties with Europe grow ever stronger.
Since the Presidential election in 2013 that consolidated the Aliyev family’s monopoly of State power and control over prodigious private assets, the minority and human rights situation in Azerbaijan has continued to deteriorate dramatically. This corrosion of minority rights and freedoms is even more striking considering that Azerbaijan chaired the Council of Europe for six months in 2014. The Government pursues an assimilation policy, limiting the cultural, social and political rights of the Lezghin, of the Talysh and of many other minority groups in the multi-ethnic country. Moreover, these groups continue to be victims of violence and widespread discrimination, particularly in employment, housing, health and education.
With the revitalised European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU seeks to strengthen relations with Azerbaijan in order to encourage, inter alia, the respect and protection of human rights, a democratization process with a thriving and open civil society, political stability and security. In June 2014, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso emphasized the desire to achieve a higher level of trust between the EU and Azerbaijan – not least because of the strategic benefits of fostering a resource-based trading relationship; EU imports from Azerbaijan, chiefly oil and gas, increased tenfold between 2000 and 2010.
However, deepening economic cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan has so far not been accompanied by an improvement of minority rights, rule of law or democracy in the country. On the contrary, President Aliyev seems determined to accept the financial benefits, while ignoring the potential for progress in human rights.
Panel I: Minority Rights in a Challenging Environment
Defending Human Rights in a Challenging Environment - An Overview of Azerbaijan - Shorena Kobaidze, Eastern Partnership Minorities Network Programme Coordinator, Minority Rights Group (Georgia)
Experiences From the Field: Reporting in Azerbaijan - Julie Reniers, Freelance Journalist
Azerbaijan's Forgotten Victims: the Plight of the Lezghins - Representative of the Federal Lezghin National and Cultural Autonomy (FLNCA)
Panel II: Ways Forward: Civil Society Initiatives, Economic Development and International Strategies
A Talysh Perspective: Increased Self-Governance as a Solution? - Alikram Hummatov, President of the National Talysh Movement (NTM)
Opportunities Offered by Regional Economic Development: A Third Way? - Robert van Engelenburg, Expert on Regional Economic Development
Minorities in the Neighbourhood: Ways Forward Through EU Action - Nicolas Tavitian, Director of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)
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