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Azerbaijan: A country on brink of break up

Azerbaijan is considered to be and is recognized as a “failed state” (International Research organization Fund for Peace, 2013). As it has been observed, recently the country has been experiencing deterioration and “failure” on political, economic as well as on societal levels. Increasing illegitimacy of the government, growing violations of human rights and rule of law, uneven economic development, strengthening of Islamic sentiments are all phenomena present or influencing Azerbaijan. Obviously all these issues have had and continue to have their impact on the society of Azerbaijan pushing it into depression and pulling in the direction of degradation; manifestations of which are suicides, unprecedented violence and radicalization.

At the beginning of 2014 in Azerbaijan no day passed without a lost life. The suicides have become one of the hottest topics of the media. According to Azerbaijani media already in the first month of 2014 almost 40 suicides were reported. The experts explain the rise of “tremendous wave of suicides” by economic hardships the society is experiencing, by lack of trust towards the state as well as the community and by the environment of lawlessness and impunity that exist in the country.

However, suicide commitment, directing aggression towards oneself, is only one of the manifestations of society’s depression. According to psychologists depressed society also becomes more irritable and aggressive; it becomes a hub of concentrated anger which would sooner or later burst out either in violent actions or in other forms of radical behavior. Interestingly, events taking place in Azerbaijan in recent years turn out to be a really good illustration of the above mentioned theory.

Besides this high number of suicides, in recent years Azerbaijan has been full of spontaneous outbreaks of violence, riots and protest actions organized against the authorities of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani society not bearing anymore the devastating life conditions, wanting to make their voice heard has committed to violence. A massive riot took place in Ismaili, one of the towns of Azerbaijan where wide scale violence broke up between the police and protestors. Another act of protest erupted in Bina market between the shopkeepers and police after the rate for the place was increased. The Azerbaijani government’s harsh approach to the protests in terms of unjustified arrests of common people, as well as journalists, opposition figures and civil society representatives even more exacerbated the situation and protests acquired new force. In the town of Quba, for instance, thousands protestors took the streets. They smashed the windows of the local governmental building and set governor’s house on fire.

Nevertheless, violence doesn’t end there. Religious wars and “Islamization” of the Muslim world didn’t bypass Azerbaijan. Being in despair and not finding the way out the society of Azerbaijan started to seek solutions for their problems in the religion. According to experts more and more religious people shift from moderate to radicalized positions. Consequently, in recent years religious groupings in Azerbaijan have acquired a threatening character. In spite of the state’s repressive policy towards religion, starting from 2009 till today clashes among religious groups and religious groups and police have been frequent phenomena. Even in one of such skirmishes a mayor of the police died. Generally, the most dangerous religious groups in Azerbaijan are considered to be Salafis otherwise called Wahhabis. The primary reason for this is that they are financed from foreign sources, are comparatively independent and actively engaged in spreading their sermons and attracting as many people as possible. According to international estimates several hundreds of them go to fight in Syria to defend their faith and what is more important their number is growing daily. It is likely that when the war in Syria is over, all the radicalized Azerbaijani Islamic fighters would return to Azerbaijan and would bring with them their “brothers by faith” thus contributing to the radicalization of the society.

Moreover, the recent official criticism towards the radical Islamists voiced by the head of Azerbaijani “Caucasus Muslims Office” Allahshukur Pashazadeh clearly illustrates the fact that the government of Azerbaijan gets into a panic, the situation is slipping though their fingers. Besides, information appeared in the Azerbaijani media that the government is also being penetrated by Wahhabis; some top officials have strong connections with Wahhabis. The announcement of two radical movements of Azerbaijan “Meza Zardarshlar” and “Jeyshullah” “about starting a war” against the Azerbaijani authorities seems to be the culmination. They claim that in the near future they are going to declare Jihad “sacred war” in Azerbaijan.

Thus, taking into account everything mentioned above, specifically the growing number of suicides, violent actions, disorder and increasing radicalization of religious feelings in the country one comes to the conclusion that Azerbaijani society is “seek”. It is experiencing its period of degradation and is vulnerable to religious influence and prone to outrage towards itself as well as towards everything around. As mentioned above the destructive policy of Azerbaijani authorities turns out to be the main cause of society’s erosion. As the presidential election of 2013 showed and as various international reports confirmed the Azerbaijani government not realizing the complete seriousness of the problem continues conducting its ruinous policies in the county and is not inclined to improve them in the near future.

Thus, it is the International Community that by using its leverage over Azerbaijan should try to make the government tackle those issues, otherwise if society gets out of hand and the country falls into instability it’s their energy interests that would be jeopardized. International community by not pointing out the destructive conduct of Azerbaijan in negotiation process, not condemning the repressive policies of Azerbaijani government on its population, on civil society of the country, and by supporting Azerbaijan’s fallacious policies towards growing religiosity in the country creates a tremendous problem which would one day turn against them without any warning. International Community should assess the situation cleverly whether it meets their short-term interests or not. One thing is clear; it definitely doesn’t meet their long-term interests and goals.

Nelli Minasyan