The Uncyclopedia.org joke that “no one knows anything about Azerbaijan other than that they love their minorities, especially the Azerbaijanis” has become quite ironic. While the satirical reference has meant to ridicule Azerbaijan’s official motto that the South Caucasus republic is a “heaven of tolerance for minorities,” disturbing news from Radio Free Europe gives examples of non-discriminatory human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
With 10 current journalists behind bars and a female political activist dead in prison, Azerbaijani officials haven’t fallen short of persecuting freedom of speech:
A series of abuses — some of them bizarre — have been documented in media reports.
According to the reports, local authorities have ordered state employees to perform manual labor on weekends as a condition for keeping their jobs. People who fail to pay utility bills have been seized and tied to trees outside police precincts until a family member or friend can come and settle the debt. Residents are forbidden from hanging laundry from their balconies and from baking bread at home. In a region where average salaries are approximately $130 per month, farmers are charged a steep tax for owning more than one cow or one sheep — $25 per cow, $10 per sheep.
The specific abuses mentioned above have taken place in Nakhichevan (Naxchivan), the Azerbaijani exclave where every single indigenous Armenian monument has been reduced to dust by the state authorities.
Azerbaijanis have started to refer to Nakhichevan as “Azerbaijan’s North Korea” with a reference to absence of recognition and protection of any rights in the region, reports Radio Free Europe.
The Azeri authorities of Nakhichevan have seemingly missed the not-so-old days of destroying Armenian monuments and having themselves left with none to demolish are now destroying Tea-houses (traditional cafes) in Nakhichevan, popular gathering places for Azerbaijanis:
“We hear a lot about arbitrariness on the part of the authorities, but this is nothing compared to what is happening in Naxchivan,” Samedbayli said. “Tea houses are being destroyed in the region’s villages, despite protests from the people. Other strange things are happening in Naxchivan. The authorities are destroying the ovens people use to bake bread in their homes because they say this harms the environment. They are forcing people to buy bread from shops owned by the state monopoly.”
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