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Azerbaijani Authorities Continue to Pressure Intellectuals, Stifle Freedoms
Political pressure from Azerbaijani authorities against the Hajiyev family, including the recent firing of university professor Fikret Hajiyev and the conviction of his relative Bakhtiyar Hajiyev on politically motivated charges, underscores the growing use of financial and psychological pressure to silence dissidents. Fikret began a hunger strike February 10 to protest Ganja State University’s decision to fire him for being a leading critic of corruption in education. Fikret worked at the university for 18 years before the academic council decided not to extend his appointment. Supporters believe that his dismissal was likely influenced by his refusal to abide by the university’s corruption schemes. Hajiyev began to experience pressure from the local officials after attending the trial of relative Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, a Harvard graduate and activist who had been sentenced to two years in prison for evading military service. The case was seen by many as a response to Bakhtiyar’s use of social media to call for antigovernment protests. Other members of Bakhtiyar’s family were also dismissed from their jobs and denied work as a result of his activism.
Azerbaijan is not an electoral democracy, and freedom of expression remains under attack. Suppression of dissidents and punitive action against intellectuals and their family for political activities are common in Azerbaijan. In November 2011, well-known scientist and author Professor Rafig Aliyev was dismissed as the department chair at Azerbaijan's Oil Academy after speaking publicly about human rights and criticizing the imprisonment of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev in an RFE/RL interview. The government initiated a smear campaign via television, newspaper and academic establishments against Aliyev. He has since joined Forum of Intelligentsia, a group established to promote a dialogue on issues of concern to the population – which has faced pressure and aggressive attacks from the government and the ruling party.
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