Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 1.19 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 1.07 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
1 100 Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic. See the methodology.

header1 Score changes in 2022

  • No changes

header2 Executive Summary

In 2021, the autocratic regime of President Ilham Aliyev further consolidated its power in Azerbaijan. The wave of nationalist sentiment generated by the country’s 2020 military victory over Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh swept up the political opposition, uniting it to a certain extent behind the government. Meanwhile, reactionary forces in society targeted vulnerable groups, particularly women and the LGBT+ community, leading to a spike in hate speech and violence.

The government focused primarily on foreign policy throughout the year. Following the war, military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey continued and expanded. The two countries held joint military exercises in the capital Baku and the newly recovered territories, and Turkey now has a small but permanent military presence in Azerbaijan. The Turkish presence, as well as growing military cooperation with Israel, have strained relations with the neighboring powers Russia and Iran. Russia considers the Caucasus its sphere of influence, and its peacekeeping forces on the Armenian side of the line of contact in Karabakh are a serious new factor in the regional balance of power. Meanwhile, Iran staged military exercises on its border with Azerbaijan, and its rhetoric has become belligerent over Azerbaijan’s expanding military relations with Israel and its disruption of Iranian trade with Karabakh.

Relations with Armenia are naturally very tense as well. Although Azerbaijani officials occasionally claimed a readiness to welcome Armenian residents of Karabakh as Azerbaijani citizens, the disingenuousness of such statements has been demonstrated in every government action. Neither country has taken serious steps to alleviate the suspicions or animosity of the opposing side. After over three decades of bloody conflict, Azerbaijani society as a whole is largely united in discounting Armenian narratives of the war and the validity of their grievances. The border between the two countries is a major source of contention, while the conflict itself is not yet over and could break out again at any time, as evidenced by major clashes in November 2021.

Domestically, the war has been a boon for the government and Aliyev, and the nationalist fervor that it unleashed continued unabated during the year. State-run media credited Azerbaijan’s victory to the president personally, whereas the opposition failed to present a compelling counter narrative. Indeed, a significant portion of the opposition accepted the government’s narrative. Traditional opposition activities, such as the large anti-corruption or pro-democracy rallies of previous years, were conspicuously absent in 2021.

Several vulnerable population groups were embattled throughout the year. A series of horrific cases of domestic abuse and femicide sparked widespread conversations in civil society and on social media. They were met, however, with hostility from defenders of patriarchal values who loudly denounced feminism as the greater problem. Some feminist activists were among the women targeted in an online sexual blackmail campaign in which illegally obtained intimate content was published on social media to punish women or their male relatives. The LGBT+ community was also a target of physical violence and hate speech. Several gay men were attacked on the street, and a trans woman was murdered and her body set on fire. As with the attacks on women, the authorities were largely indifferent to these crimes.

In 2021, investigations by the Guardian and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) shed new light on ways the government suppresses independent media. The Guardian revealed how Azerbaijani authorities created fake accounts on Facebook in order to inflate the views and likes of official content and to attack independent content. OCCRP reported on Azerbaijan’s use of the Israeli spyware Pegasus to spy on independent journalists and their sources and associates.

Alongside such illegal or extralegal methods of stifling speech, authorities also continued to tighten legislative control. A major new legislative act was passed by the parliament in December without public debate that, among other provisions, requires the registration or licensing of all media outlets and journalists, including online media, through the new Media Development Agency. Such gatekeeper organizations are commonly used in various spheres of public life in Azerbaijan to arbitrarily deny credentials to undesirable applicants.

Local government is largely powerless and entirely dependent on the central government in Baku. Several current and former local officials were arrested in highly publicized corruption scandals during the year, but experts suspect ulterior motives. Most likely, such arrests are simply a way to remove disloyal government officials from office.

The judiciary is dependent on the executive branch, and its decisions are regularly overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The Azerbaijan Bar Association is another gatekeeper organization that regularly punishes or expels independent human rights defenders. Prisoners are frequently tortured or prevented from meeting with their lawyers or families.

Corruption is prevalent from the lowest to the highest levels of the Azerbaijani government. In 2021, the Pandora Papers investigation gave the public a clearer picture of the scale of corruption in the ruling Aliyev family, detailing hundreds of millions of dollars of luxury real-estate investments in London. The 2021 conviction in Italy of former PACE member Luca Volontè is a reminder that Azerbaijan’s corrupt money is also used to bribe foreign officials in exchange for whitewashing the country’s image abroad.

header3 At a Glance

In Azerbaijan, national governance is undemocratic and dominated by the president. Elections are uncompetitive and routinely falsified. Civil society operates in a highly restrictive environment and is threatened by both state and non-state reactionary forces. Independent media is actively repressed and public access to media is restricted. Local government is not endowed with real power and is accountable only to the central government. The judicial system is dependent on the executive branch, and most of the country lacks access to legal services. Corruption is endemic throughout the state apparatus.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 1.001 7.007
  • President Ilham Aliyev’s highly centralized authoritarian regime further consolidated its position in the wake of the 2020 Karabakh War, benefiting domestically from the nationalist fervor following Azerbaijan’s victory.1 2 The president’s newfound popularity did not wane in 2021, and even some prominent opposition figures credited him personally for the victory and echoed his most nationalistic rhetoric.3 4
  • In January, it was reported that state agencies launched three funds created to support soldiers and postwar reconstruction efforts by forcibly extracting money from employee salaries. The scheme was similar to the COVID-19 fund created in 2020. Azerbaijan’s state-run charitable funds have also been criticized for a lack of transparency on spending.5
  • On April 12, the controversial Military Trophy Park was opened in the capital Baku, featuring captured Armenian military equipment alongside demeaning life-size wax figures depicting Armenian soldiers in terror or pain.6 Critics say this proves that Azerbaijan’s occasional assurances that it does not view the Armenian people as its enemy are disingenuous.7 The wax figures and helmets were removed in October after Armenia brought a complaint to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).8
  • In May, Azerbaijani authorities reportedly began renovating the largest Armenian church in Shusha. Critics fear this could be an attempt to deface the church and portray it as Albanian or Russian rather than Armenian.9 If so, it would be the latest event in a culture war between Azerbaijan and Armenia wherein the two countries have often misrepresented, neglected, or deliberately destroyed each other’s cultural monuments.10
  • On June 12, Azerbaijan released 15 Armenian POWS in exchange for landmine maps of its Aghdam region.11 On June 16, President Aliyev announced that a total of 144 people had been killed or wounded by landmines in the newly recovered territories since the end of the war.12
  • On July 22, the president called on officials to tighten their belts and abandon purely “aesthetic” projects. The government has announced ambitious plans for the reconstruction of the newly recovered territories while the country is in the midst of an economic recession, spending $158 million in the first half of 2021.13 14 In Shusha, formerly Karabakh’s most populous city, demolition and construction projects were launched without transparency or public input. Former residents, who have been living in other regions of Azerbaijan as internally displaced persons (IDPs) for almost three decades, have not been allowed to return or in most cases even visit.15
  • On July 28, residents of two villages in the Bilasuvar region blocked the road in front of the local executive authority. Protesters were trying to draw attention to the water shortages in their villages.16 On September 28, residents of three villages in the Saatli region attempted to block a highway in protest of their own water shortages.17 Despite regaining significant water resources in the Karabakh War,18 19 many regions of Azerbaijan still experience shortages due to environmental factors20 21 22 and corrupt mismanagement.23 24 25
  • On August 31, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced it had arrested three people for selling fake COVID passports,26 which are required to enter most public places, including educational institutions and weddings.27 As of September, 1.7 million people had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and 4 million had received one dose of a vaccine.28 As of December 4, Azerbaijan had registered 594,994 cases of COVID-19 and 7,947 related deaths.29
  • As of September 8, Azerbaijan had returned 106 POWs to Armenia, but it was unclear how many remained in captivity in Azerbaijan.30 As of July, more than 40 Armenian detainees had been convicted in Azerbaijani courts on various charges, receiving prison sentences from 6 months to 20 years.31 In May, two Armenian prisoners were sentenced to 20 years for torturing Azerbaijani citizens in Karabakh in the 1990s. Some Azerbaijani human rights defenders uncharacteristically expressed trust in the court’s ruling and criticized the sentences as too lenient.32
  • In September, Azerbaijan and Turkey held military exercises in the newly recovered territory of Lachin near the area where Russian peacekeepers are stationed. In August, Russian peacekeepers had held military exercises on the opposite side of the line of contact amid rising tensions.33
  • Political relations between regional powers have destabilized since the war. Yet Azerbaijan’s new ambitions and deepening relations with Turkey and Israel are a source of friction with Russia and Iran.34 35
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 1.001 7.007
  • Ilham Aliyev has served as president of Azerbaijan since taking over from his father, Heydar Aliyev, in 2003.1 In 2018, Ilham Aliyev was reelected for a seven-year term (previously, the president was elected for five years) with no term limits.2
  • Azerbaijan’s parliament—the 125-seat, unicameral Milli Majlis, or National Assembly—unfailingly rubber stamps presidential policies. After the last parliamentary election in February 2020, the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) holds a majority with 71 seats. Eight nominal opposition parties are represented by a total of 10 members, and the other 44 seats are occupied by nominal independents.3
  • In its report on the latest parliamentary elections, the OSCE noted a lack of genuine competition and a “politically controlled environment” during the campaign, as well as “serious procedural shortcomings on election day.”4
  • On March 5, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva was appointed First Vice Chair of the ruling YAP. Since 2017, she has also held the position of First Vice President of Azerbaijan.5
  • On April 27, all 18 members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) were reappointed to their posts. In accordance with the election code, six members are from the majority party in parliament, six are from the minority parties, and six are independents. CEC Chairman Mazahir Panahov has held the position since 2000.6
  • Critics of the CEC pointed out that it consistently votes unanimously in the interests of the Aliyev regime. Ruling party members always hold the top posts of chairman and vice chairman, and the members from minority parties and independents never vote contrary to the ruling party.7
  • On August 19, the CEC announced the membership of all 125 regional election commissions around the country. According to the election code, each regional commission must consist of nine members equally divided, like the CEC, between the majority party in parliament, the minority parties, and independents.8
  • Critics of the regional commissions claim that the independent representatives are not independent at all. Without any party infrastructure, the six independent representatives of the CEC do not have the resources to find the necessary 375 independent members of the regional commissions. As a result, those representatives are chosen in practice by regional authorities, themselves appointed by the president.9
  • In September, officials from the Presidential Administration met with the leaders of 45 political parties for a dialogue. Topics discussed included the lack of free elections in Azerbaijan as well as demands for a return to a system of proportional representation. Critics claim that the dialogue was merely an attempt by authorities to co-opt the opposition parties and would not lead to any substantive reform. Two parties that are particularly vocal in their criticisms of the government—Musavat and the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party—were not invited to participate in the dialogue.10
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 1.251 7.007
  • The legal framework regulating Azerbaijan’s civic sector is highly restrictive, particularly since new laws on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were instituted in 2013.1 Increasingly, civil society also faces extralegal surveillance and blackmail carried out by the state, which has shifted towards clandestine methods that are harder to trace and less likely to generate criticism abroad.2
  • Numerous highly publicized incidents of hate speech and violence against women and the LGBT+ community have largely been met with indifference by authorities and often draw approval and encouragement from social media users and influencers.
  • The 2020 Karabakh War had the effect of unifying much of the population and some of the opposition behind the regime, or at least tempering their criticism. Opposition political parties have not held any major demonstrations or protests since the war.3
  • In February, the suicide of 20-year-old Sevil Atakishiyeva after years of domestic abuse led to widespread public discussions.4 For proponents of patriarchal values, the slogan “Feminism kills, protect your children” became a popular rallying cry.5 6 Azerbaijan is not a signatory to the Istanbul Convention against domestic violence. A National Action Plan on the Prevention of Domestic Violence was adopted in November 2020, but activists have called it “toothless.”7
  • In early March, intimate videos were circulated featuring the sister of opposition blogger Mahammad Mirzali, and on March 9, three men attacked her home.8 On March 14, Mirzali was beaten and stabbed by six men in Nantes, France, where he lives.9
  • In March, an intimate video was released featuring Gunel Hasanli, daughter of Jamil Hasanli, chair of the opposition National Council of Democratic Forces. Jamil Hasanli defended his daughter’s right to a private life and condemned President Aliyev and Azerbaijan’s security services for their history of invasions of privacy and blackmail.10
  • On March 20, a Telegram channel announced the creation of a group called “Clean Blood” whose goal was to catch and beat up LGBT+ people.11 A series of homophobic assaults were committed in various parts of Baku in May and June.12 On ILGA-Europe’s 2021 Rainbow Map, Azerbaijan is ranked last out of 49 European countries for LGBT+ rights.13
  • On July 6, environmental activists held a demonstration at the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources against deforestation and the leasing of public forests to private businesses. The Azerbaijan Forest Fund had recently granted the company Beta Tea a long-term lease for 43 hectares of forest, which is to be cleared for a tea plantation.14
  • On August 22, a trans woman was murdered in Baku and her body burned. Two days later, a rally was held for the victim in front of the office of Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Ombudsman, and her body was found the following day. Someone allegedly involved in the attack was detained by the police.15
  • On September 1, the group Freedom for the Political Prisoners of Azerbaijan published an updated list of 122 current political prisoners in the country.16 On November 15, opposition activist Agil Humbatov was sentenced to 10 years in prison on politically motivated charges.17 On December 1, a demonstration was held in downtown Baku in support of opposition activist and political prisoner Saleh Rustamli at which dozens of protesters were arrested and some severely beaten by police.18
  • On September 30, 27-year-old Khanim Mammadova was shot and killed by her husband, a police officer, while she was at a police station in Baku lodging a complaint against him for domestic abuse.19 This followed a series of widely discussed femicides in July and August.20 21
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 1.001 7.007
  • The state dominates the media landscape in Azerbaijan, while independent media are often underfunded, inexperienced, and difficult to access.1 Independent journalists regularly face illegal surveillance, harassment, and imprisonment. The media reforms initiated by the president in 2021 are likely to make the environment even more restrictive.
  • On January 12, the president signed a decree establishing a new Media Development Agency and ordering the drafting of a new law on media.2 The draft law was believed to have been completed by July3 but was leaked to the public only days before its first reading in parliament on December 14. Critics say that the new restrictions—including registration requirements for journalists and prohibitions on reporting on certain business and military issues, among others—further contract the already narrow space for independent media, including online. The Milli Majlis approved the bill in its third reading on December 30 and sent it to the president to be signed into law.4
  • On April 12, the Guardian published an investigation into how governments around the world, including Azerbaijan, have exploited loopholes on Facebook to exaggerate engagement statistics for official content and to troll and harass civil society and independent media.5 The Guardian and Azerbaijan Internet Watch identified specific incidents affecting the independent media outlets Azad Soz, Meydan TV, and Mikroskop Media.6 7 8 On trial on corruption charges, the former head of the defunct State Fund for Media Development, Vugar Safarli, testified to the existence of a troll farm controlled by the presidential administration.9
  • On April 15, Aslan Gurbanov, a blogger from the Talysh ethnic minority, was sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly “inciting national hatred” by claiming that Talysh people face discrimination in Azerbaijan.10 Gurbanov is the latest in a series of Talysh journalists to be sentenced on charges of inciting national hatred and even treason.11 On September 15, the Public Council of the Talysh of Azerbaijan issued a report criticizing the Azerbaijani government for intolerance towards the Talysh ethnic minority.12
  • In July 2021, Polad Aslanov, former editor of and, claimed that prison authorities waged a campaign of retribution against him for continuing his activism in prison. In November 2020, Aslanov was sentenced to 16 years in prison on trumped up treason charges. Through his wife, Gulmira Aslanova, the imprisoned journalist had been informing independent media about issues affecting inmates, such as the bribes required to receive visitors and lack of medical attention. Aslanov staged a hunger strike from July 12 to July 18, when he said the intimidation ceased.13
  • On July 18, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published an investigation into the Israeli spyware Pegasus, which was used by governments worldwide to spy on the opposition or anyone considered a political threat.14 In Azerbaijan, Pegasus was used to spy on more than 1,000 phone numbers, with targets including many independent journalists along with their sources and others who happened to be in their contact lists.15
  • In the Reporters Without Borders 2021 Press Freedom Index, Azerbaijan ranks 167 out of 180 countries, the lowest ranking by any post-Soviet country save for Turkmenistan.16
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 1.251 7.007
  • State power is concentrated in the presidential administration. The heads of regional executive authorities are appointed by the president and accountable only to him. Local municipal councils are elected by the population, but the scope of their responsibilities is extremely limited.1 The average municipal budget is only about $13,360 annually, or two dollars per capita.2
  • Regional development varies widely, but most production, wealth, and public services are concentrated in the capital Baku.
  • The year was marked by the arrest and ongoing prosecutions of numerous local officials in a campaign going back two years. Most have been charged with various forms of corruption, and while the accusations may be valid, the true motivations behind the arrests are a matter of much speculation.
  • On March 9, the former head of the Nakhchivan Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ahmad Ahmadov, and the former head of the Nakhchivan Ministry of Education, Mammad Garibov, were arrested on charges of embezzlement.3
  • In 2020, only 27 crimes were registered by the State Statistics Committee in the entire region of Nakhchivan, which has a population of more than 461,500 people.4 5 For the same year, Nakhchivan’s official unemployment rate was 0.1 percent.6 As an Azerbaijani exclave separated from the rest of the country by Armenia, Nakhchivan is in a perpetual state of heightened security, and it is particularly difficult to find accurate information about the region.
  • On April 26, Alimpasha Mammadov, head of the Shamkir District Executive Authority, was arrested on charges of embezzlement.7 Mammadov was the latest in a series of regional executives who have been charged with corruption in the past two years.8
  • On September 14, President Aliyev threatened regional executives with harsh punishments if they engage in corrupt practices. The warning was given during a video conference with the new heads of Shamkir and Jalilabad, whose predecessors are under arrest on corruption charges.9
  • In 2020, the average monthly state pension in Baku was about $215, almost double the lowest average monthly pension in the country of about $120, in Lerik.10
  • The economic output of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, is 55 times less than that of the capital Baku. Even excluding industrial production, Baku’s economic output is still 40 times greater than that of Ganja.11
  • In Baku, there are 91.6 doctors per 10,000 residents, while the national average is merely 32.9.12
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 1.001 7.007
  • Azerbaijan’s judicial system is neither independent nor impartial. The president appoints all judges of the first instance and nominates all appellate judges.1 The Azerbaijan Bar Association regularly punishes human rights lawyers or simply bans them from practicing law.
  • In the penitentiary system, instances of torture are frequent, and prisoners are often unable to meet with their lawyers and lack access to adequate medical care.
  • Azerbaijan has only 10 lawyers per 100,000 people in the country, 15 times less than the European average. About half the regions in Azerbaijan have no law offices at all. The low number of lawyers reflects the highly politicized and restrictive process for joining the Bar.2
  • In January 2021, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) published a list of over two-dozen human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan who have faced various forms of retaliation from the government for their work in recent years. About half of them have been stripped of the right to practice law at all.3
  • In January–July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued 44 rulings regarding Azerbaijan.4 On February 18, Azerbaijan lost three cases and was ordered to pay compensation to the victims totaling $344,108.5 In one case, the court ruled that the government illegally broke its contract with 18 leaseholders to sell seafront property to a company owned by the president’s daughter’s father-in-law for development.6 In the other two cases, two members of the youth movement N!DA and another individual were awarded compensation for being held illegally in pretrial detention.7 8
  • On March 5, the Baku Administrative Court approved the Azerbaijan Bar Association’s request to disbar human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova, allegedly for late payment of membership fees.9 Under pressure from the U.S. State Department, which had awarded Humbatova its 2020 International Women of Courage Award, the Bar Association reinstated Humbatova on May 5.10 On the same day, human rights lawyers Irada Javadova and Turkel Suleymanli were also reinstated to the Bar.11
  • On March 18, the president signed a traditional annual amnesty order pardoning 625 prisoners—including 38 political prisoners, such as RFE/RL journalist Elchin Ismail, who was sentenced in 2017 to nine years on bogus extortion charges.12
  • On July 22, the ECtHR ordered Azerbaijan to pay €30,000 to Armenian soldier Artur Badalyan for illegal imprisonment, and for torture while he was in captivity.13
  • In September, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) activist Alizamin Salayev began a hunger strike, claiming he had been tortured in prison and placed in solitary confinement for refusing to sign a letter slandering the APFP.14
  • On October 9, imprisoned human rights lawyer Elchin Mammad lost his appeal to reduce his sentence.15 Mammad was arrested on March 30, 2020, on trumped up robbery charges just days after publishing a report about human rights violations in Azerbaijan. Prior to his imprisonment, Mammad provided free legal services to low-income families in Sumgayit and also edited a newspaper focused on human rights. He suffers from Hepatitis C and has not received appropriate medical treatment in prison.16
  • On November 1, Military Prosecutor Khanlar Valiyev acknowledged the torture of more than 100 people in the so-called Tartar case. In 2017, authorities arrested hundreds of military servicemembers and some civilians on suspicion of treason. For years, officials denied that the detainees were tortured. Valiyev noted that 16 officers had been prosecuted for the torture, but he upheld the validity of the treason investigation, presenting it as an important factor contributing to Azerbaijan’s victory in the 2020 Karabakh War.17
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 1.001 7.007
  • Corruption is rampant at all levels of the Azerbaijani government, especially involving the president and his family. Corruption charges against officials are pursued selectively, and it is widely believed that such prosecutions are merely convenient ways for removing disloyal functionaries or propping up the state budget during the current economic downturn with any confiscated funds.
  • On January 11, former PACE member Luca Volontè was sentenced to four years in prison in Italy for his role in the Azerbaijani Laundromat scandal. Volontè accepted millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for attempting to protect Azerbaijan’s international reputation through his position on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).1
  • On January 14, the former head of the State Fund for Media Development was arrested on charges of embezzling approximately $3.4 million.2 Two days earlier, the president had ordered the creation of a new Media Development Agency with expanded powers to replace the support fund.3
  • On April 6, two former security officials, including former head of counterintelligence Nizami Shirinov, were arrested on charges of extortion and abuse of office. The Ministry of National Security where they worked was disbanded in December 2015 amid scandalous allegations against then minister Eldar Mahmudov. It is speculated that these latest arrests are part of the campaign being waged against Mahmudov, his family, and associates.4
  • On June 29, OCCRP published an investigation into the wealth of Izzat Khanim Javadova, a cousin of President Aliyev. Her husband, Suleyman Javadov, is the son of the former deputy energy minister. The couple had been under investigation in the UK for receiving roughly $19.6 million from suspicious sources, including the Azerbaijani Laundromat.5 One week after OCCRP revealed their identities, the Javadovs agreed to turn over $5.5 million to the British government to settle the case.6
  • On October 3, as part of the Pandora Papers investigation, OCCRP exposed a network of 84 offshore companies through which President Aliyev’s three children and two close associates held dozens of properties in London worth $694 million. The president’s daughter Arzu acquired her first offshore company at the age of 19, and his son Heydar at age 11. The source of much of the money is unknown, but millions of dollars were transferred through companies associated with the Russian Laundromat and Azerbaijani Laundromat schemes, and the properties were bought in cash. After the 2015 financial crisis in Azerbaijan, some of the properties were sold off, but the Aliyevs retain at least $191 million in real estate in a family trust, and their business associates retain “significant holdings” as well.7 The president called the allegations “insinuations or half-truths in order to discredit the image of Azerbaijan and undermine Azerbaijan’s position.”8
  • The same investigation revealed that in 2012, through an offshore company, the president’s daughter Arzu Aliyeva became the owner of a $50.9 million construction materials plant in Azerbaijan. The plant received numerous lucrative contracts for state construction projects as well as private projects conducted by Aliyev family companies.9
  • On October 7, OCCRP reported that the family of Milli Majlis member Oktay Asadov had accumulated about $10 million in luxury real estate in Moscow, London, and Dubai since he took office. Asadov was first elected to the parliament in 2000 and served as speaker from 2005 to 2019.10

Author: Robert Denis is an editorial fellow at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

On Azerbaijan

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

See More
  • Global Freedom Score

    9 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    38 100 not free