My Azeri friends have brought to my attention two interesting news items from Azerbaijan and the large Azeri community in northern Iran. First is that the editor of a leading opposition paper, Bizim Yol (“Our Path”) (and formerly deputy editor of Azadlig [“Freedom”], which ran a story on my visit to Baku earlier this year), was savagely beaten on May 18 and that opposition leaders (such as Ali Kerimli), have pointed the finger at the authorities. (This is not the first time that journalists from the opposition side have been attacked.)
One email from an Azeri news group described the attack thus:
Bahaddin Haziyev, one of the best Azerbaijani journalists and one of the brillian minds of our country, was kidnapped, taken to Masazir lake, severely beaten and left to die almost to death last night by some people. He was deputy editor of Azadlig newspaper and since recently became a editor in chief of Bizim Yol newspaper. His newspaper an himself are very critical of Aliyev’s regime, the most recent series dedicated to caviar/fish mafia of Azerbaijan, portraying that Aliyev senior sacrificed lifes for monopoly in this sector.
Haziyev is in Intensive Therapy in the Emergency hospital. Doctor said that it is miracle that he survived. His leg is broken in five places, he has trauma of head, ribs are broken.
That is what happens to journalists in this country.
It takes real bravery to continue to speak up for freedom when under threat of such violence.
The other is a news story that was reported in the Washington Post about protests against Persian chauvinism among the very large Azeri minority in Iran. Photos are available here (on an Azeri nationalist website).
The cartoon that has caused the furor was published in Iran’s official newspaper (not, as in the Danish cartoons, in a private paper in a country with a free press):
The cartoon, which appeared in Friday’s edition of the official Iran newspaper, showed a boy repeating the Persian word for cockroach in different ways, while a cockroach in front of the boy asked “What?” in Azeri.
The Iranian mullahs may be creating difficult conditions for themselves by alienating, not only many young people (who yearn for what the Eastern Europeans used to call “a normal country”), but major ethnic minorities, as well.