Conflict between generations in Azerbaijani society

Interview with the co-founder of the civil society “Republican Alternative” (REAL) and coordinator of the Committee for Rights of Arrested Bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada.

- The arrest of bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada three weeks ago has drawn a wide response in the world. Can we hope for favorable outcome of the events and end to criminal prosecution of young people ?

- It is hard to speak about any results, we just can hope for the better outcome. We need to have full information and understand what is going on in the government, who has planned and who needed that and why the decisions were taken hastily. We know nothing and everything we are doing and speaking is based on the inventions, but this makes us less objective and fair.

Being rather intelligent, Adnan and Emin have come to the police station by themselves, hoping for legal protection. Within several hours they have been converted from the victims into the suspects, detained for 48 hours without any medical aid rendered to them. Two days later their case has been tried by closed doors and at 10.00 p.m. court made a decision to put them under arrest for two months. It is absolutely clear that the guys have been arrested just as Ganimat Zahid, Azadlig daily’s editor. One and the same scenario - it was an impudent and rude action.

- What does stand behind the bloggers’ arrest? Is this a revenge for their dissent or preventive measure to intimidate others?

- This is not revenge in a broad sense. We witness a very interesting process, which is not noticeable in the society, because it is occurring on the internet. In the modern world people do not need demonstrations and political congresses to express their political views. It is obvious that ideas cannot be stopped, banned and people seeking for alternative information are united into the networks. Considering that our television and print media do not provide us useful information and balanced analysis, people try to find information in the internet. Especially those, who know foreign languages, need only YouTube to watch all world news. During the past 5-6 years this process has risen to a qualitatively new level. Young people move from the virtual world to the real one. They attend lectures, seminars and other events to know each other better, they establish contacts and unite.

During a long period the process was not taken seriously. Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli expressed their thoughts openly both in the internet and the society. For instance, Emin Milli participated in the action to protest at the illegitimate referendum in front of the UN office. Critical video clips followed that. And then the actions have been staged in Paris and Strasburg to protest at their arrest. The youth in other countries understands that Azerbaijani people are taking measures to improve political situation.

The current authorities have no feeling of time, they fall behind of the modern tempo of life. They think that if people cannot openly express their own opinion, situation is under control. When the guys have been punished, there were no disturbances in the country, but there was a wide international response. At present information technologies enable affecting the processes anywhere without money and population’s support. In this case authorities have made a mistake with arrest of Emin and Adnan.

We have qualitatively new processes and qualitatively new youth at present. These young people were not educated abroad and their social position is different. They have no leader in the internet and they have equal chances. When Emin and Adnan were detained, policemen tried to disperse young people gathered near the Sabail region police station. They told policemen that they are friends, but one policeman objected: “I live in Baku 30 years, but I don’t have so many friends.” Friendship becomes the main value, which is used as a political resource and this is new for our society. Many people just can’t understand that young people could unite without any organizers.

- Will authorities continue their attack and introduce the legal norms to filter internet?

- The internet relationships cannot be identified and prohibited. Technically it is important to limit internet, but it will be the second North Korea or any other rogue country. It is too early to speak about political weight of the youth networks, but the process is inevitable. There are, certainly, smart people in the government, but those who make such decisions are narrow-minded people living in another dimension. They have invented the world for themselves, called it “stability” and think that they control the situation.

- What are the perspectives of struggle for democracy in Azerbaijan? Will authorities manage to “clean” the country’s political field of dissidents using repressions?

- Any dissent scares the totalitarian system, but the repressions only cause dissent. There is a gap between the generations in our society and this is not about the biological age. This is a gap at the level of thinking. Young people find information about the happening events in the foreign sources and they trust foreign media, because it is balanced and easy to read. The authorities think that the problems could be resolved, if they prohibit delivery of religious literature, arrest two or three activists and close NGOs.

The current youth prefers to ignore authorities and older generation. Real struggle for democracy, if the word struggle is appropriate here, is carried on by young people. There are several groups here - religious, left-wing, liberals and etc, but they respect each other’s opinion. Their goal is not to struggle against the current government.

The current government is independent of the population’s opinion as long as it has oil resources, but they will come to the end one day.

- Is there any potential in the Azerbaijani society to prevent the country from further sliding into the authoritarianism?

- I think that sliding will go on for a while. The system is programmed for repressions and victims, because it cannot assert itself in another way. Its only goal is to retain power. Previously the authorities had another goals - to get rid of opposition, media, trade unions, NGOs and etc. This is not the last arrest. This system cannot be reformed, the country needs drastic measures. I think that we have a good potential in the capacity of serious and thinking youth. They are not trying to come to power, they are just looking for themselves. They understand that it is impossible to find themselves in the society, which does not provide equal opportunities.

- What is Public Committee going to do to defend young people?

- I would like to say that international response is effort of friends of Emin and Adnan in the country and abroad. As a real participant of all events, I admire these young people. We have done and will do everything possible to release Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada.

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