What role can the first European Games play to promote Azerbaijan all over the world?
In June, 2015, the Republic of Azerbaijan proudly hosted for two weeks the first ever European Olympic Games. To host such an important event requires a successful track record of accomplishments which were made possible thanks to the astonishing economic reforms under the vision of President Ilham Aliyev and the hard work of his administration in many sectors of the government, including the significant reduction of poverty levels, war against corruption, genuine progress in strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law. There is no coincidence why the first European Games took place in Baku; they were taking place in the cross roads of Europe and Asia because of the positive national image of Azerbaijan that has lately been portrayed throughout the world. It is a fact that during the last twelve years, Azerbaijan has proved to be the most reliable European Union Partner, while embracing economic reforms that ensure macroeconomic stability, free markets and government accountability as well as commitment to eradicate poverty. These games are a great opportunity for this modern nation, re-founded by Heydar Aliyev, to show to the world that Azerbaijani Government is driven by hard work, visionary reforms, pragmatism, patriotism and dedication to the Olympic movement while hosting more than six thousand athletes for over two weeks of competitions. European Games are considered to be highly important towards promoting the image of Azerbaijan abroad and consequently they stand as an overwhelming jewel in the crown of European Olympic Games’ tradition and logically have made Baku into a first rate, cosmopolitan and avant-garde capital city of the world.
Some media circles in the West have hugely been criticizing the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan while hosting the first European Games. How would you comment on this biased position?
It is true that the Guardian, the New York Times and other renowned newspapers have recently published negative articles about Azerbaijan, even Ulrike Lunacek, from Austria; vice-president of the European parliament had published an article about Azerbaijan in the Parliament Magazine. There is no doubt that such articles harm the image of Azerbaijan abroad, however these critics overshadow the fact that Baku has carried out its utmost efforts to host the best ever Olympic games of Europe. Many journalists forget that 41st General Assembly of European Olympic Committee awarded to Baku in 2012 the right to host the first European Games. Such a decision was taken thanks to the support of 38 out of 48 votes that were submitted by a secret ballot in Rome. Only the representatives of Armenia refused to take part in the voting process.
There is neither a newspaper nor a journalist in the world who could tarnish and smear the great economic accomplishments and the strengthening of a democratic government of Azerbaijan over the last two decades, by simply citing inaccurate human rights issues and attempting to ruin the admirable image of Baku in the international arena.
What is behind accusations of “hidden Azerbaijani lobbing in the US” which we can see in the websites of various Western information media and human rights organizations?
Washington, D.C. has a wide variety of lobbying groups and think tanks that dedicate much of their time in the in depth study of the Caspian Region and Azerbaijan in particular. Initiatives taken by various US-Azerbaijani organizations in Washington D.C. are simply an effort to further strengthen the bilateral partnership between both countries. On the other hand, in a university environment and the academia community exists in general an unprecedented intellectual freedom and as a result all scholarly views are accepted and certainly contribute towards shedding more light in the current reality of Azerbaijan, even though in many cases these publications should be taken with a grain of salt and must be treated with a great sense of skepticism. As a result the reader must conduct always a meticulous fact check before reaching conclusions. The current critics of the Aliyev administration are not impartial and unfortunately lack a sense of independent analysis. For example the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has published various reports in reference to “rapacious business deals involving the family and friends of President Ilham Aliyev.” These reports lack substantial details and I have my strong doubts whether their facts presented are trustworthy. We have to keep in mind that the current information age we live in has its own challenges and one of them is the manipulation of audiences through unreliable articles published in the mass media. Many scholarly articles have been published about the religious and architectural monuments of Nakhchivan, while based on the false – manipulated historic facts provided by the Armenian propaganda machine. Surprisingly enough there is no one from the Western world who could denounce such campaigns of disinformation.
Can all these publications harm relations between the US and Azerbaijan?
The US Government and the Department of State has its own procedure, channels of communication, to verify and ensure that all the information that comes out of Azerbaijan is accurate. Washington has strict measures and procedures that ensure the accuracy of events in Baku and throughout the region. The impressive Socio Economic reality of Azerbaijan is reported daily from the US Embassy in Baku, therefore the truncated information provided by a few NGOs in Washington DC area is simply invalid. Such articles are unethically manipulating and distorting the image of Azerbaijan abroad.