In the lands of intolerance, pop competition is just a big politics

Europe’s favorite song contest – Eurovision is the biggest pop competition and one of the longest running TV shows in the world. The annual musical contest suggests a model for European unity and traditions worth following.The themes of equality, diversity and tolerance have gained increasing traction in the politics of Eurovision in recent years. Sometimes, […]



Azerbaijan’s bizarre influence-peddling business in Washington drying up… At least on paper

Amid a sharp and prolonged oil price slump, which has been hurting petro-states since early this year, the lobbyists in the U.S. capital are about to lose one of their lavish clients – Azerbaijan. Over the years, representatives of the oil-rich post-Soviet country with poor human rights records have lobbied on Capitol Hill, the real […]

Flacking for despots: Inside Azerbaijan’s lobbying in the U.S. (Video)

Lobbying is extremely effective on any democratic governance, including in the U.S. politics. Though politicians are prohibited from accepting money directly from foreign governments, it is believed that indirect funding may occur through domestic lobbyists hired by foreign actors. What this means is, regardless of what happens in dictatorships from Central Asia to the Middle […]



A Dissident’s Life…

Story of Ramis Yunus, a family member of Azeri imprisoned rights defenders Arif and Leyla Yunus.  (Audio & Photo Multimedia) Despite living for more than a decade in the United States, a leading Azeri dissident says he feels homesick for his motherland that he is not allowed to return to. The dissident, Ramis Yunus, 56, […]

Azerbaijan Undermines Its International Image: Does it matter for Aliyev Government?

(This article was originally published by Foreign Policy Journal on March 23, 2015) Azerbaijan is making itself a welcome home among neighboring states — from Russia to Iran, to the wider Middle East — that deny basic rights to their citizenry and ignore ways democratic states treat their citizens. Does Ilham Aliyev government care about […]



Check out some of my selected videos from 2014

  Washington event: US backs independent voices, seeks ‘engagement’ with Azerbaijan     CPJ’s J.Simon about Azeri crackdown on independent media and ‘democratators.’ More here     Top US analyst urges for sanctions on Azeri govt. for outrageous treatment of its own people     Colleagues, friends support journalist Khadija Ismayil in front of Azeri […]

For Azerbaijan, IREX is SPY-REX
Why authoritarian regimes are scared of American NGOs?

(The edited version of this article was originally published by RFERL/RadioAzadliq on Dec. 17. 2014) The U.S. nonprofit organization IREX (International Research and Exchange Board) has worked in post-Soviet Azerbaijan for 16 years supporting academic exchanges and independent media development. But these days life isn’t easy for international media advocates in Azerbaijan: the country is […]



Engaging or shaming? Washington debates over responding effectively to Baku’s crackdown on activists

Washington officials, leading rights campaigners agree that more need to be done to stop Azerbaijan’s escalated pressure on human rights activists and NGOs. Unfortunately, they can’t agree on how… The topic of the western response to Azerbaijan’s ongoing pressure against rights activists and civil society groups was discussed during the event called “Broader Implications of […]

Maidan lessons for Caucasus, Central Asia…

Re-posting my March, 2013 interview with Russian-American journalist, analyst David Satter on Maidan lessons for Caucasus, Central Asia. This content was originally published by RFERL/Radio Azadliq. For many western analysts, no matter whether conditions in the Caucasus and Central Asia are similar to those in Ukraine, a repetition of Maidan here remains unclear; the crisis […]



How to Deal With Countries Where Ruling Families Hide Cash Offshore?

Re-posting my July, 2013 piece on post-Soviet oligarchs` offshore secrets: Azerbaijan’s example. This interview was originally published by TURAN News Agency. The rich, famous politicians, from presidents to plutocrats and third world dictators, who have a vast amount of cash hidden in secret offshore accounts in the British Virgin Islands, Switzerland or Singapore, probably haven’t […]

How Small Countries Buy Respect Abroad? My stories on Azerbaijan’s lobby hobby in Washington, DC

Oil-rich Azerbaijan remains one of the few countries in the Eurasia region that seem to be doing its best to tighten its relations with the western countries by cracking down on the civil society and the US-linked organizations. In the meantime, this post-soviet country appears yet to be attractive for top US officials, policy and […]



Is Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Near Breaking Point? My interview with top US envoy

As shots across the Line of Contact between Azerbaijan and Armenia have recently become more common, causing reportedly at least 50 lives from both sides in the past few weeks, many that were involved in the peacemaking efforts, worry that a settlement will not be possible amid growing tension and mistrust between the Armenian and […]

Ukraine crisis: What‘s next?

Re-posting my March, 2014 article on Ukrainian crisis. This piece was originally published by REF/RL, Radio Azadlig. The three and half-months-old crisis in Ukraine escalated last weekend with Russia’s invasion of its next-door neighbor, according to the US officials. Fortunately, there has been no violence or bloodshed yet, but there is great uncertainty about whether […]



Roza Otunbayeva to the world dictators: “You cannot stop democracy…”

Re-publishing my interview with Central Asia’s first female president Roza Otunbayeva. This piece was originally published by In the heart of Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East people are watching with solidarity as events unfold in the Arab world. But even before the events in Tunisia set off the “Arab Spring”, there was another […]

Quiet Diplomacy: Why the US Fails to Protect Human Rights in South Caucasus?

Re-posting my January, 2014 article published by Meydan TV Earlier this month I had a chance to attend a Congressional hearing where I listened to a few very interesting speeches on the US’ stance to protect human rights in the greater Eurasia region. Washington’s policy of “quiet diplomacy” towards post-soviet authoritarianisms has been severely criticized […]


Authoritarian Leaders’ Obsession with Davos

Re-posting my February, 2014 article on authoritarian leaders’ obsession with Davos. This content was originally published by Meydan TV. Davos is the annual meeting of the most powerful people in the world, which constitutes a major networking opportunity as well as chances for leaders to project themselves, their countries and/or organizations, according to its supporters. […]