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Opinion: Oil rich but rights poor in Azerbaijan

Parliamentary elections are Nov. 7, but there is little excitement in Baku.

In another case, one of the most gratuitous applications of criminal defamation laws, Education Ministry officials brought charges against Alovsat Osmanli, a mathematician, physicist and textbook author, after he publicly criticized the ministry in January for errors in mathematics textbooks. In February, all 11 members of the council that evaluates textbooks for publication and for use in the country’s schools brought a criminal defamation complaint against Osmanli. The case is pending.
In a July speech, President Aliyev gave encouraging signals about abolishing criminal defamation.

The new parliament will have a unique opportunity to end the practice, and it should.

The oil revenues that brought Azerbaijan economic success have also made the government more resistant to reforms. But as oil revenues inevitably level off, only an open political system can prevent Azerbaijan from sliding into further repression.

Giorgi Gogia is a Human Rights Watch South Caucasus researcher based in Tbilisi and the author of a new report, “Beaten, Blacklisted, and Behind Bars: The Vanishing Space for Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan.”