Pressefreiheit gibt es in Aserbaidschan faktisch nicht, ist Arzu Geybulla überzeugt. Die Journalistin und Bloggerin aus Baku weiß, was es bedeutet, regimekritisch zu berichten. Sie wurde bedroht und lebt seit vielen Jahren in der Türkei. Nach Hause traut sie nicht nicht. Im Interview rechnet die junge Frau mit den Machteliten des Landes ab und offenbart, was sie sich für die Zukunft ihrer Heimat wünscht.
Von Agatha Mazur
Dear Arzu, I want to know what you think about Europe. Do the Azerbaijanis feel they belong to the European culture?
To be honest with you, I don’t think the average Azerbaijani wakes up each morning asking this question. Our culture is still very much traditional and patriarchal. I guess we are somewhere half-way. But if there is a culture to pick then I would say we feel closer to the Turkish culture than to the European one. Azerbaijanis who can afford it, travel to Europe, spend money, go out and have fun. For them, they are part of Europe. Azerbaijanis who cannot afford a kilo of meat probably think least of where they belong and more about where to earn extra cash to provide food on the table.
Baku has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest and the European Games: Is that a sign that the Azerbaijanis want to be closer to Europe?
Baku didn’t host these games to be closer to Europe, the government of Azerbaijan organized these games to show off. That is it! These were large events that cost Azerbaijani people a lot of money and now we are on the brink of a financial crisis but no one wants to talk about this. The average mentality of Azerbaijani government official is based on one notion only – spend the money that should be kept and saved for the generations to come and lets tell Europe how rich we are. If the government of Azerbaijan wanted to be closer to Europe, then it we would bring in European style reforms, get rid of corruption in education, improve medical care, and actually do something for the people. I am yet to see these reforms in Azerbaijan.
What does Europe mean to you?
Europe to me, these days, is a weak institution that is not open to change and is the least capable of changing policies to accommodate political events. I am talking of course here about the refugee crisis.
What do you think about the Azerbaijani relations to Russia? Is Wladimir Putin President Ilham Alijev’s new best friend?
Azerbaijan will always be Putin’s puppet. Aliyev cannot compete with Putin and even if he did, I have a feeling he won’t anyway. To this day, Aliyev not once was able to stand up to Russia’s influence.
What about press freedom and freedom of speech? The guardian wrote about a „history of threats and intimidation and the broader climate of fear“. Do you agree?
Had things been better in Azerbaijan these issues wouldn’t be my special topic. I am covering Azerbaijan and these stories because there are less and less persons that can actually cover these issues. There is no press freedom in Azerbaijan. Just some weeks ago, one journalist was arrested and taken for questioning. Another journalist was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention. We have journalists whose family members lost their jobs, or continue get intimidated by the management.
I don’t know what they showed you during your trip (Anm. der Redaktion: Arzu bezieht sich auf die Pressereise von Agatha), but I have a feeling, they didn’t take to the prisons where we have about 100 political prisoners. Intimidation, arrest, libel cases against newspapers are just some of the methods the government imposes on journalists, activists and in general active civil society or whatever that is left of it. So yes, I agree: There is broader climate of fear.
Personally I have been defamed and slandered on many occasions also as part of last year crackdown. For that you can read this story here.
„I am not as brave as Khadija or the rest of our brave journalists who are currently in jail. But I believe the work that I can do from abroad is also important. I try to tell their stories and the story of so many other Azerbaijanis who do not have a voice.“
The journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been sentenced to seven and a half years in jail. Do you fear being imprisoned yourself if you would have travelled back to Azerbaijan?
Khadija is a friend of mine. Of course I know about her arrest and the sentence she was given. Yes, I fear being imprisoned if I go home. If they call you a traitor on state media, there is a reason for fear. I am not as brave as Khadija or the rest of our brave journalists who are currently in jail. But I believe the work that I can do from abroad is also important. I try to tell their stories and the story of so many other Azerbaijanis who do not have a voice. This is the least I can do to help them.
What do you expect from the Parliamentary elections in November, will they change anything in the political system?
I expect absolutely nothing from these elections. They are fake elections in a fake democracy. I have seen too many fake elections in Azerbaijan already. None of which were democratic, transparent and all were marred with voting manipulation and fraud. Nothing will change, as long as we have corrupted leaders.
What do you wish for Azerbaijan’s future?
That Azerbaijan people first and foremost live lives full of dignity. And by this I mean actually „living“. Having the best benefits, having the best education, having the best health care for free (as it really should be), having honest people run the country, have a country for the people and by the people and the a country for the leadership and by the leadership. I want Azerbaijani youth to have a chance at having good education. I want to see great discoveries made in Azerbaijan. I want a government that can stand firmly behind the values of democracy and freedom. I want Azerbaijani people to see first democratic elections in the country.
Im September war ich eine Woche auf einer Pressereise in Aserbaidschan. Ein spannendes Land, mit dem ich mich intensiver beschäftigen wollte. Herausgekommen ist die Serie:
Teil 1 – Analyse: Interview mit Kaukasus-Experte Uwe Halbach über die politischen Entwicklungen in Aserbaidschan. Wo will das Land hin: Europa? Russland? Oder möchte es sein eigenes Ding machen?
Teil 2 – Die Bloggerin: Arzu Geybulla ist Freelancerin. Sie nimmt kein Blatt vor den Mund und wurde wegen ihrer kritischen Berichterstattung bedroht und angefeindet. Mittlerweile lebt sie in der Türkei. Was denkt sie über Aserbaidschans Beziehung zu Europa und was wünscht sich die junge Journalistin für ihr Heimatland?
Teil 3 – Lifestyle: Essen & Trinken in Aserbaidschan, welche Anfängerfehler man am Tisch nicht begehen sollte und was meine touristischen Highlights in Baku waren
Teil 4 – Streitfrage: Darf man in Länder reisen, die Menschenrechte verletzen?