Reporters Without Borders

Les prédateurs

Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (Azerbaijan)
Vasif Talibov
Supreme Council President

Vasif Yusif Oghlu Talibov reigns supreme over the isolated region of Nakhchivan. An “autonomous republic” separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian territory, it is known as “Azerbaijan’s North Korea.” Talibov has been “reelected” every five years since 1995 as head of Nakhchivan’s parliament and has concentrated all power in his hands. He appoints ministers, promulgates laws which the parliament just registers, controls the justice system and runs the all-powerful security agencies.

Closely linked to the Aliev family that governs in Baku, Talibov’s family also monopolizes the region’s most profitable business activities. But all this is not enough to satisfy this control freak. He has banned his “subjects” from drying their washing on balconies and from celebrating marriages after 11 pm. In a zeal for neatness, he makes ministers sweep the street outside their offices and ordered the demolition of traditional bread ovens (a measure that happens to benefit the bakeries controlled by the Talibov family). Neatness was also used as grounds in 2005 for closing most bars and tea houses – places which, coincidentally, could be used for gatherings and debate.

Debate is not a concept that is welcome in Nakhchivan. Talibov has eliminated all forums for discussion and dissident opinion in the course of more than 15 years in power. The two TV stations (one state-owned, one owned by his brother), the two radio stations and the many local newspapers pour forth praise for the president and his “achievements.” As a result, the public tends to watch Turkish satellite TV.

The local independent media have been eliminated and the opposition newspapers printed in Baku do not reach Nakhchivan. The Internet, provided by a local state monopoly, is closely monitored and often blocked, as it was during the pro-democracy demonstrations in the spring of 2011. A handful of independent journalists try to operate despite all the obstacles and pay for their audacity with frequent physical attacks and threats, and constant harassment. Journalists such as Ilgar Nasibov, Malahat Nasibova and Hakimeldostu Mekhtiev have received countless beatings.

When a man died in detention a few hours after his arrest in August 2011, a few journalists tried to investigate but they were quickly stopped. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reporter Yafez Hasanov was arrested, escorted to the Iranian border and told to make his way back to Baku via Iran, where RFE/RL is regarded as an “illegal organization.” Abuses by the police and the by Ministry of National Security’s agents go completely unpunished and use of torture and forced confinement in psychiatric hospitals is widespread.

A member of the presidium of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, a fervent supporter of the Aliev family and a high priest of the Aliev personality cult, Talibov has carte blanche in his fiefdom. President Aliev awarded him the “medal of glory” in 2010 and with Aliev’s blessing, he has turned Nakhchivan into a laboratory for the repressive methods that are increasingly being used in the rest of the country.

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