More than 25 years after its creation, a party game that enables participants to pretend they are Mafia hitmen remains wildly popular in Azerbaijan. Some regular players contend that the game is a reflection of daily reality.
Faced with the prospect of potential arrest, police abuse or harassment, few Azerbaijani women seem willing to stick out their necks these days to take a public stance on issues. But for one group of practicing Shi’a Muslim women, the risks are not a deterrent to protesting.
While there are numerous touchstones of tension in Azerbaijan, including corruption and income inequality, local analysts say it’s unlikely that religion will emerge as a major fault line in Azerbaijani society for the foreseeable future.
While Turkey remains Azerbaijan’s chief strategic partner, officials in Baku are taking steps to upgrade relations with Pakistan. The diplomatic push is part of Baku’s plan to bolster its hand in its dealings over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The visage of Azerbaijan’s former leader, Heydar Aliyev, seems to be omnipresent in Baku; smiling down from highway billboards at cars, raising an arm in salutation outside the Central Bank, or appearing as an imprint on TV screens.
They’ve battled police in the streets and they’ve challenged authority the courts. Now, faced with staggering increases in fines for unauthorized demonstrations, Azerbaijani opposition activists are turning to Facebook to get their messages out.
Traditional opposition political forces in Azerbaijan are at risk of being eclipsed by Islamists who are willing to push back when the government resorts to repressive measures, Baku political observers say.
You could call them the yin and yang of Azerbaijani politics. For nearly the past 20 years, whenever an Aliyev has been president of Azerbaijan, poised against him have been 55-year-old Isa Gambar and 47-year-old Ali Kerimli, leaders of the country’s two largest opposition forces, the Musavat Party and the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan.