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Azerbaijan: Ramil Safarov and the Making of an Anti-Hero

When Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pardoned then-Lt. Ramil Safarov last summer for his 2004 slaying of an Armenian junior officer, Baku was initially defiant in the face of international criticism. But defiance has given way to reticence in recent weeks.

Since Safarov’s pardon, the debates within Azerbaijan about whether or not “we did everything correctly” have not died down. And Safarov, once the official toast of Azerbaijan, has turned into an anti-hero virtually overnight.

Once fêted with flowers, given a promotion and a new Baku apartment, Safarov now seems like a wayward relative, tolerated for the sake of family honor, but no longer praised among friends and neighbors. Officials no longer tout his patriotism, and he has become a non-person in the eyes of pro-government media.

Maj. Safarov himself does not grant interviews, or make public appearances. His expected job at a Ministry of Defense training center in Baku is not known to have begun; perhaps because of concerns about Armenian revenge attacks.

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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku.

Azerbaijan: Ramil Safarov and the Making of an Anti-Hero

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