Like any host, Azerbaijan is trying to spruce up the capital Baku in advance of the inaugural European Games in late June. Authorities, for example, are calling on citizens to keep jalopies off the streets of the capital while the games are being staged. But one new rule is striking Baku residents as excessive: officials are prohibiting locals from taking photos in Baku’s historic Old Town.
In this sprawling city of over 2 million, the Old Town is a throwback to a quieter time, featuring narrow, cobblestone streets, a 15th-century palace and the Maiden Tower, a 30-meter-high stone structure and city landmark. It is the domain of carpet sellers, tourists and energy companies.
Officially, there is no rule barring photography. Nonetheless, for unclear reasons, police and security guards are taking action to prevent locals from snapping photos. The enforcement of the de facto ban has left some Baku residents confused and exasperated. “I was born and have grown up in this city and I am not allowed to take a picture of its most beautiful part,” complained one 29-year-old Azerbaijani man, Anar Gurbanov, who was walking through the Old Town last month.
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Lamiya Adilgizi is a freelance Azerbaijani reporter.