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Op-Ed: Free Speech Held Hostage in Baku

By Aris Govjian

Within a single month, the government of Azerbaijan has managed to quote Nazi propaganda in its campaign against minorities, arrest a Jewish journalist for speaking the truth, and bomb regions where they were scheduled to meet for peace talks.

Lapshin being detained in Baku (Photo: Interfax)

This is reality for Azerbaijan, and unfortunately, for its minorities.

While it is commonplace for Baku to disseminate propaganda stylized after Europe’s worst fascist regime against its minorities, and to reward the killings of innocent people with land and wealth, it is not all too common to see a citizen of Azerbaijan’s ally, Israel, get caught in the crosshairs.

For the first time, a journalist has been arrested under Baku’s disturbing blacklist provision.  The criminalization of free speech and journalism is both inhumane and brings to light the level of corruption in Azerbaijan and Belarus.

The arrested blogger, Alexander Lapshin, faces steep punishment in Azerbaijan.  His crime? He visited a region where the native population still reside and wrote about it on his blog.  This region is none other than Artsakh, as it is known by the people who have lived there for thousands of years, and known as Nagorno-Karabagh (NKR) internationally.

Alexander spoke honestly about the local people, and the inhumane violence unleashed upon them by the Azeri government.  The president of Azerbaijan rules in dynastic fashion, where his family and close relatives hold power, and have done so for generations.  This comes with great expense to its peoples’ freedoms and aspirations for a better life.

Aliyev’s regime needs to keep prejudices in the population high in order to keep a teetering stranglehold over the oil wealth of his nation.  Rather than mend the wounds of a violent past caused by Stalin’s policies of division, he continues to perpetuate a state of chaos for his country and the region.

Alexander Lapshin deserves freedom.  It is a disgrace of Belarus’ government to extradite him.  He must be freed.  We must do more to bring light on this issue to the world. In order for the government to change its policy of oppression and genocide towards the native population there needs to be a blockade placed upon Azerbaijan. There needs to be increased pressure to free Alexander, and it needs to come from Israel and Russia too.

1 Comment on Op-Ed: Free Speech Held Hostage in Baku

  1. avatar George Mirzayans // February 13, 2017 at 8:28 pm // Reply

    Good luck for lepshin on getting what he deserves. The world does not care in the least about lepshin nor the human rights violations committed by these cowards. To further my point , the world doesn’t care about that region in the least. I can’t tell you how many people I try to enlighten only to be met with disdain and contempt.
    I am growing tired.

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