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Azerbaijan: Youth activist expelled from university

According to information spread by the Dalga Youth Movement, Parviz Azimov, the head of its Southern Regional Office, has been expelled from university. Both inside and outside Azerbaijan, bloggers are concerned by the action taken against the student activist. Don Quixote from the Land of the Blind [RU] informs its readers about the incident.

Совсем недавно, в январе нынешнего года студент Лянкяранского Государственного Университета и представитель молодежного движения “Далга” в Лянкяране Пярвиз Азимов написал статью о коррупции в собственном университете. […]

Вчера “Далга” распространили письмо, в котором сообщается, что после продолжительного саботирования Пярвиза, его, под вымышленнным предлогом все-таки исключили из университета.

Recently, in January, Parviz Azimov, a student at the Lankaran State University and representative of the Dalga Youth Movement, wrote an article about corruption at his university. […]

Yesterday, Dalga distributed a letter informing that after continuing efforts to undermine Parviz, he was finally expelled from the university under an invented pretext.

The letter distributed by Dalga was published by several blogs, and requested that people take action in Azimov's defense. The senior student was eventually expelled for his alleged involvement in a fight, but few believe the official explanation.

Some are even reminded of their own experiences at universities in Azerbaijan. Writing on my Frontline Club blog, for example, it almost felt like déjà vu.

Once I wrote an innocent piece for azadliqciragi.org, an Azeri-language version of Cato Institute's Lamps of Liberty and I don't know how, but my dean N.A. at university got aware of it (too old and conservative to surf in Internet). Later followed what my dean called “educational conversation” between us in order to persuade me to halt my “revolutionary” and “oppositional” activism in Internet, and there he told me “in a manner of father” that I should “cool down”, otherwise I can possible be expelled from university. Curious enough, I asked him on what formal grounds it can happen – I have a perfect attendance record, excellent results, in good attitude toward teachers and no criminal behaviour – after a few seconds of thoughts, he replied that there can be a sabotage against me, for example, an alleged fight, which can result in my expulsion.

Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines is also reminded of a similar experience.

This incident reminds me of an event that took place few months back when I was asked to give a short presentation to a group of foreign exchange students on Azerbaijani culture. The conversation then turned into Q&A session, where we started talking about politics and general situation in the country. I answered each of their questions with honesty. Well, it turned out that none of the profs who were sitting in the room were pleased with my honesty (even though students were very happy). Nothing happened to me, well, except I was never asked to give another presentation by those people to another group of students.

Although Azimov was expelled at the end of February, it has only been in recent days that many found out. Writing on Thoughts on the Road, for example, one American journalist conducting media training in Azerbaijan remembers his former student.

Parviz was one of my best students while I was in Azerbaijan. He was the only one of my students to actually produce articles about corruption in the nation's education system. I had quite a few students who spoke about it – but naturally it was a very daunting subject to tackle. Many of my students were still studying at universities – so really digging into this subject could be dangerous for their academic careers.

As it was for Parviz.

When he first suggested writing about corruption at the university, I cautioned him about taking on the subject. To do it right would be difficult, and would certainly anger important people. Nonetheless, he was resolute – and for his final project he wrote both blog entries and a long newspaper article on the subject – an article that named names. I was more nervous than he about publishing the article.

I don't think it was one article that caused the university to finally kick him out. Parviz is one of those students that is challenging or infuriating, depending on your perspective. Once he grabbed hold of an issue, he didn't let go – the mark of really excellent journalist. This time, Parviz obviously infuriated enough people at the university to close that door to him.

He has great talent and energy – so I don't worry about him finding some position that suits his interests. But to be honest, I do worry about his personal safety. Azerbaijan is a dangerous place for journalists who challenge the system. A number of journalists have been mysteriously assaulted and murdered in Azerbaijan in recent years. Currently, Uzbekistan is the only European or Central Asian country that has more journalists behind bars than Azerbaijan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In conclusion, Don Quixote from the Land of the Blind is in despair.

А я больше ничего не скажу. Разве только то, что краснеть, поражаться, разочаровываться и терять дар речи начинаю уставать.

Moreover, I won't say anything more. Only that I am beginning to get tired of being embarrassed, surprised and disappointed, and losing my [freedom of] speech.

Incidentally, in order to form a better impression of the university where Parviz was studying, Dalga posted this photo reportage late last year. According to the official rating of Azerbaijani higher educational institutions published by the State Students Admission Commission, Lankaran State University ranks 16th.

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