Azerbaijan's President Doesn't Really Get Twitter. He Doesn't Really Get Azerbaijan, Either

aliyev twitter

Image from @presidentaz Twitter account.

Whatever country Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev is tweeting about, it can't be Azerbaijan.

In Azerbaijan, innocent men and women are thrown into jail on trumped up charges. Corruption is so ingrained that the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting project named Aliyev as its Person of the Year in 2012. Public morale is low, people live in a constant state of fear, and the dominant regime rigs its way to victory at every election. Nor are things good with the neighbors: the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, more than two decades old, isn’t about to resolve itself any time soon.

But one man sees Azerbaijan through a different lens. Ilham Aliyev, who inherited the position of Head of State from his father, Heydar Aliyev, is not only of the opinion that Azerbaijan is doing well, but that it is winning on every front – politically, economically, and most importantly, militarily. To share his opinions Aliyev takes to Twitter where one can find him under @presidentaz. For anyone familiar with Azerbaijani realities, the presidential feed is bitterly ironic, if at times darkly entertaining.

Aliyev Putin

A Twitter user speculates as to what Russian President Vladimir Putin is telling Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

The persons in charge of President Aliyev’s Twitter account seem to have little knowledge of the platform and its aim. The president's tweets often end in (cont) and a link to the “Twit longer” app, more or less defeating the purpose of Twitter. Elsewhere in the post-Soviet world, authoritarians have figured out that succinct means success in social media. But Aliyev's feed reads like one long speech regularly interrupted by a pesky 140 character limit. Often the tweets on his English-language feed lack grammar and appear to contradict themselves.

Most problematically of all, though — the feed is full of lies.

Azerbaijan is probably the freest country in the world

One of the topics Aliyev is happiest to tweet about is freedom and how much of it Azerbaijan has. Apparently, plenty:

Religious rights organization Forum 18, disagrees, noting: “freedom of religion or belief and related human rights such as the freedom of expression and of assembly remain highly restricted” in Azerbaijan. 

Again, the ongoing crackdown in Azerbaijan paints a different picture. 

Aliyev's critics maintain the country’s leadership has ensured no such media exists. So-called “linkages between the government and society” come in the form of cheap shows about dating, marriage, and news segments that have very little respect for journalism.

Reporters Without Borders rated Azerbaijan 160th out of 180 countries in its 2014 Press Freedom Index.

We love peace but we are always ready for war. Always.

It is hard to say which stability @presidentaz is talking about and what is meant by the general reference to the “region”. The conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh has simmered since before independence, boiling over in sporadic border fights between the two countries.

In early August @presidentaz caught the attention of the world media by threatening to reignite war with Armenia after the deaths of Azerbaijani soldiers in contested territory.

A global role model

As the country develops @presidentaz believes “the reputation of Azerbaijan is gradually enhancing”. In fact, his government is doing so well, it can serve as an inspiration for other states around the world.

In fighting corruption:

“Collecting money”:

Providing housing:

And ensuring equality:

Finally, if any of that seems like fantasy, @presidentaz reminds readers:

For more continue reading directly from his Twitter account @presidentaz.


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