Ahmad Shahidov: “Soured relations need to be restored between Azerbaijan and Europe”

Our today’s interlocutor is Ahmad Shahidov, Head of the Azerbaijani Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (AIDHR) 

Mr. Shahidov, how would you assess the situation of civil society in Azerbaijan? Every now and then some European institutions claim of setbacks in the development of civil society. What is your stance on this issue?    

It is indeed complicated to say something definitely on this issue. No doubt, several problems emerged in this field. If some of these problems came into view because of official bodies, conversely majority of these problems stem from mistakes of NGOs. As with every country, Azerbaijan is cautious on issues which might contradict its national interests. In this regard, activities of these sorts of NGOs and civil society organizations are strictly controlled. It’s quite natural procedure. Transparently operating NGOs do not need to worry about this inspection and control on their activities. Unfortunately not all NGOs operate in a transparent way. Sadly to say that we have representatives of civil society organizations who commit crime against the national interests of the country, like bribe taking and other breach of law.

Nevertheless, I still adhere to the application of legal procedure which regulates operation of these kinds of NGOs and their activities to be limited by law. As you can see this practice is not common and therefore it draws European institutions attention. Ultimately, European human rights institutions release unfavorable statements and reports related to Azerbaijan.

Do you believe in positive attitude towards Azerbaijan following the president’s visit to Europe, meetings his held and statements he made? 

In any case, president Aliyev’s visits to Europe are steps forward and indicate Azerbaijan’s inclination to euro-integration. The more frequently these visits are realized the more rapidly relations will be restored and Azerbaijani realities will be acknowledged in Europe which means promotion, diaspora operation. This is not only head of state’s duty but also all of us, your, mine, in particular civil society activists as Azerbaijan belongs to all of us.

By the way, there are some sayings regarding NGOs in Azerbaijan those work, spying for the interests of foreign countries. Which measures should be carried out against these NGOs?   

It’s necessary to have valid facts in order commenting on this issue. No matter whether they are NGOs members or ordinary people, those who have connection with foreign spying services, responsible people of any activities against national interest must be brought to justice. However, it’s also inappropriate to apply this term to everyone and defame them. If someone criticizes Azerbaijani government and at the same time has good relations with international organizations it does not mean that he/she is agent or spy. We should be careful in this delicate issue and. After all its relevant official bodies which decide who is agent, spy who is not.

Which meetings are you planning to conduct in Europe?

Azerbaijani Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (AIDHR) has close relations with number of internationals organizations including OSCE, PACE, EU and other human right organizations. We intend to attend various events to be organized in Austria, Switzerland and Poland and have meetings in mid-February. During the conducted meetings we will raise Azerbaijani problems such as hostages and Khojaly Genocide.

As we know AIDHR has fruitful collaboration with Arabian countries, specifically with Qatar. We would like to ask you more detailed information with regard to memorandum of understanding to be signed in Doha, Qatar in the next few days. Which provisions are envisioned in this protocol? Which areas will be covered?   

We are cooperating with the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar. Last year I attended the International Conference on the challenges of security and human rights in Arab region held in Doha in November. In the framework of that conference I held short meetings with the Qatar Prime minister and other top officials. Following the negotiations conducted over the last months we have reached an agreement to ink memorandum of understanding with the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar. The document is expected to be signed in Doha in upcoming days. It will envisage issues ranging from exchange of information, implementation of projects and others between the two organizations.

Your organization intends to conduct protest dedicated to the anniversary of Khojaly Genocide in Poland. Will there be other organizations to join the protest? 

We are planning to organize protest in front of Armenian Embassy to Poland on February 26. It will be organized not in the name of AIDHR but as the citizen of Azerbaijan. I put forward this initiation and protest will be realized thanks to the assistances of my young friends in Europe. I do believe that we will be able to convey Azerbaijani realities to the world communities.

In general, as NGOs, which measures are prerequisite for achieving recognition of Khojaly Genocide worldwide?  

We should put all our efforts to work firmly in sake of recognition of both Khojaly Genocide and promoting Azerbaijan in the world. Alongside with Government’s endeavors we need to demonstrate our stance as citizens of Azerbaijan. We should talk about this issue in the country, city community we live in and reach out wider audiences. Profound work has been done on Khojaly Genocide and even today a series of protests and events are organized in various parts of the world. We have to discuss this Genocide until world community recognizes it and if the need arises to enter into heated discussions with Armenians. As it’s said, we should struggle and win.   

AIDHR Press Department

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