S. Rob Sobhani’s March 6 piece, “The ‘kind lady’ of Azerbaijan” (Web), which praises Azerbaijani first lady Mehriban Aliyeva’s recent appointment as the country’s vice president, was troubling, to say the least. Sobhani calls President Ilham Aliyev’s decision to promote his wife — an Azerbaijani parliamentarian who, according to WikiLeaks documents, chooses not to attend Parliament’s sessions — a “historic leap forward” which must be applauded and supported by the United States.
What Sobhani fails to mention, however, is that this is Aliyev’s latest move in his quest for further power. By initiating a referendum in his country last September, not only did Aliyev successfully extend the presidential term to seven years, he also made sure to create two vice-presidential posts. Aliyev’s decision is only the most recent in a carefully orchestrated tightening of power that dates back decades. It’s a grip on power that has made the Aliyev family quite wealthy over the years. And as the Aliyevs continue to extend their power and increase their bank accounts, freedoms of expression, assembly and association continue to deteriorate drastically under their rule.
If anything, the first lady’s promotion is a historic leap backward for the country.
Editor, The Armenian Weekly
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