Earlier in October, Azerbaijani news media reported the death of a professional Azerbaijani wrestler, Rashad Bakhshaliyev, who was killed in Syria while fighting for the Islamic State. The news, which came as a surprise to many in Azerbaijan, underscores an emerging security threat for Azerbaijan.
At a cabinet meeting in mid-July, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev lashed out at the European Parliament for supposedly conducting a “dirty campaign” against Baku. The shrill tone of Aliyev’s comments indicates that European pressure on Azerbaijan to respect basic rights is stinging the Aliyev administration.
Kseniya Sobchak, a well-known Russian political activist and social butterfly, is an outspoken critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But, curiously, she seems to be taking a much softer line on Azerbaijan’s authoritarian-minded ruler, Ilham Aliyev.
There's a coffee shop in an out-of-the-way part of Baku where the walls are covered with illustrations from an early 20th century satirical magazine called Molla Nasreddin. The magazine represents a bygone era, when Azerbaijan was a font of new cultural trends in the Muslim world, pioneering such issues as female emancipation, anti-clericalism, anti-colonialism and labour rights.
There has been much speculation surrounding Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel, including reports that Israeli warplanes might use Azerbaijani airfields as support bases during a potential attack against Iran. The reality of the bilateral relationship is not so dramatic, as it is pragmatic.