William and Mary Law School

My First Earthquake and I Missed It! (and other Azeri news)

We had an earthquake here!  Granted, not a big one.  4.2 at its epicenter, less than 3 here in Baku.
But it was my very first earthquake, so that was exciting for me.  I just wished I'd realized what
was happening at the time - instead, I had to be told by my officemate Parviz that there'd just been
an earthquake, and here I was just babbling away to my boss, totally oblivous.

I also thought I'd share some of the big news stories that have been happening in Azerbaijan, since
monitoring the news is part of my job, plus it gives a good sense of where a country is legally,
politically, and culturally.  The large political issue right now is the arrest of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.
Fatullayev was accused of terrorism and then, later, drug possession, but it seems clear to most everyone
that he was actually arrested for being the editor of two anti-government newspapers.  NGOs across the world
have called for his release, but the Azeri government has pushed forward with his trial, which is currently
taking place now.  Here is an article about him from Pen American Center.  While that's the most famous case
of prosecuting freedom of speech, speech has been a big issue here.  Azeris don't actually have freedom of
the press or assembly, and reports frequently pop up of people being arrested for protesting this.  Not too
long ago two bloggers were arrested and sentenced to 2 1/2 years for satirizing the Azeri government (Here's
a BBC article).  Sort of makes me nervous to be keeping a blog...

In other legal news, Azerbaijan finally passed its first domestic violence law.  It's interesting that it
took Azerbaijan so long to enact these laws - every source I've seen has said that domestic violence here
is tremendously high (perhaps the unfortunate combination of the gender subjugation of a Muslim state mixed
with the high alcohol use of a post-Soviet state?), but apparently many Azeri legislators truly were opposed
to creating legislation for something that was such a private matter.  Well, it will be interesting to see
how well the legislation is implemented, if at all.

And the really big news here is flooding.  South and central Azerbaijan is experiencing terrible flooding,
and thousands of people are homeless.  This is truly sad, since I'm sure many of these folks were quite poor
to begin with, and now they've lost the little they have.  We'll just have to hope that nature is kind and
the situation doesn't get any worse.