Yanar Dag, The Burning Mountain

Last weekend, I watched the Netherlands versus Costa Rica game at a British-style pub here in Baku—what a game!  On Sunday, I visited the Baku Zoo and Yanar Dag.  The zoo has not been renovated since Soviet times, and it was actually quite upsetting.  Most of the animals were in identical rusted, metal cages with dirty, concrete floors.  Some of the animals had a trickle of water spilling into a dilapidated, leaking, concrete bath.  I saw many visitors to the zoo feeding the animals pieces of bread or crackers through their cages (particularly the monkeys and birds), and there were no zoo workers or security to prevent them from doing so.  The most interesting part of the zoo was seeing a huge species of camel (Bactrian camel) I have never heard of before (not that I know much about camels).  The camels' faces and necks looked like a mix between elephants and dinosaurs in movies I have seen—I couldn’t believe how ancient they looked (although maybe they were actually really old camels)!  I hope you can see what I mean from my picture—look closely at the second camel, in the back.  After the zoo, I went to Yanar Dag, which is a place outside of Baku where a section of a hillside is just continuously burning, completely on its own, because of the natural gas coming from the ground.  It was neat to see—and very hot (even from standing far away)!  I also went to the beach, and watched the sunset (how can I pass up the opportunity to watch the sun set on the Caspian Sea again).

CamelsYanar DagSunset

During my research of firms to apply for next summer’s job (already!), I was surprised to find that many international law firms have done projects in this part of the world and in Azerbaijan in particular.  Most of the projects related to the oil and gas industry, finance, or FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) cases.  My surprise of the level of involvement in this region was mostly due to the many questions I had from people about Azerbaijan—even if some have heard of it, most Americans do not know anything about Azerbaijan or where it is in the world.     

I have also been continuing to read current events and news articles from Westlaw about Azerbaijan, and I was particularly interested to find two articles directed to the United States.  Both concerned the Khojaly events—the massacre of hundreds of Azerbaijani civilians, which happened in 1992.   Khojaly is one of the primary contributing reasons for the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia (If you are interested, I encourage you to read more about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict—I may write more on this after I return to the states).  One article was written by the Azerbaijani Embassy, and the other was written by the Armenian Embassy.  Each country’s version of events has a completely opposite story about what happened.  Two decades later, this massacre is still disputed, and has not been recognized by many in the international community.  Obviously, this lack of recognition makes it difficult to gain support of the international community, which makes resolution of this conflict seem distant.  The people who have been displaced due to the violence, occupation, and tensions are a visible human effect of the conflict between the two countries. 

Our partner office, ICNL will be working on social contracting legislation in the fall, so this week and next week, I am looking into existing laws and ICNL’s previous work in other countries on the subject.  The social contracting legislation concerns the relationship between the government and NGOs, and allows for the government to contract with NGOs to perform various projects.  This partnership is very important for the government funds to be allocated efficiently, and for the work to be done effectively.  As the relationship between NGOs and the government grows stronger, there will be more participation and influence of the citizens in the workings and decisions of their government.

This weekend, I am taking a trip to Tbilisi, Georgia.  I am looking forward to the beautiful cathedrals, marionette theater, old city, and the well-known Georgian wine!