Former country director of National Democratic Institute says attacks on him and his organization are the result of infighting in ruling circles of Azerbaijan
Alex Grigorievs is the former country director of National Democratic İnstitute. The local office of NDI had been sealed for more than a year now, and recently it became official: NDI closes down it’s office in Azerbaijan.
This move followed number of criminal investigations against civil society leaders, cooperating with NDI and allegations by the law-enforcement and government politicians that the organization and it’s country director were plotting overthrow of the government in Azerbaijan.
FLATTERED, ANGERED, AMUSED
“It flatters, angers and amuses me. It angers me because I am shown as an enemy of Azerbaijan. They should not refuse of friends this way. I am flattered and amused because my modest person is given a value far superior to the real” –said Grigorievs in his interview to Turan News Agency.
He says he was well-intentioned to the country and loyal to the authorities of Azerbaijan and was repeatedly resented by opposition for his strategy: “that the way to Azerbaijan democracy along Western lines will be long and that it was with the very foundations: Education and habits of social activities on the grassroots level – the level of Mahalla. Education was of such activities and the main content of NDI under my leadership. Youth activists were engaged in further lessons with orphans, scavenged, planted trees, developed parks, and carried out light and water to villages, where they were not before. And they did it all in close collaboration with local authorities, as we had taught them.
Projects that we supported financially had the same plan, except for
one – the observation of elections”.
INFIGHTING IN RULING CIRCLES
In early 2013 information on Alex Grigorievs bank accounts appeared in pro-government web-sites, alleging that he has spent up to USD 2 million for plotting revolution in Azerbaijan.
Grigorievs said his personal account was in fact the account of the NDI:
“Unfortunately, until very recently, Azerbaijan refused to register NDI (the Institute was officially registered only in the last year of my stay in the country). Because of this, we did not have a corporate account during the fifteen years of work in Azerbaijan. NDI was funded through a personal account of the director of the office. It is very easy to check. I just continued this practice, while doubling the efforts to register. That is my personal account was actually the account of the NDI office.
It is easy to check and what the money was spent: the maintenance of the office in the center of Baku, fees for the employees, conducting training events: seminars and conferences. During the workshops, NDI paid not only rent for the hall, but all the participants’ costs: travel costs till the place of the classes, meals and accommodation. Baku is an expensive city. One seminar could cost up to twenty thousand dollars, depending on the hotel.
I still think that the attacks on NDI were the result of infighting in the ruling circles of Azerbaijan, a sort of trial balloon – what can collide with the Americans? If the consequences were too severe, they could easily turn it to reverse, saying we are not attacking the United States, but Grigorevs! And he is not even American. It happens”.
Human rights activists believe most of the attacks on NDI were because of their support to election observation. Grigorievs says this was the largest grant of NDI in Azerbaijan. “…Organization of election observation, on which in recent times, alas, fell the wrath of the Azerbaijani authorities. The head of this organization Anar Mammadli, unfortunately, at this time is a political prisoner in Azerbaijan.”
THE PRESIDENT IS FRIGHTENED
Grigorievs says activity of NDI didn’t carry any threat to the government:
About the overthrow of the power – it’s just nonsense. Most likely, the President is frightened by the Russian special services and their agents. This policy cannot lead to anything good. Unfortunately, the authorities do not realize that suppressing civil society, they lose a partner in negotiations on the future of Azerbaijan, and quarreling with the West, they lose allies that they are likely to need, sooner or later”.
He describes problems with democracy in Azerbaijan as a vicious circle:
“It is a vicious circle: the civil society is too weak to demand reforms and to be heard, and the power does not let it intensify and develop. As a result, in the case of social upheaval an unstructured rebellion is possible, like the Russian – “senseless and merciless.” Then it is not clear with whom to negotiate and on what exactly. There is a public discontent in Azerbaijan is. This is the main internal threat to the country”.