The “Religious Threat”: Backbone of the Aliyev Regime

History has on multiple occasions proven that those that react to modern values with the words, “we aren’t ready for democracy”, “you are right before your time” rarely know that having taken shelter under despotism, they have already laid bare their backs to the whippings of theocracy. . .

Bakıda aşura mərasimindən
Bakıda aşura mərasimindən

The main resistance to the authoritarian system in our country, which has been in full-scale development since 1993, is centralized around political institutions that unconditionally acknowledge the supremacy of secular political values.

During this time, however, we have also witnessed attempts at resistance through the organization of religious groups, especially in the form of ideologies exported by Iran and Arab countries.

Azerbaijan is currently faced by a number of threats – on one hand, the serious economic crisis. On the other, the threat of encroachment from Putin’s Russia in the post-Soviet space. Moreover, the spread of shariat ideology emanating from the Arab world and Iran (Qom, in particular) has become a real danger.

Aliyev’s regime is unequipped to deal with these threats.

The threat posed to Azerbaijan from the North is looked at by the regime as a guarantor of its own reign, and he ideological threat from the South is treated as an opportunity to increase the validity of authoritarian rule.

However, such threats do not and cannot present neither guarantees nor opportunities.

In fact, the main source of these increasing threats is the regime itself.

In the 1950s, Iranian Premier Minister Mossadegh began to unexpectedly carry out a series of reforms. On one hand, he wanted to save Iran from Brittish colonial rule and to nationalize Iran’s oil. On the other, he wanted to convince Iranians of the importance of individual thought and opinion.

“I want to hear everyone. Every person has the right to freely express himself.”

Many were aggainst Mossadegh: the Palace, religious fanatics and the West. And so Mossadegh was arrested during the military coup of 1953.

“Everyone understood that Mossadegh was right. But the problem was that Mossadegh was right

too early

. No one has the right to be right too early.”

He was inconvenient. This is the most widely-accepted theoretical explanation used by those who justified his overthrow in 1953. And it was this same explanation that was used by proponents of shariat law twenty years later to justify their taking of power.

And what about us? Were we also right before our time in the fight for liberal democracy in the 20th century? No, it would appear that the opposite is true – we were too late to be right. At the same time, the Aliyev regime has been delaying the unrightfulness of the regime for a while now.

This in turn has created favorable conditions for followers of shariat to make their ‘timely’ claim to power.

Moreover, some politicians in the name of the fight against the regime have been opening doors to these proponents of shariat, as did secular organizations before the Iranian Islamic Revolution, thinking that they would be able to “use the spiritual leaders of Qom”. . .

1973, Iran. . .

Mohammed Reza Shah holds a press-conference in which he announces new oil prices. Oil had quadruppled in price in the past two months. Iran would now be receiving not $5 billion a year, but $20 billion in oil revenue. And this capital would be directly controlled by the Shah himself.

He suddenly announces, “In the span of but one generation, I will turn Iran into the most powerful country in the world! In 10 years, we will surpass the standards of the Germans, the English and the French”.

With the slogan of “all will live in prosperity”, the government of Iran spurred enormous hopes amongst the people. And the Shah began to sign hundreds of orders. . .and every winter he went skiing in Europe.

Do these tantalizing promises not remind you of something? Have you forgotten how, just a few years ago, they were practically eating your ears off with talk of “we have enough money…!”, “we are developing faster than anyone else…several diplomats have told me, maybe we should even slow down the process…?” ?

Even western politicians who at that time played up to the adventure of the Shah’s grand game were the precursors to “caviar diplomats” of the Ilham Aliyev regime.

These business people, “democrats in suits”, did not seem concerned when, while boarding their planes, students in the airports of Europe would hand them leaflets warning them that “People in Iran are killed by torture”, “SAVAK has disappeared hundreds and thousands!”.

Their approach was approximately the following: if you can score big, and moreover, if everything happening in Iran happens under the the slogan of the Shah about the creation of a “New Civilization”, then who needs to think about these annoying problems…?!

And what of quick development? Was there any? The Shah had thousands of students receive an education abroad, but he opened no universities in the country. Despite the fact that this is an expensive method, it promised the Shah peace and quiet at home.

These students never came back, to boot. Why would they have, when they saw all the freedom and prosperity in Europe. . . All the best works of art, the best films – all the best of the country was forbidden.

The Shah gave the people two choices: either SAVAK or the mollahs.

The people chose the mollahs, and the long-awaited day came about in February of 1979. As a result of which all these stories about development turned to dust. The regime was destroyed.

Our regime also offers the people two options: either secular authoritarianism in the form of the current regime, or the theocratic totalitaranism of the believers.

That’s correct: the choice is not between authoritarianism or democracy, but between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Thus, the “religious threat” is the source of life of the current regime to the point that even when the religious threat does not exist, it must be created.

Ilham Aliyev’s reign has relied upon the manifestation and tangibility of this dynamic.

If adherence to the shariat will grow in the current geo-political situation where chaos reigns supreme, then two opposing groups will be formed: “religious” activists and “those who are afraid of them”.

The latter group will, if comes to power, try to carry out harsh repressions across the country under the guise of the fight against the religious threat. And from beyond the border, instead of pressure concerning “human rights”, they will receive real political support.

It is namely this thinking that will lead to the collapse of the country, and together with it, the regime. What’s scary is that such regimes often ignore the experience of their neighbors. They are all sure that they are for some reason different, and as such have not a doubt in their mind that they are


doomed to the same tragic end.

History has on multiple occasions proven that those that react to modern values with the words, “we aren’t ready for democracy”, “you are right before your time” rarely know that having taken shelter under despotism, they have already laid bare their backs to the whippings of theocracy. . .

Ana səhifəAnalysisThe “Religious Threat”: Backbone of the Aliyev Regime