The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Azerbaijan declared its independence on August 30, 1991.  
Progress toward a democratic society suffered a severe setback 
following the June 1993 downfall of the democratically elected 
President, Abulfez Elcibey.  

Heydar Aliyev, a former Communist Party First Secretary of 
Azerbaijan and Soviet Politburo member, assumed presidential 
powers following a period of intense strife brought on by the 
loss of large portions of the country to Armenian rebels in 
Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave within 
Azerbaijan.  The events in June were facilitated by the failure 
of the Azerbaijan Popular Front (APF) government to hold 
parliamentary elections.  A referendum on August 29 confirmed 
the lack of public confidence in Elcibey, and Aliyev won 
presidential elections held on October 3.  

Under President Elcibey and the APF, the Ministry of National 
Security appeared to have been relatively inactive; under the 
Aliyev regime, it has arrested APF leaders without bringing 
charges and is believed to have resumed surveillance 

Azerbaijan continued to maintain the structure of a centralized 
command economy.  Disintegration of the economy continued as a 
result of war, social instability, and the general collapse of 
the currency and industry.  The manat, the local currency 
introduced in August 1992, remained tied to the Russian ruble.  
Reviving ruble-denominated (soft currency) trade links with 
Russia was one reason cited by Aliyev for his decision to take 
Azerbaijan into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 
September.  Badly needed economic reforms remain to be 
implemented.  Oil is the key foreign exchange earner.  

The war in and around Nagorno-Karabakh continued to be the most 
significant factor in the human rights situation.  Both sides 
engaged in frequent human rights abuses and violations of 
humanitarian law, including the killing of civilians, 
hostage-taking, and ransoming the remains of the dead.  

Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh launched offensives outside 
the boundaries of the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region, 
seizing Kalbacar in March; Agdam in July; and Fuzuli, Cabrayil, 
Qubadli, Zangilan, and other towns to the south during the 
August-October period.  The attacking forces looted and burned 
all villages in the areas they overran, forcing some 500,000 
people, as well as earlier displaced persons who had settled in 
areas subsequently overrun, to flee their homes.  The total 
refugee population rose to over 1 million out of a total 
population of 7.5 million.  

The war and attendant social instability gave rise to many 
human rights abuses even before the fall of Elcibey, although 
the situation worsened thereafter.  The state of emergency, 
which the APF government enacted in April, permitted police to 
enter homes without warrants, introduced press censorship, 
banned demonstrations, and restricted travel, among other 
measures.  Even after Acting President Aliyev ended the state 
of emergency in September, the Government continued to impose 
prepublication censorship.  Elements within Azerbaijani society 
hostile to the presence of Armenians kidnaped Armenian and 
part-Armenian residents of Baku to be exchanged for Azeri 
hostages in Nagorno-Karabakh.  As Acting President Aliyev 
concentrated power into his own hands, he took steps to 
suppress political opposition.  


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Extrajudicial Killing

According to supporters of rebel leader Surat Huseynov, APF 
government troops which attacked his forces in Gance in July 
were responsible for the deaths of some civilians among the 70 
persons killed.  APF supporters charge that Huseynov's forces 
took captive the commander of the Presidential Guard during the 
engagement and butchered him in his hospital bed.  In addition, 
Huseynov's forces killed several local administrators during 
their march on Baku in June.

     b.  Disappearance

Hostage-taking by both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict 
remained endemic.  Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh took 
hostage hundreds of civilians, including 100 in hte Kalbacar 
region alone, during their offensives against Azeri-inhabited 
regions.  Five Azeri civilians, along with a number of 
soldiers, were traded back to Azerbaijan on September 22 in 
exchange for six Russian mercenaries sentenced to death in 1992 
for fighting alongside Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenians.  
Azerbaijani hostage-taking, which had been on the decline, 
increased after the fall of Elcibey, as ethnic Armenian 
civilians, mostly residents of Azerbaijan, were kidnaped from 
their own homes and from public transport.  Many of these were 
"arrested" and taken to the police by Azeris who wanted the 
Armenians' apartments.    

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

APF supporters alleged that the perpetrators of the events in 
June tortured ex-Parliament Speaker Isa Qambar and other APF 
figures after their arrests.  However, Qambar denied these 
charges upon his release in August.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

On June 4, APF government forces attempted to suppress an armed 
mutiny in Gance by a regiment led by Surat Huseynov, who was 
demanding the overthrow of the Government and attempting to 
achieve this by suborning the loyalty of the rest of the 
military.  Huseynov's troops defeated progovernment forces and 
arrested the Attorney General, the Deputy Minister of National 
Security, and the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs (the 
first two had parliamentary immunity from arrest).  These 
arrests were sanctioned only on July 16, after Huseynov had 
marched on Baku, forced President Elcibey to flee, toppled the 
Government (with Heydar Aliyev assuming presidential powers), 
and been named Prime Minister.  On the same day, Parliament 
allowed the arrest of its former speaker, Isa Qambar, and 
former Minister of National Security Fakhrettin Takhmazov 
without formal charges.  Qambar was arrested inside the 
Parliament building--even before Parliament voted to strip him 
of his parliamentary immunity--and taken away to Gance as the 
personal captive of Surat Huseynov.  He was released on August 
17 after strong protests by the United States, Turkey, and the 
United Nations; Takhmazov was released a month later.

Between September 12 and 22, when the state of emergency was 
lifted, an unknown number of APF leaders and some of their 
family members were detained, released, rearrested, and 
released again in harassing actions aimed especially at 
stifling protest against Aliyev's decision to bring Azerbaijan 
into the CIS.  Reportedly, 34 APF leaders and activists 
remained in prison at year's end.  Members of the security 
forces who remained loyal to the Elcibey government, including 
Arif Pasayev, Popular Front military commander of Lacin, and 
Isakhan Ashurov, the police chief of Qazax who helped enforce a 
cease-fire on the border with Armenia in 1992, also were 

In the month leading up to the June 4 action, the APF 
government used state of emergency legislation to arrest 
supporters of the National Independence Party and other 
opposition forces.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The legal system of Azerbaijan remains largely unchanged from 
Soviet rule.  There are district and municipal courts and a 
Supreme Court, which serves as a court of appeals.  Growing 
judicial independence came to a halt in July when the 
Government fired Supreme Court Chief Justice Tahir Kerimli, an 
APF appointee, for his loyalty to ousted President Elcibey.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, 
confront witnesses, and present evidence, and trials are 
generally public.  Exceptions to public trials are cases 
involving state military secrets and those in which the judge 
determines that a closed trial would be more appropriate in 
dealing with sexual offenses, as for instance during the 
testimony of a rape victim.  Defendants may choose their own 
attorney, and the court appoints an attorney for those without 
one.  Defendants have the right to appeal, as does the 
prosecutor.  The presumption of innocence has not been 
incorporated into the criminal code.  

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Police had the authority to enter homes under the state of 
emergency in effect from April until September.  The Soviet 
surveillance apparatus, reorganized as the Ministry of National 
Security, continued to operate under the APF government.  Under 
the Aliyev Government, the Ministry became more active.  It is 
widely believed that telephones, especially those of foreigners 
and prominent political and business figures, were tapped.   

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

The conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh has steadily 
increased in severity since violence began in 1988.  All 
parties to the conflict engaged in indiscriminate shelling and 
rocket fire against civilian targets, including in both 
directions along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.  The 
Azerbaijanis also engaged in fixed-wing air attacks against 
civilian targets in both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.  All 
parties to the conflict have cut normal trade and 
transportation links to the other sides, causing severe 
hardship to civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and the 
Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan.

In 1993 ethnic Armenians began to attack ethnic Azeri and 
Kurdish areas outside the bounds of Nagorno-Karabakh.  In 
March, as peace talks were under way in Geneva, the 
Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians captured the province of Kalbacar 
between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.  According to reliable 
eyewitnesses, the entire population fled, and ethnic Armenians 
looted and destroyed all villages and towns to discourage the 
return of those displaced.

During the political upheaval inside Azerbaijan that these 
events caused, the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians took advantage of 
the collapse of the Azerbaijani army to capture Agdam to the 
east in July and large parts of the Fuzuli, Cabrayil, Qubadli, 
and Zangilan regions to the south and southwest in September.  
As before, they drove out the population and looted and burned 
the provincial capitals and most of the villages in an apparent 
effort to create an uninhabitable zone around Nagorno-Karabakh 
proper.  The United Nations Security Council condemned these 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

There were some restrictions on freedom of speech and press 
under the APF government.  That government's Minister of 
Internal Affairs, Iskandar Hamidov, continued to harass and 
beat journalists whose articles he disliked.  After the events 
in June, however, restrictions became more severe.  

After the ouster of the APF government (including Hamidov), the 
new regime used censorship in a more methodical and intensive 
manner.  The censor banned articles and entire editions and, on 
September 13, even confiscated an entire press run of the 
newspaper Azadlyq and had it burned.  

The situation improved somewhat after the lifting of the state 
of emergency on September 22, although official censorship 
continued.  In response to an open letter from the editors of 
several newspapers, protesting that censorship should have 
ended with the lifting of the state of emergency, the Cabinet's 
Office for the Protection of State Secrets decreed on September 
30 that only military, not political, censorship would remain 
in effect.  Censorship in fact decreased after the state of 
emergency was lifted, and even further after this 

The number of newspapers available, both in Azeri and Russian, 
did not diminish--one paper called itself Newspaper Number 525 
because it was the 525th paper to register.  Several opposition 
papers, including at least five major newspapers sympathetic to 
or officially published by the Azerbaijan Popular Front, the 
Musavat Party, and the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, 
the main political opposition, continued to publish.  Small 
sensationalist papers continued to publish investigative 
interviews and news items.  

At year's end, a media campaign was under way against the 
opposition press.  After an effort to impose political 
censorship failed in Parliament on November 26, most papers
--including opposition papers--were told that beginning on 
December 3 they would receive no offset masters with which to 
publish.  After strong protests by the international community, 
some newspapers, including the principal opposition papers, 
were given permission to use offset masters they had in stock.  
On December 6, Parliament institutionalized military censorship 
and authorized the Attorney General to close newspapers for 
1 month for publishing information "contrary to the interests 
of Azerbaijan" or libelous of individuals.  The military censor 
is known to have excised articles containing purely political 
criticism of government figures unrelated to the war effort.

In September a number of women were arrested for passing out 
leaflets protesting against Azerbaijan's joining the CIS.  They 
were charged under the state of emergency regulations banning 

Radio and television were entirely controlled by the 
Government, and after the downfall of the Elcibey government 
they broadcast frequent programs exoressing adulation for 
government figures, especially President Aliyev.  The 
opposition had little or no access to the mass media.  

A number of prominent academics lost their jobs after the 
events in June, reportedly for their connections with the APF 
government.  They were replaced by figures from the Soviet era.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The state of emergency in effect from April until September 
formally banned demonstrations.  In fact, however, 
demonstrations occurred regularly before the overthrow of 
President Elcibey.  After that, the new Government broke up 
demonstrations, mostly organized by Elcibey's APF supporters, 
using force if necessary.  On one occasion in July, gunfire was 
used to break up a demonstration outside the APF's 
headquarters.  Some APF demonstrations were later allowed to 
take place when it became apparent that the party had few 
supporters still willing to come to rallies.  

Political parties and associations were in general allowed to 
function freely, and a number of parties originally affiliated 
with the Popular Front united to form a "Democratic Congress."  
The APF, however, was harassed by the authorities, and a number 
of its activists around the country were arrested.  In some 
cases they were released quickly, rearrested, and released 
again in a clear attempt at intimidation.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion.

Most Azerbaijanis are Muslims, predominantly of the Shi'a sect, 
but there are significant Russian Orthodox and Jewish 
communities.  All three are represented in a "Caucasus House," 
chaired by the Muslim Shaykh Al-Islam, which represents the 
interfaith religious establishment of Azerbaijan.  All faiths 
practiced their religions without restrictions, with one 
important exception:  Armenian churches, many vandalized in 
past years, remained closed, and few of the Armenians left in 
Azerbaijan would have felt secure enough to attend them had 
they been open.  New mosques continued to open during 1993.  
There is one Muslim seminary; Christians and Jews must go 
elsewhere for clerical training.  Muslim clerics from Turkey 
and Iran, Jewish clerics from Israel and the United States, and 
Christian clerics from Russia, the United States, and elsewhere 
were given full access to the country.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

State of emergency regulations in force after April severely 
limited travel to areas near the front.  The Ministry of 
National Security also used the state of emergency to 
create--under the APF government--an Iranian border zone in the 
south from which all nonresidents were excluded.  The APF 
government restricted travel to the exclave of Naxcivan in the 
spring as tensions mounted between the Baku leadership and 
Heydar Aliyev, then chairman of Naxcivan's Supreme Soviet.  
After Aliyev's return to Baku and President Elcibey's June 17 
flight to Naxcivan, these restrictions were intensified.  The 
Government released former Parliament Speaker Isa Qambar, the 
former Minister of National Security, and others from prison on 
condition that they not leave Baku; it filed no charges against 
them.  In December the Government denied Qambar and some 
members of his political party--including at least one who was 
never investigated for criminal activity--passports to travel 
to Turkey.

The Government officially recognized freedom of emigration.  
Jewish emigration to Israel continued, with over 23,000 leaving 
since 1990, although only 749 emigrated in the first 6 months 
of 1993.  Some 18,000 Armenians and part-Armenians, mostly in 
mixed marriages, remained in the country.  Some of these were 
deprived of all documents for both internal and external 
travel.  In general, members of minorities wishing to emigrate 
are harassed by low-level officials seeking bribes; this is 
especially the case of draft-age men, who are required to 
obtain documentation from several levels of military 
authorities before they may leave for any international 

All citizens of Azerbaijan wishing to travel abroad must first 
obtain exit visas or official passports from the Government.  
In at least one case, the authorities denied an exit visa to a 
person wishing to attend a conference on the Azeri-Armenian 

By autumn the number of refugees and displaced persons in 
Azerbaijan was 891,000, according to figures accepted by the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  By year's end 
the tally used by the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees was just under 1 million.  Close to 500,000 fled the 
Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian offensives into Azeri-inhabited areas 
between March and September alone, joining the 150,000 who fled 
in 1992.  The refugee population also consisted of 48,000 
Akhiskha (Meskhetian) Turks who fled pogroms in Uzbekistan in 
1990, and 200,000 Azeris and Kurds expelled from Armenia in 
1988 in retaliation for anti-Armenian pogroms in Azerbaijan.  
These pogroms, which recurred until 1990, drove about 350,000 
Armenians to flee Azerbaijan for Armenia, Russia, and other 
states.  Another 50,000 Armenians have fled the fighting in 

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government:

Citizens of Azerbaijan do not have the right to change their 
government by peaceful means.  In June the democratically 
elected president, Abulfez Elcibey, was overthrown, and Heydar 
Aliyev assumed presidential powers.  He tried to legitimize the 
transfer of power by holding a referendum on August 29, which 
confirmed the lack of public confidence in Elcibey, and 
presidential elections on October 3, which he won.  

In theory, the President shares power with a 50-member National 
Council (Milli Majlis), which was formed in 1991 under the 
Communist regime, with half of its members drawn from the 
opposition and half from the Communists.  In 1992 the APF 
regime dissolved the Supreme Soviet, which had been 
Azerbaijan's parliament, and transferred its functions to the 
National Council.  There has been no indication whether early 
parliamentary elections will be held.

There were no restrictions on women or minorities participating 
in politics.  Minorities such as Lezghis and Talysh formed 
regional groupings in Parliament and published newspapers in 
their own languages.  There are two Islamic religious parties.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights observers were not active in 1993.  Those 
presenting themselves as human rights groups were generally 
linked with one political party or another.  Some of the most 
active figures accepted academic grants in the United States 
and Europe, and were not present in Azerbaijan for much of 1993.

The Government expressed willingness to receive delegations 
from international human rights organizations and actively 
solicited observers for the August 29 referendum and October 3 
presidential election.  Heydar Aliyev met with the visiting 
president of the U.S. Helsinki Watch and expressed his 
willingness to abide by the norms of the Conference on Security 
and Cooperation in Europe and other international agreements.  
Meanwhile, however, human rights violations continued.

ICRC access to prisoners of war and others was sporadic.   

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Women nominally enjoyed the same legal rights as men, including 
the right to participate in all aspects of political, economic, 
and social life.  Heydar Aliyev appointed several women to 
senior government positions, including that of state secretary 
(head of the presidential apparatus).  The most active 
supporters of the APF after the overthrow of Elcibey were the 
party's women's groups.  

In general, women are given extensive opportunities for 
education, work, and political activity.  In practice, social 
norms of the Caucasus tend to keep women in subordinate 

Violence against women is a taboo subject in Azerbaijan's 
patriarchal society.  In rural areas, wives have no real 
recourse against violence by their husbands, regardless of the 
law.  Rape is severely punishable but, especially in rural 
areas, only a small fraction of offenses are prosecuted.


Although the Government is committed to the welfare of 
children, it had no resources in 1993 to devote to them.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Previous declarations on minority rights remained in effect in 
1993, and, with the exception of ethnic Armenians, minorities 
enjoyed full rights.  The position of Russian speakers actually 
improved after the events in June, as several APF policies to 
deemphasize Russian in the schools were dropped.  The APF 
policies had mandated that more academic subjects (not 
including Russian language and literature) be taught in Azeri, 
not Russian.

The 18,000 ethnic Armenians and part-Armenians, most of them 
members of mixed families, continued to live in an atmosphere 
of fear and uncertainty.  Kidnapings of ethnic Armenians from 
Baku continued, as did other forms of harassment and 
persecution.  A Baku newspaper began in September to publish, 
district by district, the names of Armenians in Baku receiving 
pensions through the mail, including some with purely Azeri 
surnames.  The newspaper used highly emotional language in 
introducing these lists, in an apparent attempt to incite an 
anti-Armenian pogrom.  The Government stopped publication of 
these lists, and the editor of the paper was fired.  

There are credible reports of the denial of medical treatment 
to ethnic Armenians and confiscation of their travel and 
residence documents.  Most of the Armenians who lost jobs in 
previous years remained unemployed.  Many were too frightened 
to appear in public.

     People with Disabilities

No legislation or otherwise mandated provision of accessibility 
for the disabled has been enacted.   

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Azerbaijani labor unions continued to operate as they did under 
the Soviet system.  However, the Azerbaijani Labor Federation 
is no longer linked to Moscow.  Unions continued to be highly 
dependent upon the Government but were free to form federations 
and participate in international bodies.  There is a right to 
strike.  A number of strikes were reported in the press in 
1993; the Confederation reported no retribution against 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining remained at a rudimentary level.  Wages 
were decreed by relevant government ministries for enterprises 
and organizations within their budgets.  Both managers and 
employees at state enterprises are considered to be union 
members under the Soviet holdover system.  On December 13, 200 
policemen invaded a military factory and arrested the manager, 
who was protected by workers.  The work force then went out on 

There are no export processing zones.  

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and is not 
known to be practiced.  There is no government office that 
enforces this prohibition.  

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum employment age is 16.  Children aged 14 are allowed 
to work during vacations with the consent of their parents and 
the certification of a physician.  Children aged 15 may work if 
the workplace's labor union does not object.  Eight years of 
education are compulsory.  This minimum is enforced by 
employers under the control of trade union organizations.  

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A nationwide administrative minimum wage, set by decree, was 
raised numerous times in 1993 to offset inflation.  The minimum 
wage as of December 17 amounted to $3.60 (900 manats) per 
month.  It is not known how effectively the payment of the 
minimum wage was enforced.  The extended family's "safety net" 
and reliance on outside sources of income generally assured a 
decent living.

The legal workweek is 41 hours.  There is at least one 24-hour 
rest period, in some cases two, during the workweek.  Health 
and safety standards exist but are by and large ignored in the 
workplace. (###)

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.