Carpetblog does take issue, however, with a few points, in descending order of importance.
Sit on a bench along the posh shopping boulevards in downtown Baku and you’ll soon spot the only two species of western Baku expat: the well-heeled consultant talking oil jargon to his Blackberry, and the Cockney-accented offshore rig worker. Both gather in the same British pubs at night to drink ale, watch rugby, and trade stories about the Russified Shia whores who are as much a part of the oil economy as BP. It is arguably the most depressing expat scene in the world. Even the Riyadh compound rats have clear skies and breathable air.
Most depressing expat scene in the world? Are you for serious? Sure the air's a little dark and the water a little chunky. And, if you lie down with Rig Monkeys, you're definitely going to wake up with whores.
As a Baku expat, you can do anything you want*. You can get nearly any prescription drug over the counter. You can sleep in the bushes on the Boulevard. You can buy your way out of any jam (well, most jams). You can dance until your nipples bleed. You can ignore every traffic law. You have access to all kinds of bars, as long as they are English, Irish or Scottish. You can buy any DVD the day it's released in the theaters. You can walk around Fountain Square at 3 am, bearded, in a shalwar kameez and the police won't know what to do with you. No one will notice if you are too hung over to do your job, since no one expects you to accomplish anything and it's probably a week-long holiday anyway. There are thousands of creative ways to entertain yourself, including one or two that don't involve alcohol or soviet-made cars. What's not to like about that?
Seriously, several expat scenes pop immediately into my head that are much, much worse.
I liked the article because it's the first one in a while that's done any probing into the Azerbaijan-American Chamber of Commerce, even though it doesn't get very far into it. I was disappointed, though, when it parroted the same old tired opposition and media NGO lines, without really questioning.
"The stabbing of Agil Khalil is part of campaign of repression about the Azerbaijani press,” says Emin Huseynov, Chairman of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety in Baku. “Every March before an election there is an attack on the press. Before the 2005 parliamentary elections, the editor of the Monitor Journal was murdered. The government wants to instill fear and prevent dissident thinking.”
"Every march before an election there's an attack on the press?"OK, you mean like, twice? There were none at any other time? And anyway, the government doesn't have to try very hard to prevent dissident (or any other kind of) thinking in Azerbaijan.
Huseynov also does not discount the possibility that the attack on Khalil was intended as a message to the West. “It is interesting that just two days before [the stabbing] the U.S. released is annual report on human rights practices,” he said. “There is something to the theory that after such reports are released, attacks like this take place as retribution, to make the point that such reports [accomplish] nothing, and that our government has no obligation to listen to other countries.
I guess if you think anyone actually pays any attention to State Department Human Rights reports, this theory might be plausible. Mostly, these are just the fantasies of powerless people who harbor the illusion any western Embassy is going to do anything about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, other than make the occasional meaningless gesture.
Still, if you heart Baku, the article and photos are worth a look, despite these quibbles.
*These are things I've heard you can do in Baku.