Rasul Guliyev is the former Speaker of the Parliament of Azerbaijan (1993-1996) and is currently leader of the Open Society Party, one of Azerbaijan’s opposition parties. He is a passionate proponent of democracy. He actively participates in efforts to secure democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich nation by the Caspian Sea and a former Soviet Republic. He writes and speaks out forcefully against the dangers of resurgent dictatorships in the former Soviet Republics.
Mr. Guliyev resigned from his post as Speaker in 1996 to protest the human rights violations, censorship policies, widespread bribery and corruption, and anti-democratic policies of the Heidar Aliyev regime. Since that time he and his relatives and colleagues have been continually harassed by the government, now headed by Heidar Aliyev’s son, Ilham. Mr. Guliyev and his family live in political exile in the United States.
During the past several years Mr. Guliyev has devoted his efforts to writing political and historical books that reveal the realities of life in Azerbaijan today. His books have enjoyed widespread interest in the Azeri diaspora forced to leave their homeland because of political persecution. Millions now live across Europe, in Russia, and the U.S. Recently, when excerpts from his latest book were published in an opposition newspaper in Azerbaijan and the book began selling within Azerbaijan, the government intervened to halt its distribution.
Mr. Guliyev has presented briefings to US policy makers in numerous forums, including those sponsored by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center. He has testified before the US Congress’ Helsinki Commission (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe) on the issue of Elections, Democratization, and Human Rights in Azerbaijan.
Government Service and Political Involvement
Following a career in the oil industry (in 1992 Mr. Guliyev was named Vice President of SOCAR, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic), and with the advent of Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union, Mr. Guliyev became involved in the political process in Azerbaijan. He served as Speaker of the Parliament during the early years of independence but became increasingly disenchanted after former KGB General Heidar Aliyev seized power. Since the late 1990’s he has been a leading opposition figure and party leader. In 2005 he was his party’s candidate for the parliamentary elections, but was prevented from returning from exile to Azerbaijan to participate in the election process. In dramatic events, the government closed and sealed off the airport to prevent his plane from landing and arrested many of his supporters. Despite this, he garnered the majority of votes in his precinct – yet the authorities would not validate his victory in this election that international observers decried as marred with irregularities and falsifications. Two years later Mr. Guliyev co-founded the Open Society Party and was elected party leader.
Since the 2008 presidential elections, the entrenchment of Ilham Aliyev’s power, and the growing reliance on Azerbaijan by the US, repression in Azerbaijan has increased. Journalists and American-educated Azeri bloggers have been arrested for talking and writing against Ilham Aliyev and his family. The office and home of a leading human rights activist was recently bulldozed by the government. This climate creates dilemmas for the U.S. government which looks to Azerbaijan for energy resources for the West and for cooperation with regional security needs.
The next Azerbaijan presidential election will be held in 2013. Ilham Aliyev will be the leading candidate. The opposition in Azerbaijan has been crushed. And under Aliyev’s leadership and direction, the country’s Constitution has been amended to remove term limits and set the stage for Aliyev’s being “president for life.”
It is in this context that Rasul Guliyev is renewing his efforts to remind and inform U.S. policy makers of the on-going repression and corruption that plagues Azerbaijan, and encouraging U.S. policy makers to speak out about these realities.
Rasul Guliyev is married to Elmira Guliyeva, formerly an oil engineer. He is the father of three and has six grandchildren.