Baku hopes Islamism will buttress Azerbaijani regime

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Subject

Indications from reactions to the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris of a shift in Azerbaijan's geopolitical orientation.

Significance

The January 7 terrorist attacks in Paris against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket received international condemnation. While Baku joined international public opinion in denouncing the attacks, official and semi-official outlets variously justified the attacks or claimed Western anger was tantamount to 'double standards'. Among the population, internet reactions echoed similar themes on social media, and religious protesters held rallies against Charlie Hebdo. While Azerbaijan and its regime are typically portrayed as models of absolutist secularism, reactions to the Paris attacks -- and foreign policy shifts in the past year -- indicate that political Islam is becoming an increasingly relevant factor in politics.

Impacts

  • The government will continue and probably increase its use of Islamic language and justifications as part of its campaign against the West.
  • Yet at the same time, the authorities will continue to burnish their secular credentials in English-language and international outlets.
  • Azerbaijan-Iran relations will continue in a positive trajectory.
  • The regime will be willing to incorporate elements of Iranian Shia Islamism as a means of buttressing its security.
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