Wednesday, November 30, 2011
“The stars are dead. The animals will not look./We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and/History to the defeated/may say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.” –W.H. Auden, “Spain, 1937”
By Barry Rubin
You’ve almost certainly never heard of Rafiq Tagi but the drip-drip drumbeat that has so long made much of the Middle East into a living Hell is like the drops of his blood. Tagi was an Azerbaijaini writer of courage. He was stabbed by two men in Baku on the night of November 19. Five days later he died in a hospital bed. Sixty-one years old.
Here is his funeral. It is a Muslim funeral. Not many mourners. Certainly not enough.
Tagi was one of those guys who had real guts and real convictions even though he knew for certain that his life was at risk every day. Not like the well-paid, safe and secure people who tremble about telling the truth so often found among the exalted intellectuals of the West. He said what he thought about his own government, criticized Islamism, and lambasted the regime of Iran which was not far from his home in Baku. The Iranian regime especially hated him.
Who killed Tagi? I asked a trusted friend in Baku who replied, “We don’t know for sure but everyone believes it was the Iranian regime.”
In 2007 he was sentenced to three years in jail for an article the previous year in which he said what he thought and even had included some of the Danish “Muhammad cartoons.” The president of the country pardoned him eight months later. Azerbaijan is a dictatorship but not a bloodthirsty totalitarian one. It’s the kind of dictatorship that the West likes to see overthrown even if it replaced by a bloodthirsty totalitarian one.
But the Azerbaijanis are scared, both government and a lot of the people. They wanted to have a modern, relatively secular state, prosperous and with equality for women. Naturally, they chose as a role model Turkey. Then they watched to their horror as Turkey turned into an Islamist-oriented country. The walls are closing in on them.
When Tagi wrote his aforementioned article the Iranian Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani issued a fatwa calling for Tagi’s death.
That’s a fit measure of the difference between a country like Azerbaijan—three years’ sentence but quickly pardoned—and Iran—murder.
Posted by Rubin Center at 12:46 AM