Any display of public discontent and political dissent usually meets a tough government reaction in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich ex-Soviet state ruled by strongman President Ilham Aliyev. Aliyev’s government has long been accused of stifling free speech, jailing opponents and crushing dissent. Aliyev faces presidential elections in October, in a vote that he looks certain to win.
This past week the government has jailed activists protesting an accident involving a government soldier. In an earlier incident in January, rioting broke out after a minor accident involving a local government official. Rubber bullets and tear gas was used to break up demonstrations and many protestors were arrested.
Harsh crackdown on dissent by governments such as this one in Azerbaijan, shrinks the space available for people to consider or act for change. Fear of government repression shapes people’s thinking and closes their minds to voices of change. For many years street protests were the way that Azerbaijanis vented their political opinions. But opportunities for that have become increasingly limited, with the government restricting public demonstrations, and banning them completely from the centre of the capital, Baku.
This closed public space has implications for the gospel. Pray through the Parable of the Sower, thinking of soil that is ready to receive the seed.