Plus, a Putin ally returns to Rosneft and “white beard” courts accused of holding back women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan.by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, and Joshua Boissevain 23 May 2012
The Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan was recalled 22 May because of what Tehran said were insults to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The recall caps a series of bilateral spats in recent months. Relations between the neighbors have been less than cozy for several years. Although both countries have Shiite majorities, Azerbaijan’s secular leadership has sought links with Israel and Western powers, angering conservatives in Tehran. The large Azeri community in Iran is also a potential source of tension.
The recall of Ambassador Mohammad B. Bahrami came after three protests this month in front of the Iranian Embassy in Baku, where some demonstrators carried pictures of Khamenei with a bare midriff, The New York Times writes.
Earlier this year Azerbaijan arrested what it said were Iranian spies involved in plots against Western ambassadors in the country.
Sechin previously served as Putin’s deputy prime minister, but his name was notably absent when Putin announced the new cabinet members earlier this week. The omission of Sechin from both the cabinet and Putin’s presidential administration left many analysts wondering if Putin had something else planned for the man who has been an integral part of his inner circle for many years.
In the hours following news of the announcement, shares in state-controlled Rosneft rose more than 3 percent, according to the Associated Press. In addition to his government duties, Sechin worked as chairman of the company from 2006 to 2011, until he was forced to step down as part of then President Medvedev’s bid to remove top officials from the boards of state-owned companies.
Belarusian opposition politician Viktar Ivashkevich’s call for an EU boycott of Belarusian oil products will cost him the equivalent of $60 after a Minsk court on 22 May upheld a lawsuit filed by an oil company employee, (subscription required).
About 25 picketers from the official Federation of Trade Unions displayed signs outside the court to demonstrate their support for Tsybliyenka and denouncing “provocateurs” calling for economic sanctions against Belarus, Charter 97 writes.
For nearly 20 years, aksakal courts made up of respected village residents have helped resolve disputes in Kyrgyzstan according to custom and tradition rather than formal law. The courts are especially important for rural people who often cannot afford the cost in time and money of taking their disputes to formal courts in the cities. However, a new report concludes that many Kyrgyz see the courts as obsolete or useful only to resolve minor disputes.
The report for the Equal Before the Law initiative identifies two major weaknesses of the aksakal courts. Their jurisdiction is limited and in many cases they have no authority to enforce judgments. In addition, they have no role in resolving serious social issues including unregistered marriages and property disputes, researcher Azita Ranjbar concludes.
Many Kyrgyz wrongly believe that only men serve on aksakal (literally, “white beard”) courts, the report notes. Advocates for women’s rights say the courts help perpetuate gender stereotypes in this patriarchal country. The report finds that the courts play a limited part in dealing with social problems such as unregistered Islamic marriages, bride kidnapping, and domestic violence.
The report recommends that the mandate of the courts in these issues should be clarified. It also recommends greater investment in an existing crime-prevention program that taps the combined forces of the aksakal courts, women’s and other civil society groups, and community leaders.
A recent YouTube ad campaign funded by the Macedonian government and meant to teach people how to behave with tourists upset many Macedonians through its style, Balkan Insight writes. The seven one-minute clips that went viral after being posted last week present several “Macedonian endemic species” including a bed-and-breakfast owner, an “alpha male,” a taxi driver, a waiter, and a market vendor, each behaving in a rude an unwelcoming way.
The clips, in English with Macedonian subtitles, conclude with the written message, “We must not allow this to be the picture of Macedonia.” Economy Minister Valjon Saracini explained that the “guerrilla marketing style” used in the ads was meant to draw attention to their message and improve the behavior of locals towards tourists.
The opposition Liberal Democrat party accused the government of spending about 550,000 euros on a campaign that would only turn tourists away. A former member of the state anti-corruption commission, Dragan Malinovski, said the ads, which “should encourage moral and responsible conduct, are often a source of corruption themselves,” Radio Free Europe reports.
Past expensive ad campaigns to promote tourism and to encourage Macedonians to behave well, stop smoking, and read more books also met with disapproval from critics of the conservative, nationalist government headed by Nikola Gruevski.