A law further restricting the activities of political parties came into force on 11 January, raising the barriers for registration and requiring parties to submit detailed personal information on all members to the state. The space for political party operations in Azerbaijan is already miniscule – only one member of parliament is nominally independent – and analysts say the law will likely damage the already low public trust in parliament and political parties, provide the state with expanded opportunities for surveillance, and further inhibit freedom of association.
Azerbaijani government-backed protesters have blockaded the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia since 12 December, causing shortages of food and medicine in the region. The protesters claim ethnic Armenians in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are illegally exporting minerals to Armenia via the road, and Azerbaijani government officials have alternatively blamed Russian peacekeepers and Nagorno-Karabakh residents themselves for the blockade, as well as denied the blockade’s existence. Armenians and the international community have described the blockade as a ploy by Azerbaijan to exert more direct control over the disputed territory.
Fighting on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border killed 207 Armenian soldiers, 80 Azerbaijani soldiers, and 4 Armenian civilians. Over 2,700 Armenian civilians were evacuated from the border area. Contrary to the two previous wars and long-running low-level hostilities between the two countries, the fighting did not involve the disputed enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, but Azerbaijan’s incursions into the internationally recognized borders of Armenia. Videos released online from the fighting showed what appears to be attacks on Armenian civilian infrastructure and the execution of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijani forces. Azerbaijan has blamed undocumented Armenian provocations for the outbreak of fighting.