Expats relocating to Azerbaijan may have safety concerns about conflict in the country, although they should note that most expats will move to Baku, which is far removed from any conflict. Tensions on the border with Armenia and the ongoing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region are cause for concern; these areas should be avoided, and expats should also avoid bringing up the matter with locals.
Fortunately, Baku experiences low crime rates. Sensible precautions are recommended when staying in Azerbaijan, and expats should be aware of a few other security issues and stay up to date with news and regulations.
Crime in Azerbaijan
Crime rates are relatively low in Azerbaijan, including its capital, Baku. Be that as it may, petty criminals are known to operate in and around popular tourist spots and crowded public locations. Women have also been subject to unwanted male attention and should be cautious when travelling alone, especially at night.
Bank card fraud is another issue, and expats should be careful when withdrawing cash from ATMs or using credit cards. We advise that expats contact their bank to let them know about any international transactions and to report any concerns as soon as possible.
Expats should also follow any regulations imposed by the government. Martial law has been introduced in many Azerbaijani areas, including Baku, with regulations such as curfews and travel restrictions.
Human rights issues in Azerbaijan
Numerous international organisations have expressed their concerns over the Azerbaijani government’s human rights record, particularly when it comes to freedom of speech and expression. There have been reports of journalists and human rights lawyers being arrested or harassed for criticising the government, as well as reports of intimidation against the LGBTQ+ community. Although homosexuality is not illegal in Azerbaijan, the LGBTQ+ community is not specifically protected by law; discrimination is an issue and public displays of affection are not socially acceptable, particularly outside of Baku.
Additionally, it is an offence to criticise the government and the ruling Aliyev family, and it’s best for expats to avoid discussing politics altogether.
Corruption in Azerbaijan
Corruption is an unfortunate reality in Azerbaijan and has affected virtually all aspects of life in the country. Expats in Azerbaijan, particularly those working and doing business there, should be wary of any potentially corrupt dealings.
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan
Due to ongoing insecurity in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the southwest of the country, many governments, including the UK and US, advise their citizens against all travel to the region. Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has been ongoing since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the predominantly Armenian population in the region stated their intention to secede from Azerbaijan.
War broke out between Azerbaijan and the Armenians, who were backed by neighbouring Armenia. A ceasefire was signed in 1994, but numerous violations have taken place in the region, with violence occasionally flaring up. Despite a subsequent ceasefire in 2020 and the fact that Azerbaijan now controls all seven districts of Nagorno-Karabakh, tensions remain high. The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh remains a sensitive topic in Azerbaijan, and it's best for expats not to discuss the issue.
Road safety is an issue in Azerbaijan. Drivers are known to be reckless, signs and traffic rules are often ignored, and traffic accidents are common. Expats residing in Baku's city centre can easily get around using the metro, but those who choose to drive should do so defensively and be aware of the risks.
Additionally, extra precautions should be taken when snowfall is forecasted in winter. This includes carrying a blanket, shovel, an old carpet and a torch in case the vehicle gets stuck in the snow.