Foreign Policy Blogs

Rafiq Tagi, noted Azeri writer, dies in hospital after knife attack

Another sad day for Azerbaijan, a country saddled with more than its fair share of injustice and pain. Rafiq Tagi, who was hospitalized a mere three days ago after being stabbed by unknown assailants, died today in a Baku hospital of complications after initial treatment for his wounds and surgery to remove his spleen. He had been in “stable” condition, and was lucid enough to tell the RFE/RL Baku bureau that he expected to recover. Tagi said that two men had attacked him, and speculated that the crime may have been in retaliation for a recent article he had written for RFE entitled “Iran and the Inevitability of Globalization” in which he wrote caustically of the Islamic Republic.

We may never know who Tagi’s killers were, and the Azeri rumor mill is in full swing. I’ll refrain from repeating the more fanciful rumors, although the Iranian embassy in Baku actually released a press statement yesterday, prior to Tagi’s death, in which they denied any Iranian government involvement in the knife attack and added helpfully that any notion of an Iranian link was designed to create “a negative atmosphere” and was an example of “Zionist-American sabotage” in order to “undermine Iranian-Azerbaijani strategic relations.”

As I mentioned on this blog a few days ago, I had always wanted to meet Tagi for a long chat over tea in Baku. We would have had a lot to talk about, but his assassins would prefer that we live in a world where dialogue with creative and provocative minds is impossible. This is the worst kind of fascism, and there are many areas of the world where the cycle of fear and violence threatens to destroy the fragile social contract that we take for granted in the west but has been ripped apart in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere in our recent past.

All of us are a little diminished today with Tagi’s death, and I wish I could write a fitting epitaph for him. Will update in the coming days with any news.

Rafiq Tagi, noted Azeri writer, dies in hospital after knife attack

Rafiq Tagi



Karl Rahder

Karl Rahder has written on the South Caucasus for ISN Security Watch and ISN Insights (, news and global affairs sites run by the Swiss government. Karl splits his time between the US and the former USSR - mostly the Caucasus and Ukraine, sometimes teaching international relations at universities (in Chicago, Baku, Tbilisi) or working on stories for ISN and other publications. Karl received his MA from the University of Chicago, and first came to the Caucasus in 2004 while on a CEP Visiting Faculty Fellowship. He's reported from the Caucasus on topics such as attempted coups, sedition trials, freedom of the press, and the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. For many years, Karl has also served as an on-call election observer for the OSCE, and in 2010, he worked as a long-term observer in Afghanistan for Democracy International.