Free Thought University
BAKU - The Free Thought University (Azad Fikir Universiteti) in Azerbaijan became the first recipient of the USOSCE Ambassadorial Award for Freedom of Expression over the Internet. Ambassador Ian Kelly of the US Mission to the OSCE presented the award to university representative Vugar Salamli on 27 November.
The university is an initiative of the OL! Azerbaijan Youth Movement, which received a grant from the Black Sea Trust for the project. GMF and BST were also among the first international donor organizations to support the youth movement when its founder, Adnan Hajizade, was one of two Azerbaijani youth leaders, along with Emin Milli, arrested last summer.
The thrust of Azad Fikir is to involve youth in events organized around topics usually left out of higher-education curricula in the country, and to bring participants in contact with prominent public figures whose critical views are not usually welcome in universities. The forum also gives students from different universities and organizations a chance to meet and network. As of June 2010, Free Thought University had held around 100 interactive lectures, seminars, discussions, and other events since September 2009.
Lectures at the university are grouped in six categories – Human Rights, Democracy, Global Politics, Economics, Social Studies, and Philosophy, with Media being a late addition – and multimedia excerpts from lectures and seminars are available on the website, www.azadfikir.org.
The USOSCE presented its first annual Ambassadorial Award for Freedom of Expression over the Internet to Free Thought University in keeping with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s focus on freedom of expression over the internet. The award is designed to recognize the accomplishments of an individual or NGO that has made significant, sustained and innovative use of the internet to promote democratic reforms, civil society, independent media, human rights or the rule of law.