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Center for National and International Studies

 

FB Digest@VoxPOPULI

03.05.2021

“…Amendment 907 is a “memorial of hypocrisy in international relations…”

The FB community discusses Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to Yerevan and Baku, and State Secretary Blinken’s call to Ilham Aliyev, continues to show mistrust towards the Minsk group of OSCE, decries new facts of corruption among bureaucrats and is shocked by new details of the investigation of the Ter-ter case; keeps human rights violations at the centre of attention and the situation with political prisoners, reacts with indignation to the schemes concerning registration of the handicapped, and shows concern at the Kirgizstan-Tajikistan clashes, making a parallel with Karabagh.

Post-war situation.  The FB community discusses the purpose of Lavrov’s planned visit after the parade to Baku. The experts-participants of Osmangizi TV streams- argue that reported tension in Alibeyli village of Tavuz region caused by the issue of the water pipeline crossing the neutral territory of Armenia – is the provocation of Russia in the eve of elections in Armenia. Ilkin Rustamzade argues that Azerbaijan faces the most dangerous occupant Russia, which is even more powerful than Nazi Germans in WW2. Russia will be using the Karabagh issue as a blackmail tool. The only way out is getting closer with the West. Some people consider that Turkey might be a saviour, he argues, but Turkey has insufficient power to confront Russia, nor do Erdogan’s political interests make him willing to alienate Russia. The only reason why Russia has not fully occupied Azerbaijan is the presence of the West.  So, he has stressed that whether one likes the West or not, the country should become allied with the West. The colonel in exile Isa Sadikhov considers that Russia’s power is inflated, in fact, Russia is strong in this case only because the Azerbaijani leadership is submissive itself. Yet, the other expert considers that Turkey is the only reliable security ally and regardless of who is in power there, the political elite is devoted to the Azerbaijani-Turkish cooperation. The experts agreed that Russia’s policies in Karabagh have not changed at all, and Lavrov’s visit to Baku is related to the elections in Armenia. There is a contest of the US and Russia over the developments in Armenia. They also stress that unfortunately the Blinken call to Baku took place a month and a half after the call to Yerevan, which they consider partly result of lack of democracy in Azerbaijan, partly – due to the Armenia lobby. But during the call, he raised the question of the role of the OSCE Minsk group. The visit of Russia’s Lavrov to Baku is an indicator of Russia’s hurrying to conduct policies in this regard. However, all the participants agreed that the continuation of the Minsk group’s mediation is possible only if the format is changed, France is excluded, Turkey is included, etc. Tofig Yagublu on the other stream of the same TV comments on the Lavrov’s visit purpose to prepare a military parade in Karabagh on 9th May and to put pressure on Azerbaijan.  He calls the absence of any official reaction to it from Baku a shame, because the conduct of a military parade while being aware of the negative attitude to Russia by society in Azerbaijan, is a deliberate action on Russia’s part.  Eldar Namazov reports on the readiness of Azerbaijan to overcome any obstacle but to make the return of Azerbaijani IDPs to Khankendi, Khojali and Asgeran possible. The functionary of the ruling party YAP, Siyavush Novruz, states on his timeline that Armenia will be held responsible for its destruction of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage before the international court. He reports that there were more than 900 historical monuments on the occupied territories. He argues that destruction of the monuments was in violation of numerous international conventions and assures that after the assessment of the damage to the heritage on the liberated regions, Armenia will be sued by Azerbaijan in the international courts. The FB community shares the incident on the state’s borders with Armenia and praises the patience and professionalism of the Azerbaijani troops. Fuad Gahramnli of the PFP criticises the plans of the government to build airports in the liberated regions of Fizuli, Zangilan and Lachin, seeing them as a means of corruption, as there is no need for them in such a small country and it delays the return of the IDPs back to their homeland. Instead of these, the regions need a cheap and well-developed network of railway and automotive transportation.

Governance, economy, corruption. The opposition party leader Ali Aliyev comments on the recent appointments to official positions by President Aliyev, considering them simply a reshuffling rather than improvement of the quality of governance, as none of them have expertise or experience in the respective fields.  FB users continue to share reports about the corrupt practices of the head of executive power, Alimpasha Mammadov, who has set up a personal deer farm instead of the old village cow farm. Others reveal his son’s Adil Adizade fishery farm, the biggest in the Caucasus, located on 6 hectares of land in Shamkir region and worth 43m manat. The journalist Javanshir Hasanli reports that the state fishery in Shamkir was auctioned for privatisation 3 years ago and the buyer got it for 45,250 manat. However, it appeared that it was already privatised before the auction by the son of Alimpasha Mammadov and the National Committee for the Support for Entrepreneurship transferred 1.5m manat of state credit to it. People comment on the death from cancer of the ex-minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, Azad Rahimov. Most of the comments are critical. The blogger Mehman Huseynov comments that “the country’s corruption has undergone a big loss”. He says that in his memory he will stay as the minister with the most expensive watches. Based on his investigation, the late minister’s watches ‘Richard Mille RM030’ are worth $150,000 dollars. “Imagine, the Minister of young people, who cannot marry because they do not have a house  is wearing two houses on his hand”- he comments. In his interview with the ARB24 channel, Natig Jafarli of REAL argues that one day competition will come to the country and the duty of the government will be protection of the producers. He also criticises the meaningless economic system, according to which in exchange for 1 ton of tomatoes, the country’s economy buys 1 mobile phone. “The problem is not with the economy, but the governance and political system”- he comments. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR discredits “the handicap business” in the country. He shows, based on statistics, that during Salim Muslimov’s service as Minister of Employment and Social Protection, the number of handicapped people increased and those who were registered as handicapped received respective pensions and benefits. However, those who were not handicapped were registered as those instead, while the truly handicapped had great difficulties in registering and could not benefit from that state programme. The handicapped now are undergoing a new process of registration, consisting of 3-4 stages and lasting for a few months, during which their pensions and benefits are not being given. According to the Ministry’s recent statement, 30% of those registered are fake. Ibadoglu alarms people urging them to unite, become active and focus on the substantial issues which the country’s economy and politics are facing. He argues, that by not conducting reforms in 18 years, this leadership has dragged the state and people back for decades and is leading them to the abyss. Tofig Yagublu gives another poof of the “death of the state” by reporting the case of the destruction of the attic on top of the historic multi-storey building (1908) downtown Baku, by the order of the head of executive power of the Baku city. He wonders why the same authorities could not prevent building this attic, rather than destroying it after it was built. The economic experts note the “absolutely illegal, illogical and unsupported by any document” limits imposed by the Central Bank on the sale of dollars. Arif Shahmarli, the ex-diplomat in exile, comments that the 150m Euro building of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Paris has been empty for the last couple of years, and taking into account the current state of Azerbaijani-French relations will not host any events for another 3-5 years. However, the monthly upkeep and security of the building costs 30,000 Euros. He suggests the president should sell it and spend it not on child benefits, but – he adds with irony – simply for their family’s enjoyment and entertainment.  The leader of REAL, Ilgar Mamadov, considers that the MPs of the regions, where the heads of executive power were arrested, should resign. The site Azad Soz follows the illegal property of the President and his family. The next video discloses how the President and his family, including the Pashayevs, rule the country. They also report that the President’s daughter Leyla Aliyeva and her partner have bought a 3m property in London. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev gives the data on purchases by the National Oncology Centre, which belongs to Jamil Aliyev, the uncle of the President. The most recent purchase of medicine and materials was from “Solamedical” and “AzerMed” enterprises worth 35,5 m manat.  The media reports that AzerMed also belongs to Jamil Aliyev.

The economist Samir Aliyev urges Azerbaijani government to use the respite given to it by the Open Government Partnership and to report on the implementation of its obligations as reflected in the National Action Plan, the deadline of which is 31st August this year. The organisation suspended Azerbaijan’s membership in 2016, mainly due to the repressions against civil society. He comments that while the other provisions of the new Action Plan are more or less being implemented, there is no progress with the provision of conditions for the civil society. He stresses that the Open Government Partnership is the only platform for the countries with genuine interest in transparent, accountable governance with public participation, and Azerbaijan should make urgent steps in improvement of the situation with NGOsNatig Jafarli of REAL analyses the agricultural sector of Azerbaijan’s economy, demonstrating that against the background of official boasting on development within this sector, the country is losing currency in its foreign trade, with a trade deficit constituting $10m on such items as tea, or alcohol, or only 24m profit on a matter of pride – fruit and vegetables. Moreover, due to standards and quality, it is strongly dependent on the Russian market, which Russia has been using recently as a tool in political purposes (embargo on import of tomatoes from Azerbaijan).

Democracy and power- society relations. The youth leader, graduate of Harvard University Bakhtiyar Hajiyev analyses why the unity observed during the war is not being sustained in the post-war period. He argues that after the war, the authorities started discrimination of the opposition, thus “privatising” the victory. Many medals were given, but not to the opposition, for instance, to the deputy chair of the Musavat party Faraj Karimli, who fought all the war from Fizuli to Shusha.  Today, the deputy speaker of the parliament Adil Aliyev, while awarding the young people who contributed to the war in the rear, has “forgotten” an important group of others who are critical of the government or are members of opposition. He concludes that the reason why the Armenian lobby was so strong to influence the American President, is their capacity to unite and not be divided on government and opposition on issues of critical importance for the nation. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev states on his timeline that “Ilham Aliyev has made everyone unhappy”. He argues that after him leaving the post, things may or may not turn to the better, but while he is in charge, nothing will improve, the number of unhappy people will increase, and while on TV there will be glossy images of life, people will feel increasingly restless, similar to the beautiful building of the Supreme Court with no justice inside of it. The journalist Afghan Mukhtarli reports with reference to the opposition activist in exile in Germany, Zamin Ahmadov, that Azerbaijani authorities are investigating the 50 families deported from Germany back to Azerbaijan, who were accommodated for the time of quarantine in the Athlete’s Village. The authorities are trying to find out whether those returned were involved in protest activities in Germany. According to the agreement between the two governments, those who were deported should not be subjects of pressure. However, the mother-in-law of Zamin Ahmadov has already been interrogated twice. The lawyer Agil Laij reports that during investigation of the Ter-ter events, the prosecution tried to attract Ministry of Defence Special Forces for the conduct of torture, but their commander Hikmet Mirzayev did not allow this. Laij confirms that the commander indeed has a reputation of a pure general with integrity. The political analyst Nasimi Mammadli analyses the results of the virtual surveys which were conducted recently by a few sites. The most popular leaders of the parties, which respondents view as the alternative to the incumbent, were Ali Karimli, Tural Abbasli, Igbal Aga-zade, Ali Aliyev and Sardar Jalaloglu.

Human rights.  Sentenced for 15 years for ‘treason’, Nijat Rzayev has written from prison that he was given tortures not only by the personnel of the first corpus, but by three investigators of the Military Prosecutor’s office – Emin Veliyev, Ulvi Ahmadov and Vugar Maharramov. This explains why the military prosecutor called Ter-ter crimes a “fairy tale”, reports Azadlyg newspaper, with reference to the journalist Ruslan Farzaliyev. Tofig Yagublu comments that at the Collegium of the Republican Military Prosecutor’s office, three officials reported – Khanlar Veliyev, Bahruz Ahmadov and Mehdi Huseynzade, but none of them mentioned the Ter-ter case. He also comments on the violent dispersion by the police of the students who attempted to hold a vigil commemorating the 12th year of the tragedy (shooting) in the National Oil Academy. He shares his impression of police, who behave not as public servants, but as members of some cruel criminal gang “The state has died”- he concludes.

Meydan TV shares the Council of Europe’s latest reports on ratings of the states based on their expenses per capita of prisoner, Azerbaijan being among the lowest spenders on prisoners. Daily expenses on a prisoner in Azerbaijan is 5.9 Euro, while 12.6 in Georgia, with 18.8 Euro in Armenia, and 2.8 in Russia. Afghan Mukhtarli reports that the chief of the 1st penal colony, Emin Hasanov, prohibited political prisoner Polad Aslanov from using the shower facility, because he criticised the colony’s authorities at a meeting with a representative of the Red Cross. Mukhtarli comments that among many other mistreatments when he was in prison, he never encountered this before, so this is an “innovation”. But this is totally low, and  especially at the time of Ramadan if the prisoner is a believer. He comments that usually the heads of the Penitentiary Service have no idea of what is going in prisons, as they are busy  collecting bribes and stealing products which are brought to the prisoners. The journalist Shamshad Aga speculates about the authorities’ arguments against the defamation law, that society will turn violent, meaning that de-criminalization of the label will trigger customary means of revenge. He argues that the recent case of the beating up of someone who was making fun of the deceased popular war hero will most probably be used by the authorities at the discussion of the non- adoption law in Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe. He asserts that neither parties (the joker and those who beaten him up) are right and concludes with the appeal to end all kinds of violence. Azadlyg newspaper writes about the various tortures reported by one of the victims of Ter-ter case investigation. “They burnt parts of my body, poured salt, pepper, vodka on it, and then stirred it with their feet”. The FB community shares the Freedom House’s last Human Rights report and the rating according to which Azerbaijan is the state with consolidated autocracy, among Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Armenia is classed among states with semi-autocratic regimes. The activists report public discussions planned for 17 May on the Azerbaijan political prisoners and the country’s implementation of its obligations in the area of human rights, with the participation of the CoE rapporteur Sunna Evarsdottir and human rights defenders in exile. The FB community continues to keep human rights violations during the Ter-ter case at the centre of attention. The shocking new information has spread quickly in the social networks: the witnesses report that the popular hero General Polad Hashimov was also targeted by the investigation. They tortured Colonel Parviz Pirmammadov so that he would testify against the General, but he sustained the tortures, thus saving Hashimov.  The human rights defender of the Line of Defence organisation, Rufat Safarov, tells the story of Nijat Rzayev, who was imprisoned for 15 years for ‘treason’ after “confessing” under the pressure of severe torture and is being kept in Penal Colony 11. His wife is unemployed and having hard times trying to survive with two underage children. She has failed to find a job, as a wife of “a  traitor  to the motherland”.

Social issues. E-media reports the suicide of one of the war-handicapped, who could not stand the indifference of the authorities anymore. Channel 13 independent internet TV shows the Karabagh war veterans who complain of unemployment, absence of state support in treatment of war wounds, and indifference of the respective state structures to their problems. “We live like beggars, like prisoners of war in our own country”, says one of the participants. The Azadlyg newspaper site shows a video of the citizen of Ismayilli village whose complaints of desperate living conditions were met by the threats of arrest from the side of the “young and reform- oriented” bureaucrats. Another video shows a 31-year-old handicapped man with no leg, but given only the 2nd degree of handicap and who cannot survive and support his family on the pension of 150m ($80), but all his appeals to state structures have met no response.

Relations with the US. The FB community continues to discuss US-Azerbaijani relations, including the call of Blinken to Aliyev. Eldar Namazov, ex-advisor to the late president Heydar Aliyev and director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in his interview with the CBC channel of Azerbaijan, asserts that the Armenian lobby has never been so strongly represented in any administration as in the current one of Joe Biden. On the assessment of the Minsk group’s activities, he argues that the position of the US and Azerbaijan differs, which is natural, as the US is part of it, and bears responsibility for its failure to achieve breakthrough in the talks. It failed to achieve the implementation of UN resolutions, and instead of improvement  the process has become worse, and reached the point where Armenia declared that “the Minsk group was useless, because Armenia has achieved it goals”. He asserts that in all three states- co-chairmen ( France, Russia and the US)  the attempts to divide the country is a legal crime, unlike their perception of the situation in Azerbaijan. He called Amendment 907 a “memorial to hypocrisy in international relations”, as it was adopted during the occupation of Azerbaijan. But its lifting should not be extended as a favour to Azerbaijan, because firstly the Pentagon needs it. Also, the unblocking of communications is now prevented by Armenia, not Azerbaijan and the question is why the same sanctions are not adopted against Armenia. He calls the Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance a new factor in the region. F-16 did not participate in the war, but Azerbaijan is in their possession, and on top of all Turkey expressed its readiness to help Azerbaijan when there is an existential threat to its state. He also spoke about the South Gas Corridor and its importance for the US-Azerbaijan relations, because these are specific strategic steps in these relations, unlike Armenia who was only making populist statements. The statement on genocide by Biden, is a sign that the blackmail by this issue has come to an end, as Turkey is less coordinated with its partners on NATO and more independent. For the last two centuries, the Caucasus has always had the two powerful actors of Russia and Turkey, who defined the borders in the region. Turkey is the only one which borders all other states. So, Eldar Namazov considers that regionalisation of the situation at the expense of EU and US is natural. He concludes that although opening of communications is the proposal by the Minsk group,  now at the head of it is Russia and Turkey, not the Minsk group, so the US and Europe will have to reconcile with it.

Relations with Russia. The meeting of the Security Council in Russia dedicated to the situation in the Caspian region is perceived as a reflection of Putin’s attempt to activate Iran against Turkey. Seymur Hezi comments that once Putin has spoken about security in the Caspian, this means that a threat is at its door. In 2018, he recalls, Russia already brought the Astrakhan-based navy to the Caspian region, so it turned Baku and Aktau into the targets of middle-range missile Russian rockets.

The FB community is shocked by the prosecutor’s request for 2 years’ imprisonment for 17-year-old Olga Misik for reading the Constitution to the police. The FB users quote her speech at court: “I do not promise that we will win tomorrow, or any day soon or in 10 years. But one day we will win, as youth and love always wins”. The FB community also shares the story of the discrediting conversation of the speaker of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin in Saratov Street with a 90-year-old woman, who criticised all the government, including himself. Quoting the high level of inflation and inadequate compensation, she called the authorities swindlers and liars. She contrasted the resources and riches of the country to the lack of gasification and disappearance of the villages from its map.

Situation in Russia. The FB community praises a “very strict” resolution of the European Parliament on the situation in Russia. The resolution demands the unconditional release Navalni from prison, the cessation of pressure on his organisation the ‘Fund for Struggle with Corruption’, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian borders to a place of permanent dislocation and non-interference in the internal affairs of this country. Otherwise, the country will be cut off from the SWIFT banking system and the purchase of oil and gas will also be stopped.

Tajikistan – Kirgizstan conflict.  The FB community shares with concern news of the clashes and reported destruction and victims on the borders of Tajikistan and Kirgizstan. Isa Gambar of Musavat points to three moments in this conflict: 1) This conflict is among the members of one security alliance CSTO and it happened at the period of the meeting of the CSTO, which shows its weakness. 2) Some Kirgiz experts make a parallel of this conflict with Karabagh, with Kirgizistan to Azerbaijan, while Tajikistan to Armenia, with Moscow urgently offering its “mediation” services. 3) According to many predictions in the 21st century, the most serious conflictual issues and sources of war will be a shortage of water. Some FB users consider that Russia is behind the conflict of Tajikistan and Kirgizstan and remains the source of threat in post-Soviet space. The journalist Shamshad Aga comments that it seems that Russia is trying to bring its troops into the country with a high probability of getting out of its control. While it has always had control over Tajikistan, she has lost its trust in Kirgizstan after the revolution there.

COVID-19. The activists share IMF data according to which Azerbaijan occupies one of the last places in the world on the amount of compensation given to the business and population as compensation. Azerbaijan spent 2.1 % of its GDP, while the US, 25%. They comment that Ilham Aliyev does not find money for ordinary people, but easily found 1.7b for the airline company of his daughter.


Май 4, 2021