Center for National and International Studies
“Those who want to replace the medieval despotic feudal monarchy in Azerbaijan with a democratic republic should take into account that, after the collapse of the Putin regime, we will need to face the corrupt partners of this regime in Washington, London, and Brussels.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Member of the Ganja branch of the Popular Front Party, Shahin Haji, an activist, and chess teacher who was arrested on trumped-up charges, was sentenced to six years in prison. Haji is known for being one of the major critics of the government. He was repeatedly charged with administrative arrest in the past, and each time he was warned of a long-term imprisonment if he didn’t stop his activism. Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli reacted to the court decision, saying that the Aliyev regime’s attempts to prolong its life with illegal arrests are in vain. Karimli wrote: Ilham Aliyev‘s government is following in Putin‘s footsteps. Regimes in both Russia and Azerbaijan understand that the only way to stay in power, albeit temporarily, is through arrests and repression. Social and political activists are arrested under various pretexts. However, they do not understand that no arrests have so far been able to protect any dictatorship or authoritarian regime from falling. Azerbaijan will not be an exception.”
Member of the Musavat Party, poet Nazim Yaguboglu (Turbandiyev) complains that the Barda Executive Department ignored the court’s decision, despite the fact that he had the right to meet with his children. In his speech, Yaguboglu said that he had received information that his young son was ill, but his ex-wife and ex-brothers-in-law did not let him see his son, and although he wanted to cover the medical treatment, he was not allowed to do so. Nazim Yaguboglu also accused his ex-in-laws of letting his children watch inappropriate horror movies. Yaguboglu says that the head of the Khojaly District Executive Power, Elman Mammadov, is deliberately creating such issues due to his political affiliation.
Azadliq newspaper reports that the Karabakh veteran’s property was seized while in custody. Chingiz Aliyev, a resident of Ganja, has served in the army during the First Karabakh War. He received disability status for his injuries during the war. His car repair shop in the Goygol region was first confiscated by the Samukh region and then the Kapaz district of Ganja. When Aliyev was arrested, the municipality privatized his property without due notification. Although Aliyev appealed to the court, it did not bear any result.
Azadliq newspaper also reported that police raided the funeral ceremony of Rovshan Huseynov’s uncle, a member of the Musavat Party.
Explosion in Baku
On Sunday, early in the morning, a massive explosion at a nightclub in Baku killed one person and injured 31. According to official information, the tragedy at the facility was caused by a propane gas cylinder, which exploded due to a gas leak. In the neighborhood where the nightclub locates, 16 cars, one apartment, and a non-residential area were damaged. Various speculations were made about the real cause of the blast and the death toll, while independent journalists and activists denied official explanations arguing that the real cause of the incident was hidden from the public. Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu argued that the possibility of any provocation should be investigated. Ibadoghlu wrote: “An explosion took place in a nightclub in the morning on the first day of Ramadan. The outside interference is worth investigating because, in Azerbaijan, where there is a suitable environment to solve any problem with bribes, close neighbors have a real power to commit such acts.” Journalist Yadigar Sadigli said that the real cause of the tragedy was mismanagement and corruption. According to journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, even if there was a gas leak, there could not have been an explosion of that scale. Mukhtarli wrote on FB: Another picture of a gas balloon was released. After such a big explosion, the gas balloon should have been shattered into pieces, but even the paint on it was not damaged. Apparently, they forbade the media to say it was a terror act. Or they hide the bloody rivalry between the owners of nightclubs. The incident took place, but the owner of the place never appeared. Only the DJ from the nightclub explained that it was a fabrication. I do not believe the information that there was an explosion due to a gas leak. The doors were kept open to allow air circulation in the place, and of course, there was a ventilation system. If there was a leak, there would be a fire. I did not come across a reasonable explanation for the version of the gas cylinder. May God have mercy on the dead, and I wish healing to the wounded.” Mukhtarli also added that the incident reminded him of the explosion at the headquarters of APFP some years ago. “They threw a rusty balloon into the basement, which allegedly exploded, and then they made a statement that the explosion was caused by it, while in fact, the real cause was different,” said Mukhtarli.
Commenting on the incident, Altay Goyushov said that “the main questions are who owns the nightclub (only the oligarchs have the privilege to open such places in the city center), whether safety rules were followed, how many dead and wounded are there, and why gas cylinders are used in such facilities.” According to Goyushov, this is one of the instances that shows the corrupt nature of the dictatorship.
Governance and corruption
Babek Kazimov, chairman of the Mazrali village municipality of the Imishli region, said that he had paid a total of 30,000 manats in order to get appointed for that position. At the court hearing of the former head of the Imishli District Executive Power Vilyam Hajiyev, Kazimov argued that he made the payment in two installments with 25,000 manats and 5,000 manats each time.
Is Azerbaijan Putin’s next target?
Former Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee of the Russian State Duma Alexander Sherin has threatened Azerbaijan and Japan. Sherin said that “some states, taking advantage of the current process, are cunningly trying to strain relations with Russia, blackmailing with some unresolved territorial issues.” Russian parliamentary argued that such statements are made by both Japan and Azerbaijan, and Russia has all the forces and means to ensure its full security in various directions and on all its borders.
Journalist Seymur Hezi said that the fact that two deputies from Russian Duma have repeatedly threatened Azerbaijan with military intervention raises questions. Hezi wrote: Why is Kremlin targeting Azerbaijan while Erdogan‘s efforts to save Putin continue? After all, they are both strategic allies with Aliyev, and Azerbaijan is important for Turkey. Or Putin‘s team is convinced that it is impossible to save him. Therefore, they are already expressing their position and do not believe that Erdogan‘s efforts will be successful. Or they use these statements to help their allies avoid a strong position in order to balance the West’s more assertive demands.”
Journalist Ganimat Zahid argued that the reason Russian parliamentarians pick on Azerbaijan is that they are well aware of the territorial problem in Azerbaijan. Zahid wrote: In fact, they are angrier with Georgia. With such rhetoric, they are conveying a message that South Ossetia will join Russia, and it should be a message for all the countries in the post soviet territory. In the coming weeks, there can be threats to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and even Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan was already given the “good news” that in the coming months, at least 100,000 migrant workers will be deported.”
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli argued that such statements by the Duma members show the real attitude to Azerbaijan and what they think about the country. According to Gahramanli, the Azerbaijani side should realize that they are face to face with “a head of state who is an imperialist-minded psychopath, and he considers everything acceptable to achieve his goals.”
Gahramanli also commented on the state visit of the British Minister of the Armed Forces, James Heappey, who visited Baku last week. Gahramanli wrote: The visit of James Heappey should be understood as a message to Aliyev. The West’s approach to this issue is envisaged in two stages. In the first stage, Azerbaijan is going to be taken from Russian influence in political and security terms and will be involved in the anti-Russian coalition and will join the sanctions. In the second stage, Ilham Aliyev will be required to comply with Western standards and open up democratically. In fact, Ilham Aliyev‘s desire not to distance himself from Russia is due to this demand for democratization, which he will face in the second stage. However, this time Ilham Aliyev will not be able to evade the demands of the West. Therefore, it is important that yesterday the United States announced its “new strategy for conflict prevention.” It is very crucial that this strategy covers our region as well.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov said that Putin‘s fall would open up serious opportunities for democratization, but there is a lot to discuss to understand the future of democracy. Goyushov wrote: The West has always stood behind the dictatorship of Azerbaijan. There is an ideological closeness with the Putin regime. However, it is the West that has stabilized and strengthened the regime. We saw this in the conduct of the Council of Europe here in 2003, and we have repeatedly witnessed the activities of the US and European ambassadors. Therefore, those who want to replace the medieval despotic feudal monarchy in Azerbaijan with a democratic republic should take into account that, after the collapse of the Putin regime, we will need to face the corrupt partners of this regime in Washington, London, and Brussels. But in any case, we will build a democratic republic in this country.”
Since the beginning of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, most of the military equipment and personnel of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh have left the area, crossing the Lachin corridor twice. According to information provided by Baku and confirmed by Ukraine, Russian servicemen have been sent to Ukraine. The Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan denied this information, but Azerbaijani sources prove the accuracy of the information with video materials.
Journalist Ganimat Zahid reports that in the Ukrainian city Kherson, Russian soldiers raided the Kopani market and separated Azerbaijanis from the crowd. Russian soldiers beat up Azerbaijani shop owners and, after six hours of torture, made them pay approximately $ 100,000. According to the witnesses, the Russians told Azerbaijanis that “it is a punishment for providing food aid to Ukraine.” Azerbaijanis in Ukraine are distributing free food to the army and civilians in the Ukrainian cities, which has angered the Russians. The Kopani market in Kherson is the second largest shopping center supplying all of Ukraine with fruits and vegetables.
Peace Talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Brussels
Leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet in Brussels on April 6 at an EU-mediated meeting to discuss the peace treaty between the two countries. Ali Karimli of APFP said that “the meeting between Aliyev and Pashinyan in Brussels aims to form a platform for negotiations without Russia, which is an important step to expel Moscow from the Caucasus.” Karimli wrote: It is expected that serious steps will be taken to prevent Putin‘s interference in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is the most controversial issue in the post-Soviet space. In other words, both Azerbaijan and Armenia have two options: to cooperate with the West or with collapsing Russia. In such a situation, the Azerbaijani government is required to make a decision on geopolitical choices. In any case, the decision of geopolitical choice will have an impact on the country’s domestic policy. Because the conditions of cooperation with Russia are completely different from the conditions of cooperation with the West.”
April 5, 2022