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Center for National and International Studies
“…The country is in the hands of the sex maniacs…”
The FB community remains concerned with the uncertainty in Karabagh, the scandal and contradictory reports on Iskander ballistic rockets and the increased tension in Ukraine; continues to decry the blackmail by private videos, and its new victim – Lachin Veliyev, the persecution and decreasing number of human rights lawyers; appraises the new US administration support for democracy and human rights as a priority in foreign policy, in particular in Azerbaijan; and is shocked by the revealed undercurrent of the regime’s relations with Turkey, against the background of highly intense debates on child benefits, and poor provision for compensation to the war veterans.
Post-war situation. The FB community shares with concern news of the continued victims of the conflict. It is reported that a soldier of the State Border Troops, 20 year-old Ali Ismayilov was killed by a sniper in Gubadli region. They also continue to discuss the activities of Russian peacekeepers. In an interview with Osmangizi TV, Ali Insanov, an ex-political prisoner and the Health Minister, argues that their arrival was Putin’s condition of Aliyev’s staying in power.
The issue of Iskanders is shared and commented on by the activists, journalists and bloggers. Arif Hajili of Musavat states that the Azerbaijani government should demand Russia’s explanation of this fact, as well as to raise the issue in international organizations. Ali Karimli of the Popular Front Party shares the photos of one Iskander’s debris by ANAMA and comments that in spite of Nikol Pashinian, the head of the military, Movses Akopian, the Forbes journal and the UK media confirming the fact of Armenia’s Iskander shelling of Azerbaijani city, the Azerbaijani president still denies it, although the opposite would be in the national interest. He argues that this is because the president is interested not in protecting national interests, but in staying closer to Russia, and the expression of gratitude for the Russian peacekeeping activities in his past conversation with the Russia’s deputy premier and Putin is another proof of that. This is in spite of Russia’s building of barracks for 10,000 troops in an extension of 2,000 peacekeepers. Ali Karimli recalls the April 2016 resumption of fighting in Karabagh and how the authorities, having sacrificed many hundreds of lives, stopped fighting and staged “protest” rallies in front of his house instead. The war veteran Gulu Mammadli tells a story of heroism and courage of colonel Shukur Hamidov, who died in battle during the 44-day war. “The victims do not die, they come into our souls to live forever”, he concludes. FB users share information about the joint meeting of the Security Council in Yerevan under the chairmanship of the Upper Karabagh “President” Arayik Harutyunian and prime minister Nikol Pashinian, and the plans to spend 200 million upon the construction of houses and infrastructure for Armenians in Karabagh. Gubad Ibadoglu notes that the Russian deputy prime minister Overchuk is received at the level of his colleague in Armenia, but at the level of President Aliyev in Azerbaijan; the chief of the Army headquarters in Armenia Artak Davtian receives the commander of the Russian peacekeepers Rustam Muradov in Yerevan, where the Russian flag is installed upside down, but the Russians are acting in favour of Armenia in Upper Karabagh, de-mining their settlements, building houses, opening up jobs, etc. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev mourns the victims of the April 2016 conflict along with the victims of the ensuing Ter-ter case, which took away the lives or exposed to torture people, whose blame was not proven. Osmangizi TV discusses with the leader of KXCP (Classic Popular Front Party) Mir-Mahmud Mirelioglu, “what should be Azerbaijan’s policy in dealing with the Armenia-Russia occupation?” It also reports that Russia’s Federal Services are investigating the shelling of Shusha by the ballistics rockets Iskanders-M.
The representative of the ruling party YAP, Siyavush Novruzov, argues on his timeline, that not only has restoration of territorial integrity been achieved as a result of Karabagh war 2,, but also cooperative opportunities that everyone in the region will benefit from. Among them are: the Zangezur corridor that will unite the Turkic world, and the new infrastructure that will promote regional development, and help to establish multilateral relations with the other states in the region. The opposition press asserts that Ilham Aliyev gave Karabagh to Russia and there is a dirty operation of redrawing the Azerbaijani borders. The FB community shares the list of the new module-type military towns planned to be built by Russia in the Karabagh area: Sisian-2, Lachin, Sos, Janyatag, Girmizi Bazar, Agdere, Zarish, Shusha, Zabukh and Girigaga.
Human rights. The FB users continue to discuss and decry the blackmail by illegally recorded intimate videos of female activists or members of the activists’ families. The academic in exile Arif Yunus comments that without instruction by the president himself, the NSA would not be able to implement this. People continue to share the report of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev on details of the Ter-ter case, where he describes the tortures, killings, violation of law during investigation, and hitting by car of the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev who was involved in protection of people’s rights in this case, and urges publication of the report. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF reveals the story of their organization’s activist Lachin Veliyev, who refused to falsely confess that he had participated in the organization of the Karabagh rally in July 2020 and faced the dilemma of either publicizing the illegally video-recorded sex with his wife in their bedroom, or to “confess” to the trumped-up charges of drug possession. He preferred the latter to the former and was imprisoned. She comments: “Does this mean that from now on, to enter the bedroom with your own wife or husband requires written permission from the Presidential Adminstration, General prosecutor’s office, National Security Agency, Ministry of Interior? The country is a hostage in the hands of sexual maniacs and everybody’s door will be knocked on. We must either unite and put an end to this immorality all together – or wait submissively for our own turn”. The Line of Defence human rights organization made a statement in connection to Lachin Veliyev. It says that he was detained on 22.03.21 by the employees of the Department for Fight with Organized Crime of the Ministry of Interior – its press service which denied the fact of his torture which were being spread across the social networks. He was accused of drug possession, production, transportation and sale (article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code). The statement reports that he had to confess in the false charges after he was shown the illegally made video in his and his wife’s bedroom and was blackmailed with it. The statement lists the previous cases of sex video blackmails by the authorities against their opponents: Khadija Ismayil, Sevinj Osmangizi, Ilkin Rustamzade, Fatima Movlamli, Seid Nuri, Mahammad Mirzali, Jamil Hasanli, Narmin Shahmarzade, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and the wives of the political prisoners Sevinj Sadikhova and Gulmura Aslanova. The statement assures the readers that any authorities with such immoral and illegal methods are subsequently spreading immoral values within society and undermining trust in the state institutions. It reminds the FB community that everyone has a right to a private life according to article 32 of the national Constitution, and to the 8th article of the European Convention. According to the article 156.1 of the Criminal Code, violation of this right is punishable from fines of 1000 manat up to 3 years of imprisonment. The Defence Line invites the authorities to conduct political struggle in a civilized form and abstain from using “black” and “yellow” PR, categorically decries making secret videos and photos of the secret private lives of citizens and broadcasting them. It urges the general Prosecutor’s office to thoroughly investigate all these cases, to open criminal cases according to the articles of the Criminal Code, and to identify the circle of the people responsible to give the full and objective assessment of the event. The FB community shares reports on the discussion of the worrying gender situation in Azerbaijan by President Biden’s newly created Committee on Women’s Issues, quoting the journalist Alex Arifoglu that this problem is one of the priorities for the new US administration. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev recalls that one of the parents of the Ter-ter case’s victims was happy to find out that his son was not exposed for long to torture, as he had died quickly. Hajiyev comments that the last time he heard a similar sentiment was from an official who told him that the father of a soldier in the first Karabagh war many years ago, had said that the fact that his son had died but was not captured by the Armenian army comforted him, as it meant he escaped torture. “I wonder”, writes Hajiyev, “what would be the reaction of that official, if he found out that similar feelings were experienced by the parent of a soldier who died in the hands of national persecutors?”
Democracy and power-society relations. The academic Jamil Hasanli shares an interview of the prominent female human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova who was deprived of her membership of the Azerbaijan Bar Association on 5th March 2021. Shahla Humbatova was awarded the title of Woman of Courage by the Trump administration, and was recently supported by the twitter statement of US State Secretary Blinken. In her interview, Humbatova argues that the authorities persecute not only the activists, but their defenders too. She recalls how many defenders there were protecting the rights of political prisoners, when she just joined the practice, but one by one they were removed over time. She argues that this is the objective of authorities – to leave its critics defenceless and recalls that when she approached a lawyer to cooperate on the protection of the Nardaran Case participant, he gave a “ classical” negative answer: “And who will feed my children then?” She notes that the number of lawyers in ABA has increased, but the human rights lawyers, decreased. She finds very distressing the statement of one lawyer, that “Human rights is a good thing, but our state has its own interests”. The journalist Shamshad Aga triggered a discussion posting that “In the aftermath of the war, we have seen a totally different government”. The people’s comments included: “Yes, more sexual than before”, “More immoral than before”, “I expected we would be different as people”, “An erotic government”, “They have gone mad”, “They have shown their true nature”, etc. The opposition activists discuss the issue of why the rating of Aliyev, boosted by the military victories, has declined so quickly. Ali Karimli lists three reasons: 1) the lies which the president told about the results of the war and that the sovereignty of Azerbaijan had not been restored, 2) the cutting of benefits for the population, versus support for the bureaucrats-oligarchs 3) miniscule compensation, pensions to the wounded in the war, or families of the war heroes, which is 10 times smaller as compared to the pensions of the corrupt bureaucrats. He concludes that Ilham Aliyev failed to use the consolidation of the society and his high rating during the war into an opportunity to make reforms in the post-war period. The number of bloggers in exile announce the organization of a protest action in Baku on 7th May. The objectives of the action are discussed on Osmangizi TV.
Reference to history. The academic and political leader Jamil Hasanli presents the history of Soviet-Turkey relations and the role of Heydar Aliyev in all the KGB’s planned operations against Turkey in Soviet times, especially the formation of PKK and using its Syrian branch against Turkey. He also describes the 13 April 2009 call from his MP colleague and reports that Ramiz Mehdiyev had instructed 5 MPs on behalf of the president to speak critically against Turkey at the meeting of parliament. Instead Hasanli spoke in favour and discredited the anti-Turkish campaign; similarly, he recalls that at the time of Erdogan’s visit, Turkey’s flags were removed from the grave of the troops who died in 1918 defending Azerbaijan, or MPs were said not to stand up, when Erdogan entered parliament, etc. He contrasts this to President Aliyev’s active promotion and especially frequently expressed the idea of the “Turkic world” at the last video conference of the Turkic-speaking states’ Cooperation Council. He also recalls that in spite of his insistence and his speech in the parliament, on the instruction from the presidential apparatus, MPs were not allowed to adopt the resolution of the recognizing PKK as a terrorist organization. He reports that around the same time, the employees of the passport agency (OVIR) told him in confidence that they were tired of giving Azerbaijani passports to PKK terrorists, who were then are sent to Europe. It appeared that distribution of Azerbaijani passports to PKK members from Syria was overlooked by the chief of the Residential Security Service, Beyler Eyubov, and implemented by the Ministry of Interior and the State Security Services. The hub was arranged in Hotel Ramada, owned by Eyubov, in the Shikhov district of Baku. But because the PKK was recognized as a terrorist organization in Europe, some of these terrorists from Iraq but with Azerbaijani passports were arrested there. Just to get out of the situation, a few employees of OVIR were arrested too. But a group of PKK members from Iraq has been settled in Baku too.
Social issues. The FB community actively shares and critically comments on the denial of the necessity of state child benefits by the leaders of the REAL party – MP Erkin Gadirli, economist Natig Jafarli and the party leader Ilgar Mammadov. Gadirli argues that giving child benefits is a leftist strategy, instead it is better to improve living conditions of the families. He also argues that parents may not use this money on their children. Fuad Gahramanli comments that Gadirli assumes that parents are also corrupt like the bureaucrats and will “eat” the child benefits themselves. He expresses regrets that the system co-opts talented and intelligent people like Gadirli and they have to defend the government’s corrupt position with such reactionary arguments. Seymur Hezi comments that somebody should explain them, that people want money from the government, but the latter does not give 234,000 manat to everyone (hinting at the compensation which the authorities paid to the REAL leader on the decision of the ECHR in exchange for the party’s “dialogue” with the government). Gubad Ibadoglu considers that Ilgar Mammadov should apologize for the rude expressions which he used to label the economic experts and opposition activists for supporting the re-introduction of child benefits. His stream programme BIZ is devoted to the economic justification of child benefits and analyses this system in Great Britain. The activists also recall the introduction of child benefits by the decree of 1 October 1992 by the first democratically elected president, Abulfaz Elchibey. Natig Jafarli of REAL justifies their comments that instead of populist slogans, they prefer to give comments based on calculation and specific data.
The feminist activist Rabiyya Mammadova argues that if the authorities do not give child benefits then they should not draft young people who have only just reached 18 years into the army. She asserts that the state cannot only take, it should also give to his citizens. Yadigar Sadighly notes that the Georgian budget has always been few times smaller than that of Azerbaijan, in 2011- 5 times less, but exactly that year it started to give netbooks to 1st grade pupils: “You can always find resources, you just need to have children as a priority” – he concludes. Afghan Mukhtarli also recalls that Elchibey introduced the law on child benefits at a time when the country was poor, there was no oil money, and the war in Karabagh was going on. Now there is oil and gas pipelines, the oil revenues reach billions, the Aliyevs have turned into the world’s richest family. He comments with irony that above all, some people (meaning REAL party representatives – L.A.) come to its defence with numbers proving that it will be a big burden to the budget. He concludes, that “if you are so good with numbers, show the ones of the stolen resources too”. Altay Geyushov comments that the child benefits will not ever be allocated, as they are given to other children to buy watches for $2m. The blogger Mehman Huseynov comments with irony, that it is not true, that the authorities do not give child benefits, they give and a lot, and not only money, but yachts, expensive cars, factories, companies, villas too. It is not true, he continues, that they do not give money for pampers or nipples for babies, as some people complain. “The government, he says, provides me with nipple monthly, and try to convince me to keep busy with this nipple and sit quiet, and after I am full with the first nipple, I move to another”. He concludes: “Long live the Azerbaijan government! Do not be ungrateful, sit quietly. The time will come, when everyone will be provided with nipples. You just have to be patient…”
FB reports the protest action of the dwellers of the Sovetski street, whose houses were demolished but no adequate compensation given, in front of the Yasamal region executive power building. Tofug Yagublu calls the demolition of the old apartment buildings in Shusha a moral terror and an act of vandalism, as people have been waiting for 30 years for a chance to return and enter their homes. The activists share the story of the handicapped war veteran, citizen of Agstafa region, Eshgin Aliyev, who is 30 years old, and suffering enormous pain from his wounds. He had been treated first at the Military Hospital but could not continue due to inability to afford it, as they only gave him pill prescriptions. The ambulance was called almost daily, but none of the doctors knocked at his door, and the indifference was simply killing him, according to him. He cannot work as he used to do before the war, but is the only breadwinner of the family of 3, and their house is on the verge of collapse. The activists appeal to their FB community to collect aid for the war veteran. Altay Geyushov posts the 2019 data of gender balance in University enrolment in the regions and stresses that the lowest number of women is in Yardimli and Lerik (Southern regions bordering Iran).
Governance, economy, facts of corruption. The ex-MP Rafael Jabrailov, who served in the Parliament for 3 consecutive terms, was arrested charged with the fraud accusations (the 178.3-2 – article of the Criminal Code – fraud with mass damage). The MP Agil Abbas reports frequent complaints from the war veterans, who, as dwellers of the regions, have to use taxis to come to the city hospital, where they get only prescriptions, but are asked to buy medicine themselves. He reminds the Parliament that 5 months have passed since the end of the war, but many have not yet received their handicap registration and respective money to buy pills and medicine. The people do not get treated fully in the hospitals, although the Defence Ministry gets the highest support from the state budget. He suggests the Minister of Defence from time to time to get treatment in the national hospital , instead of going abroad. The journalists and activists share an information that the company which started agricultural works on 10,000 hectares of land in Zangilan region belongs to the ruling family. While they accept the necessity of developing those lands, they decry the fact “of the re-occupation by one family” of the liberated lands. Afghan Mukhtarli, a journalist in exile, comments that “the iron feast” started already to destroy houses in Shusha city without any approval, any decree, any publication. “With the demolished houses, the dreams of Shusha citizens are also levelled with ground”, he concludes, reminding readers that one of the heroic defenders of Shusha commander Asif Ibrahimov died before he saw his homeland. The e-media reports the arrest of yet another bureaucrat – former head of the apparatus of the Baku City Council, Rasim Guliyev, who served there from 2010 to 2018 on charges of corruption. He is a brother of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Ses, which has been targeting and attacking activists, opposition leaders and independent journalists. The blogger Mehman Huseynov reports that he revealed a corrupt empire of another bureaucrat – Mubariz Gurbanli, the chair of the State Committee of Work with Religious Organizations, and his sons, who built their business empire with people’s stolen money.
International corruption network. The academic and politician Jamil Hasanli shares a report by ICG Gerald Knaus revealing the mechanism of the international corruption network supported by President Aliyev. He notes that there was one mistake there – the 2013 election was not a parliamentary but a presidential one. So, all the members of this corrupt network came to the country as observers to support a falsified election. Knaus also notes that 125 MPs of the PACE of the Council of Europe voted against Strasser’s report on political prisoners of Azerbaijan. They were all the members of this network, comments Hasanli, asserting that serious political measures should be applied to the regime of Aliyev. He also reveals his discovery of 400 documents united in 4 folders, describing the corrupt deeds of the father – Heydar Aliyev – and the recollection by the late Yeltsin that he brought the folder to Gorbachov to complain and to demand Aliyev’s expulsion from the politburo, as Yetsin was “disgusted” by what he read.
COVID-19. The FB community widely discusses the decision of the Education Ministry to close schools. Seymur Hezi of PFP argues that while it is the right decision, other measures should be developed in parallel to make it effective – to improve the situation with public transportation, restore the metro, increase the number of buses, follow the rules of social distancing, etc. He stresses that the decision of the government should be logical and consistent, and notes that the negligence in vaccinations is a serious obstacle in the path of fighting the pandemic. Nigar Hezi also criticises the vaccination policy of the government, by arguing that it is going very slowly, and refers to the unwillingness of some of the older population to receive it. She argues that they could give it to the volunteers from the other age groups, instead of dragging out the process, and also points to the issue of insufficient doses of the vaccine. The citizens comment on poor governance: the Education Minister cancels the decree on closing the kindergartens, but they continue to be closed, referring to their subordination to Baku City’s Executive Powers.
Situation in Ukraine. The activists, experts and journalists discuss the increasing tension in Ukraine. Zohrab Ismayil reminds his followers that Russia had not renewed the ceasefire agreement which expired on 1st April, and that it concentrated high number of troops in Crimea, Donbass and to the borders with the Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian army was preparing to give a response to the possible attack of Russia. The volunteers join the 100,000-strong guerrilla army in Ukraine. In turn NATO’s forces in Eastern Europe have been brought to high fighting readiness. The US has stated that it will defend Ukraine if Russia intervenes. This was said both by US State Secretary Blinken to Foreign Minister Lavrov and by President Joe Biden to the Ukraine President Zelensky. He suggested that Russia has been testing the West’s reaction in Ukraine and tried to blackmail it to be able to realize the North Stream two pipeline projects. But it seems, he concludes, there will not be a compromise to Russia. Seymur Hezi of PFP comments that the ruling party of Azerbaijan called a support for Ukraine an “anti-national position”. Does it mean that opposing Russia means acting against national interests? He ironically presumes that it’s not to be excluded that after a while, speaking about Khojali will be considered anti-national too. Fuad Gahrmanali calls the situation in the Ukraine a “trap” for Putin and considers that time is working against Russia in Ukraine due to a few reasons: 1) the approaching parliamentary elections in Russia and possibilities of increased social protest may weaken her geopolitical ambitions and position in Ukraine. 2) the sanction regime will weaken Putin and his team. 3) the US, Turkey and other NATO allies are helping to strengthen and modernize Ukraine’s army, on the one hand, while Zelinski is suppressing Russia’s 5th column in the country. 4) Biden’s arrival to power means the return of the US leadership role in world affairs and the passivity of Russia in relation to the authoritarian regimes will result in loss of her prestige. Understanding all this, Putin is trying to start a military action as soon as possible, trying to take an advantage of the current period, because he understands that Ukraine one day will start a military operation to restore its territories anyway. He describes Biden’s intention to resolve the issue with Russia as soon as possible in order to start dealing with the problem of China. The expression “a killer” used by Biden in relation to Putin had the purpose of accelerating the events in Ukraine and to manoeuvre Putin into a trap. It is clear, asserts Gahramanli, that by touching Putin’s geopolitical ambitions, Biden is trying to provoke him, as the defeat of Putin will mean his weakening, while strengthening the position of the US. So, the clash in the Ukraine is a reflection of the global geopolitical confrontation and change of power balance in the world. Afghan Mukhtarli criticizes the version of events, which starts to be spread in Azerbaijan media and which puts the US behind the aggravation in Ukraine, asserting that the issue is that the US simply will not allow the next instance of Russian aggression against Ukraine. He argues that in case of war, Russia is trying to put the blame on Ukraine and the US in advance.