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Center for National and International Studies
The activists, journalists and bloggers are shocked by and mourn mysterious death in Turkey of the famous young activist, the former-graffiti-prisoner Bayram Mammadov, and demand fair investigation from the police in Istanbul, welcome restoration of Shahla Humbatova and other two lawyers in the Azerbaijan Bar Association, appeal to a president for a new amnesty decree in regards remaining dozens of political prisoners, decry the dispersal of the students protest, violent incident with Mehman Huseynov, horrified by the citizen Jamalova Leyla’s attempt to burn herself in front of the Presidential Administration.
Post-war situation. The Fb community discusses the visit of Russia Foreign Minister Lavrov to Yerevan and Erdogan – Putin exchange of opinions on Karabagh. The FB community more and more often asks the question what did the state do for the citizens, who by its first call sacrificed their lives in the front. People discuss the Russia’s policy and its plans to hold military parade on the 9th of May in Khankendi. Arif Hajili, the leader of Musavat, argues that this act of Russia aims at humiliating Azerbaijan state and nation and to show that the country is not independent but under the control of Russia. He explains it by “the criminal thinking of regime, which first wants to show our humility before Russia, and then aims at taking both domestic and foreign policy under the full control. The Azerbaijani government at all cost should prevent the conduct of this parade, and each citizen, who accepts the country’s independence as a sacred value, should voice his/her protest against it.” Local media reports strengthening of Russian military base 102 in Sunik region of Armenia on the borders with Azerbaijan. With reference to the Sputnik of Armenia Meydan TV reports that Azerbaijan has returned three Armenian soldiers captured in the war.
Death of the ex-“graffiti” prisoner Bayram Mammadov. The social networks reflect shock, concern and deep grief on the mysterious drowning in the sea in Turkey of the popular youth activist, one of former “graffiti” prisoners Bayram Mammadov. Along with Giyas Ibrahimov, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for critical graffiti on the pedestal of the late President Heydar Aliyev. They were offered the choice to write a letter of regret or to be sentenced to 10 years, but preferred to go to prison. Under the pressure of international community they were released 3 years after. However, Bayram Mammadov was re-arrested the next day after release, as he gave a positive response to the question of the journalist “Would you do the same, if it was now – after your experience in prison?” Again under international pressure, he was released month after. Bayram has also been known for befriending the blind kitten in prison and in spite of resistance of prison authorities, refusing to leave the prison without it. He underwent beating and tortures during both times of his arrest. Last few months he was preparing to take his fnewly won fellowship in Europe studying language in Turkey. He stopped to respond to the calls on the 2nd May, and his body was discovered on the 4th May on the sea coast in Istanbul. The official statement of the Kadikoy police in Istanbul reported that he drown in the city’s Anadolu area called Moda, because on the 2 May at 15.00 he jumped in the water to get his flip-flop and could not survive. The FB community has been demanding fair investigation of his death, recalling that the other graffiti prisoner Giyas Ibrahimov was deported from Turkey just few days before, and Bayram himself was searched and interrogated in the airport when he entered Turkey last time. The activists warn, that Turkey is becoming most unsafe place for Azerbaijani activists. The country’s youth, media, political parties, civil society is in deep shock and mourns the loss of Bayram Mammadov– unique example and inspiration for the generations. The opposition activist Nigar Hezi recalls that she felt high respect for Bayram who was the first to openly and in details to describe the tortures he was given in prison at the court hearing. “ Together with Giyas he wrote the history and proved he was not a slave!”, she concludes. Ganimat Zahid argues that failure to fairly investigate the issue in Turkey may appear a serious blow to the attitude to Turkey by the younger generation of Azerbaijanis. Based on the cases of violence against other activists in exile, he does not exclude the version, that he might have been killed and then thrown to the sea. He informed that they will try to make sure with their colleagues in Turkey-media, human rights defenders – the proper investigation is conducted. There should be permanent attention and monitoring by the public in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Seymur Hezi commented that Turkey has been turning into a place where Azerbaijani activists have been dying, but it should not. The members of the youth groups and movements started an e-campaign demanding Turkish police to disclose the street camera recordings. Rabiyya Mammadova, the feminist leader, argues that Bayram was not type of person, who would throw himself in the sea for the flip flop, but rather would enjoy walking barefoot. She also asks why the life savers instead of whistling did not rush to save him? The journalist in exile Afghan Mukhtarli argues that the official police statement in Istanbul was an expression of political opportunism, serving the concept of “ one nation- two states” and that there is a contradiction between what police told to his friends and the official statement. The version that he threw himself in clothes to the water for the shoe in rather cold weather does not sound convincing. The academic Jamil Hasanli reports that all the pro-government sites wrote that it was a suicide, but he defies it by proving that there were no reasons for it, as he was planning to start his studies in the UK and was preparing for tests in Turkey, and just received his compensation based on the decision of the ECHR. He reminds that some time ago a similar case took place in Belgium, when the dead body of the opposition activist in exile Vugar Rizali was discovered in the river. The journalist who supported the two graffiti prisoners Mehman Galandarli was also killed in prison. Then the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev has been struggling for life for more than a year being a victim of his disclosure of the circumstances of death of Galandarli. He also reminds his followers the death in Istanbul of Sevinj Babayeva, witness of the MP mandate “trade” case , as well as the information, that the gang who attacked the blogger Mahammad Mirzeli in France, has moved to Turkey. He attracts attention to the fact, that there was an attempt to hack his account and to install the programme which allows to follow and monitor all his moves and conversations. He concludes, that there are many enigmas related to the death of Bayram, so a thourough investigation is needed, but whether there will be one- is a big question.
Human rights. The Fb community praises restoration of Azerbaijani Bar Association membership of lawyers Shahla Humbatova, Irada Javadova and Turkel Suleymanli. The leader of the Popular Front Party Ali Karimli while welcoming this decision, urges the authorities to restore also the other illegally expelled lawyers – Yalchin Imanov, Alayif Hasanov, Khalid Bagirov and others. The government, he argues, should abstain from turning the ABA into a tool of political repressions. The opposition leader Tofig Yagublu argues that they wer restored not due to the “humanism” pointed to by the chair of ABA Anar Bagirov, but by the tekephone call of state secretary Blinken on the 28th April to president Aliyev. The deputy leader of the Muslim Unity Movement ex-political prisoner Elchin Gasimov was detained and then released by police, reports human righst defender Rufat Safarov. He also stresses commenting on the recent opening of the criminal case against three Azerbaijani military who committed violence against Armenian soldiers that the authorities are more diligent to the “enemy” rights that to his own people, meaning that it sill cannot investigate for 4 years of the violations of rights of thousands in the Azerbaijani army (Ter-ter case). He urges the president to pay attention to the injustice towards 11 Tovuz prisoners, whose parents are appealing and assuring him they are innocent in front of the Presidential apparatus. He states that the absence of the answer from authorities is complete failure of the governance system in the country. The legal defender Elchin Sadigov reports that at their meeting on the 5th May he saw the traces of violence on the face of his defendant – Tovuz prisoner Mammadli Babek, who informed him, that yesterday after the court hearing they were all beaten up in the police car. He complained to the strong pains in his chest and chin. He reported that his weight has reached 59 kilos, although before the hunger strike it was more than 90 kilos. He hardly moved, but assured his followers of continuing the hunger strike until the justice is achieved. The court has sentenced to 50 total years of the group of Tovuz prisoners. The activists continue to keep the state of health of human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev in the center of attention. He was recently visited by the leader of PFP Ali Karimli, who reported his improvement and stressed his exceedingly important contribution to the human rights investigation and disclosure of many cases- such as Ter-ter case, Ganja case and others. The newspaper Azadlyg reports that arrested heads of the regional executive power giving bribes to the penitentiary administration create luxurious conditions for themselves in prisons. Newly released from prison the journalist Zaur Gambarov has shared the essay about those conditions arranged by the head of executive power of Akstafa region Nizameddin Guliyev and his deputy Ramiz Tatarov. He also presents the list of informal tariffs ( bribes ) for services in prison, such as meeting with te family members – 70 manats, telephone conversation with the family – 1 manat per minute, 10 manat of each 100 manats brought by a family to a prisoner, 5 manats for the shower, ( otherwise the water will be either hot, or cold) etc. The e-media reports about yet another protest of the family members of the Ganja prisoners. The witnesses and victims of the Ter-ter case continue to tell the details of violation of human rights and tortures during investigation in 2017. FB community reports that the complaint by the human rights defender from Sumgayit Elchin Mammad was accepted for consideration by the Supreme Court.
Social issues. The media reports another tragic outcome of post-traumatic stress of the war heroes – the Karabagh War 2 veteran Rufet Nabizade has committed suicide. Although he was not complaining for the indifference of bureaucratic structures, was awarded by two medals, many took it as a sign, that the state does not pay enough attention to the needs, state of health and psychological problems of the war heroes, does not have a rehabilitation programme etc. Azadlyg newspaper reports that the handicapped of the 3d category, the Afghanistan and Karabagh war veteran Abulfat Hashimov is being deprived based on the fraud scheme of his apartment, where they lived for 14 years. He had all the documents, registration of the property and paid for the house where live in with his family, but now he is being evicted. He reports that “ there is no state structure left where he did not go… What should I do? Go and settle in front of the Presidential Administration building? Is this the respect for the war veterans?” The popular blogger and activist Mehman Huseynov shows video of the arbitrary and brutal behaviour of the former employee of the Ministry of the Emergencies Elkhan Tagiyev , who pretends to be a police officer and abuses the rights of the ordinary citizens. FB community shares the video of the citizen from Shirvan region, the agriculture of which is in total collapse with unemployment and poverty flourishing, no interest and investment from Baku or locally. The Fb community shares the video with the citizen Jamalova Leyla trying to burn herself in front of the presidential administration building. Living in desperate poverty she appealed to the Surakhani district executive power but to no avail.
Governance, economy, corruption. Azad Soz site argues, that the kickbacks in the government’s arms deal with Russia are transferred to the bank accounts of the president daughters in London. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev observes, that the Tax Service of the Ministry of Economy has allocated 9 m. manats to the Cybernet company for monitoring, consultations, instructions, making amendments and obtaining licenses. Few months earlier the same company received 5,6 m manat winning the tender for the same purposes. He asks: “ What does 15 m worth program “on amendments and changes to instructions” consist of? “ Osmangizi TV interviews a 90 year old prominent Azerbaijani writer Chingiz Huseynov, currently living in Israel, who said that Heydar Aliyev threw Azerbaijan 100 years backwards. The economic expert Samir Aliyev reports that the SOFAZ ( State Oil fund) in three months has lost 803 m. dollars. The reason is the fall of the price of gold, and devaluation of other currencies to US dollars. The economist Gubad Ibadoglu reports with irony, that in connection with the approaching Formula 1 race in Baku the number of infected has declined to 963.
Democracy and power-society relations. The chair of the organization Line of Defense Rufat Safarov reported that a group of members of the students organization The Student’s Power Center made an attempt to stage a vigil in front of the Economic University “ Justice – for student!”. However, the police prevented the action and detained the chair Ahmad Mammadli, members Farid Jabbar, Ravan Akhundov, Tukezban Gasimova and the leader of the “The Student Demand” Rustam Ismayilbeyli. It is also reported that the father of Ahad Mammadli was taken hostage in the police office in Jalilabad region, to make his son to come to the police office in Baku.The Line of Defence human rights organization appealed to the president Aliyev that it will sign another amnesty decree ( in addition to the previous one on occasion of Novruz Bayram, when 38 political prisoners were released) in connection to the Ramazan holiday. The letter reminds the addressee that there are dozens of political prisoners who are still behind the bars and that such a decree will significantly contribute to the improvement of the situation with human rights and freedoms in the country, will prevent radicalization of the political struggle etc. The letter was signed by human righst defenders Rashid Hajili, Samira Agayeva, Alayif Hasanov, Zaur Akbar, Zafar Ahmadov, Tezekhan Miralamli, Saygin Rustamli and Rufat Safarov. Mehriban Vezir comments on the future trajectory of Azerbaijani democracy and security and states that the only way is to get rid of Russian imperial ambitions of the occupants by moving further to the independence of the Turkic states and nations.
The National Council of Democratic Forces made a statement on the political situation in the country, which says that the Azerbaijani government is rapidly returning the country to the agenda of repression and corruption before the Second Karabakh War in terms of governance, and this must worry the democratic community of the country. Shortly after the end of the war, politically motivated arrests were resumed, especially for the Popular Front Party members and supporters. Saud Bakuvi, a member of the Popular Front Party, has recently been arrested on trumped-up charges. He was arrested a year ago after Ilham Aliyev’s known hate speech. Although the video footage from the scene proved the charges against him to be false, he was placed under house arrest pending trial, not release. The court sentenced him to 3 years and six months in prison on political grounds, despite the false accusation. Earlier, Lachin Valiyev, a fan of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (APFP), was arrested on drug charges for failing to testify against Bakhtiyar Imanov, a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (APFP), who was convicted in connection with the Karabakh uprising in July last year. Lachin Valiyev was first taken to the police station on another charge to testify against the APFP leadership and was tortured for several days. In the case of Lachin Valiyev, it turned out that the government used even the ugliest means in the fight against the opposition. Thus, Lachin Valiyev was blackmailed in his home with videos of his intimate relationship with his family in order to accept the false accusation. Authorities obtained the footage through a camera hidden in his home. Unfortunately, the Aliyev regime’s interference in the private lives of citizens, especially opposition figures and their families, has recently become commonplace. During this period, Shahin Hajiyev, a member of the Ganja branch of the Popular Front Party, was twice administratively arrested for his critical posts on Facebook and was eventually forced to suspend his activities on social media, threatening long-term imprisonment on criminal charges. The torture of Lachin Valiyev and these arrests show once more that, despite all international calls, the Azerbaijani government has returned to the practice of repression and violence. Unfortunately, as soon as the war ended, the government resumed moral and political terror against its rivals. Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council Coordination Center, has been detained and threatened with arrest for more than a year on trumped-up charges. Recently, the pressure on Gultekin Hajibeyli, a member of the Coordination Center of the National Council, continued. An unjustified increase was added to the fine imposed on her by the court order, and Gultekin was fined 91,000 manats. His house and car are also under arrest and will be confiscated if the fine is not paid. During this period, some immigrant bloggers outside the country, who harshly criticized the Azerbaijani government, were even physically assaulted. The government has recently stepped up its cybercrime against political opponents. There were attacks on the social network accounts of APFP activists and functionaries and the party itself, and the followers and shares of the party’s page were deleted. Earlier, the regime’s hackers seized the pages of the chairman of the National Council, Jamil Hasanli, a member of the Coordination Center Gultekin Hajibeyli, and the APFP Youth Committee through cybercrime and deleted their followers. In this context, it should be noted that the Internet communication blockade imposed on the chairman of the Popular Front Party a year ago has not yet been lifted. In general, the government of Ilham Aliyev, in the person of the National Council and the PPFA, fights against the real opposition and harsh critics by re-ordering arrests, torture, threats, moral terror, physical attacks, cybercrime, and Internet blockade. It seems that local and international efforts to transfer power to the level of civilized political relations are still insufficient. Again, the Azerbaijani government does not comply with its international obligations or its Constitution and laws. This means that the Azerbaijani public and the democratic world must do more to ensure that the government of Ilham Aliyev fulfills its constitutional and international obligations”.
Relations with Iran. The opposition activist from the Southern ( bordering with Iran) region Yadigar Sadighli analyses Azerbaijani-Iranian relations. He disagrees with those who when explaining tense relations put blame on Elchibey and its nationalist rhetoric. He argues that while Ilham Aliyev endlessly gives compliments to Iran, the country does not becomes friendlier, quite opposite brings the troops to the borders. But he urges when mistrusting the neighbour- to do it in a smart way. He agrees that Iran behaves itself more as a state of the Persians rather than the state of Iranians, but does it in a refined way, not in such a unsophisticated way as Azerbaijani side. In addition, the degree of emotional hatred to Iran often prevents distinguishing fake material from the real facts. The FB community shares news that the family of General Polad Hashimov -the war hero killed in July 2020 -refused an award named after general Gasim Souleymani from the Iranian government. The decision was widely shared by the Fb community and highly praised. The leader of the Musavat Party Arif Hajili stated on his timeline that it was “the most correct decision by the family of the hero who turned into a national symbol. I am proud of it.”