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Center for National and International Studies
“She has been waiting for a year to kiss his “iron fist”
What is Patriotism? Journalist in exile Sevinc Osmangizi shared a video in which a middle-aged woman is passionately telling president Aliyev that she has been dreaming of kissing his “iron fist” as a gesture to offer her endless gratitude and respect to the president for his victory in the war. The video ends with Aliyev refusing her to kiss his hands but instead hugging her. The footage caused mixed feelings among social media users, with the majority finding it shameful and disgraceful. While it was not a surprise to many Azerbaijanis to see such a dramatic expression, it also stirred the debates around patriotism. Many Facebook users and activists expressed themselves in their posts and comments to define what patriotism is and whether there is or there should there be a clear line between patriotism and fawning adoration for politicians. Member of opposition Fuad Gahramanli reacted to the video with sarcasm, saying that some people are just boring in their wheedling routine, and some are creative and prefer to add more colors to make it a theatrical experience. Former political prisoner Ilkin Rustamzade touched upon patriotism by pointing out the recent corruption scandal. Rustamzade believes that Aliyevs plays on people’s patriotic emotions to divert the attention from the Panama Papers. It is exactly for this reason that in his recent visit, Aliyev demonstratively called on former Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan to cover up the current corruption case. Rustamzade continues that, “some cowardly patriots have started to fall into that trap again, but let these patriots know that by doing so they support this corruption, either knowingly or unknowingly. “In short, no one who does not talk about the stolen 700 million dollars should call themselves opposition,” he concluded.
The opposition leader Ali Karimli also criticized Ilham Aliyev’s authoritarian rule for creating a submissive atmosphere in the country. Karimli states that the authoritarian rule of a family that lasted 28 years was able to subdue a large part of society. Now there are people in this society who stand in line to kiss the fist of the leader. There is now a group of “intellectuals” and “oppositionists” who describe the regime’s silence on corruption and oppression of ordinary people as patriotic. The regime can be so cruel and greedy just because it thinks that it is breaking society and silencing it.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev shared his understanding of patriotism with his FB post: Patriotism is looking out of the window of your rented house every morning and evening, imagining the property of one of the officials underaged son in London, imagining the property of other officials elsewhere, knowing that tens of thousands of young families have been living in the rented apartments for decades, seeing the scale of the social gap in the country, knowing that those who protest against social inequality face pressure and threats yet work not only for a group of people but for everyone to live comfortably and happily in this Motherland.
The National Council has prepared an appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan in connection with the actions of the ruling family and will submit it in the coming days. The National Council will also appeal to the British National Crime Agency to seize property in London purchased at the expense of money stolen by the Aliyevs from the people.
The National Council believes that Ilham Aliyev has lost the right to lead the country and should resign because he has turned corruption into a state policy and used his position to accumulate billions.
Political activist Nigar Hezi draws attention to the recent decision by the Azerbaijani parliament to rename Republic Day on 28th of May. Hezi writes: When injustice is rampant, the number of political prisoners was growing, Niyamaddin Ahmadov and Alizamin Salayev ar eon hunger strike, fighting for their lives, little Heydar’s father stole people’s money and bought his son 700 million worth properties in London, the parliament of the country is busy with “the most serious issue”.
Ganimat Zahidov, a journalist, exiled in France, writes that according to Pandora Papers among 330 politicians and businessmen around the world, Ilham Aliyev‘s property in London alone is more expensive than the property of the remaining 229 other people combined.
Ilgar Mammedov argues that the recent Pandora Papers don’t add anything new to the already known information about the wealth of the Aliyev family. Mammedov is in the opinion that the question “what is the source of this wealth?” should have been asked by the opposition in Azerbaijani parliament, but since the opposition has no institutional representation there, there is no political gain to such an attempt, which will have no legal consequences. When the scandals surround the Aliyev family alone, other mysteriously rich families in the country hide in the shadow of the scandal, take advantage of it politically, that is, incite the state apparatus to be more repressive with a mindset that “they will blame the Aliyevs anyway.”
Professor Altay Goyushov, in regards to the corruption scandal, mentioned the demolition of the historical building in Baku several years ago. He writes: In the center of Baku, in Sovetsky, thousands of people were forcibly evicted from their homes for a penny, and one man bought a large number of houses in London for hundreds of millions of dollars. What a world!
Activist and blogger Mehman Huseynov used his sense of humor and sarcasm to react to the corruption scandal. Huseynov wrote in his FB post that included a photo of himself sleeping in bed covered with layers of blanket: The main thing is that you have a piece of bread, thank for this day, eat your bread and cucumber, and go to bed. It’s cold outside, and may you have a sweat dream. Hopefully, when you wake up, everything will be fine…. And do you know for whom the $ 700 million talks will actually cause a lot of problems? No, not the person you think. There are people who call themselves the “opposition party”, there are media representatives who call themselves “independent media”, yes, they will not say a thing about what is gping on. Because it is not for them to involve in these conversations, and thus their true faces will be revealed. Have a sweat sleep!”
Ali Karimli shared his concerns about the fragile health condition of political prisoner Niyamaddin Ahmadov. Karimli mentioned that Niyamaddin Ahmadov, who is currently on a hunger strike in prison, is on the verge of death. He is a simple young man, earning his bread with hard work. It is absurd to accuse him of financing terrorism. In prison, he is completely isolated from the world around him. He was not allowed to communicate with his family or lawyer. We did not know that he was starving. Finally, the lawyer was able to talk to him on the phone yesterday. It turned out that Niyamaddin Bey was infected with COVID 19 and refused all medications, food, and water in this situation. Only on October 3 did he receive water after learning that he could talk to a lawyer. But he continues to starve and does not take medicine.
In a normal society, no one dares to be so absurd. In a normal society, a head of state which deprives 2.6 million children of child benefits, denies veterans and critically ill people of disability benefits, 186,000 elderly people from pensions, and more than 100,000 war veterans from veterans benefits in order to save the budget, he would be ashamed to take it and would not dare. But these are still possible in our society. Karimli concluded his statement with these remarks: I have observed such a pattern after examining the fate of many authoritarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes in dozens of countries collapsed at a time when the leaders of the regimes thought they were the strongest. This common pattern also shows that the regime in Azerbaijan will not live long. But the most important thing today is to save Niyamaddin Ahmadov, who is on a death hunger strike, Alizamin Salayev, who is on the 29th day of the hunger strike, and all political prisoners. There are many, many people in this society that the regime has not yet been able to silence. If we all raise our voices, they will hear us! We demand the release of Niyamaddin Ahmadov, Alizamin Salayev, and all political prisoners!
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports that a rally was held demanding the release of Niyamaddin Ahmadov (bodyguard of the chairman of the Popular Front Party Ali Kerimli), who did not commit any crime, went on a hunger strike for more than ten days and was sentenced by the prosecutor to 15 years in prison. Hajiyev adds that Fuad Ahmadli, Farid Nagibeyli, Zafar Ahmadov, Ravan Babayev were detained at the police station, and police used force against Gulnara Rahimova, Ahmadova Konul, and Matanat Turan. In addition to the protesters, journalists covering the protest (Zarifa Novruz, Aysel Umudova, Samira Ali, Fatima Movlamli) and human rights activist Rufat Safarov, who observed the protest, were forcibly taken to police cars. It is said that the police dragged Zarifa Novruz while she dropped her phone to the ground, and Aysel Umudova shared a photo of her broken glasses. They were asked to disclose the code of their phones so that they could access their phones and delete the videos. They took the memory card from the camera of journalist Samira Ali and did not return it. Journalist Anar Abdulla was subjected to violence at the Narimanov District Police Station number 18 for his critical comments on social media and was later detained for 15 days by the Narimanov District Court on trumped-up charges.
Azadliq Radiosu reports that the active young members of APFP are again targeted. Jeyhun Rzayev, a member of the Mingachevir city branch of the Popular Front Party, was detained by local police. According to our information, he posted photos of political prisoners Elchin Hasanzadeh and Ibrahim Turksoy on the car of the chief executive (allegedly arrested by the chief executive), which is why he was detained. Bakhtiyar Yusupov, a member of the Ganja city branch of the Popular Front Party, was summoned to the local office of the State Security Committee. The reason was that he took pictures in front of the office with posters about Niyamaddin Ahmadov and Alizamin Salayev.
Journalist in exile, Afgan Mukhtarli, remembers the suspicious death of young activist Bayram Mamedov in Istanbul last May. Mukhtarli shared on his FB post that recently, in Istanbul, he met with the friends of Bayram. According to Mamedov’s friends, there is almost no investigation going on. The opinion of the medical examination is not ready. Only one camera image was found. Mukhtarli says that he could not learn much as the information is already hidden by the police. He says that he was once again convinced that Bayram’s death was neither an accident nor a suicide. “What happened was politically motivated, and Ilham Aliyev let down a young but giant man,” concluded Mukhtarli.
Post-conflict situation. Meydan Tv reports that Azerbaijan has already officially started using Armenian airspace. Similarly, Armenian civil aircraft will be able to use Azerbaijani airspace. From now on, AZAL will not fly only through the corridors passing through Iran during the Baku–Nakhchivan flight. The opening of an air route over Armenia will significantly reduce the distance between Azerbaijan and Turkey, and thus fuel consumption. However, the question is asks Habib Muntazir, “if AZAL will reduce the price of air tickets? Or will Jahangir go into the pockets of the people again and increase his wealth?”
In the light of the corruption scandal Fuad Gahramanli draws attention to the declining economy. Gahramanli wrote: Yesterday I saw a mother and her two school children looking for something to eat or something useful to find in the trash bins of the neighborhood where I live. The little girl was overjoyed when she picked up the black umbrella they had found in the trash. It was as if she had found a “treasure”. In the evening, there was news about the properties in London worth 700 million bought by money stolen from people.”
Tensions grow between Iran and Azerbaijan. Azadliq Radiosu reports that Iran has closed the border checkpoint with Turkey without warning. Responding to the recent developments, Natig Jafarli told Meydan TV that Turkey’s rapprochement with Azerbaijan and its strengthening in the South Caucasus is not liked by our southern neighbor (Iran) and is a diplomatic gesture. But Turkey and Iran have good economic relations. Turkey has said it will never join sanctions against Iran. Jafarli added that Turkey also buys gas from Iran… the tension is temporary, and I do not link the launch of AZAL flights to Nakhchivan via Armenia as a coincidence.”
Ramis Yunus also reflected on the ongoing crisis: The escalation on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border suggests that the geopolitical paradigm is rapidly changing in the South Caucasus and Iran feels very well how the circle is narrowing around it and therefore tries to play ahead of the curve in order to relax this stranglehold on its neck. Considering the modern realities that appeared in the region after the Second Karabakh War and Tehran’s problems with the Western world, this maneuver of Iran will turn out to be a false start, while Turkey and Azerbaijan, on the contrary, may strengthen their positions in the diplomatic direction.