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Center for National and International Studies
“…When the government in the country is fake and a liar, ordinary people also imitate living…”
The FB community is concerned with the situation in Karabagh and plans of Russia there, welcomes Biden’s strict policies toward Russia and talks with Turkey, discredits the corruption and enrichment of the oligarchs-ministers at the expense of the population, discusses the resignation of Angela Merkel, the expulsion from the Turkish Lyceum in Baku of the artist Peri Miniature, feminism, and celebrates the landmark 60th birthday of the opposition leader Tofig Yagublu.
The situation in Upper Karabagh. The threats of the unfinished problem of Karabagh is the most discussed topic on FB. The experts of Osmangizi TV analyse the situation and warn of risks related to postponement of the political solution of the Karabagh conflict. They stress that the Armenian party is opening a new corridor from Kelbajar, while Azerbaijanis do not have any access to the region. They decry activities of the Russian peacekeepers, calling this title an oxymoron, since they act in violation of sovereignty of Azerbaijan. The wounded in the war continue to complain about the lack of social protection and indifference of the state organs to their problems. Ali Karimli reports the problems of one of them, who is the only breadwinner of the family of two underage daughters, wife and mother and have been left without any means of survival upon his return from the war. FB widely shares Karimli’s statement, that President Aliyev claims he protected Shusha from his ministers, but who will protect Azerbaijan from himself? People are giving interpretations to the statement of ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharian in Moscow on his return to politics. Ilgar Mammadov, leader of REAL, suggests that this creates risks for Azerbaijan, rather than for Armenia, and Azerbaijan should be prepared to defend itself from the interference of external forces.
Biden’s policy toward Russia. The newspaper Azadlyg published an article entitled “The US have declared war against Russia”. It reports that President Biden declared that the times of defeatist policies of the US are left behind, and that it will give an adequate answer to Russia’s cyber-attacks on the US, the poisoning of its rival and the limiting of the right of Russian people to free assembly. The author activist of the PFP, Fuad Gahramanli, predicts that the relations will reach the level of confrontation and this is not only because of Russia’ foreign policies, but the state of democracy in the country. He argues that Putin understands that idea of Great Russia losing its power of distracting the attention of Russian people from its internal problems and that the slogan “Putin-the-Thief” has mobilized people in the protest. In this case US sanctions would not be viewed as a hostile act by the people, who will see the West more as their ally. He continues that Russia is also surrounded by countries who are angry with her and some are preparing for the revanche, such as Ukraine, whose Zelensky blocked Russian TV broadcasting in his country, with the help of the Western support. At the same time, the day of Turkey’s squeezing of Russia at the geopolitical stage is not far away. The West-Russia confrontation may increase the Turkey’s military strategic role and its importance as a regional power. He concludes that it’s clear that Putin has made his end closer by entering into confrontational relations with his people – on the one hand, and with the West – on the other. FB users share with appraisal the news that Biden discusses the Karabagh issue with Erdogan, not with Putin. Ramis Yunus, the activist in exile, argues that “this approach will further strengthen Azerbaijan’s position in further negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, since the United States intends to participate in the ongoing discussions more actively in the South Caucasus region and Turkey as an ally for the Americans will be essential.” Media and activists share information about the sudden death of the doctor who was treating Navalny in Russian Omsk hospital.
Governance, economy, corruption. The former political prisoner, lawyer Rufat Safarov, explains in his article in Azadlyg newspaper why the criminal case on corruption of the minister Salim Muslumov is being considered not by the General Prosecutor’s office according to the legislation but by the State Security Agency. He argues that in 20 years, the authority and influence of the former has diminished as compared to the law enforcement structures. He argues that even the appointment of the new prosecutor Kamran Aliyev, whom he calls the “intellectual version” of the former prosecutor Zakir Garalov, did not change the state of affairs. He questions such governance, which is a direct violation of the legislation of the country and asks the prosecutor, how can he reconcile the absence of the rule of law, which is being replaced by the rules of theft and corruption. He concludes that undoubtedly such situation is beneficial for the government. The issue of the borrowing by the state enterprises has been one of the most popular topics on FB for some time. The list of those enterprises is circulated among activists, journalists and bloggers. Gubad Ibadoglu published sensational material concerning the amount which each of these enterprises receive from the budget funds and returns. He also explains that they repay the finances they borrow and misappropriate by the increase of the prices of the household water supply (last time the decree assigned a twofold increase). AzerSu enterprise borrowed 1bn 269m from abroad which will be returned from the younger generation in 5-10 years. He attracts attention to the fact that the resources which AzerSu receives from the budget are increasing year by year, while its contribution to the budget is decreasing. He stresses that the leadership of the company, which operates with state subsidies and foreign loans, has almost a billion worth of properties, constructing office buildings for 204m manats. And then its director Gorkhmaz Huseynli asserts that the company works at a loss, with subsidies and high spending, which is why the prices for consumers must be raised. He demands official economists give an answer to people about the nature of such governance “without an analogue” (the expression by the late Heydar Aliyev about unprecedented economic growth in Azerbaijan – L.A.). FB readers share photos of the property in Georgia of the head of the state air company AZAL, Jahangir Asgerov. Habib Muntazir, an investigative journalist, shares the list of the property and business of the head of the company, which has the highest prices on flights, gets significant subsidies annually and already in 2018 worked at a loss of 208m manat. He owns 3 big hotels in Georgia, two in Tbilisi, the other in Batumi. Hotel Grand Gloria has 168 rooms and employs more than 100 people, 90% of which by the requirement of the Georgian government are citizens of Georgia. They also share with irony the statement by the former Minister of Transport, Ziya Mammadov, that he is in his village busy with hard farming, that it’s not easy to survive these days and he is grateful to the president for the creation of these conditions. They wonder whether he is serious or being ironic?
An academic activist considers it naïve or insincere to support the idea that replacement of the old oligarchs with new managers changes the rules of the system. He lists the main principles of the system, which remain unchanged: 1) people are kept at a certain poverty level, so they don’t have the luxury to think about other than survival issues 2) the bureaucrat steals the prosperity of people turning it into his own enormous riches – this makes him obliged to his patron, and delivers him from responsibility to the people, whom they view as the production “cow” 3) for this system the cadres are selected from among “thieves” only , as those who cannot steal do not fit the system 4) part of the corrupt money should be taken to “Londons” in order to hide the riches. He advises those believing in this fairytale of reforms to wake up from dreaming.
Natig Jafarli of the REAL party analyses the new official document Azerbaijan 2030 – National Priorities of Socio-Economic Development. He claims that it is no serious document, rather a toast, because it does not address the main issue. The current problems in the country, he argues, have resulted not from the state of economy, but from that of governance and politics. He argues that there might be 40 reasons for the problem (making parallels with the famous story of Napoleon) but the first part of any concept, roadmap, etc. should be about changing the philosophy of governance, otherwise it will be cheating on society. He also hopes that the 2 new decrees establishing personal representatives of the president and his assistant in the region is a temporary measure in transit to total elimination of the offices of executive power in the regions and will not create a “parallel rule”. He urges speedy reform and the creation of self-governing bodies in the regions, as the country is losing time and argues that any system dependent on one person cannot be effective. Habib Muntazir continues to publish the list of properties of the chair of the state enterprise, AzerSu Gorkhmaz Huseynov, consisting of 7 big enterprises, together with a list of 8 relatives occupying high positions within his enterprises.
Human rights. The FB community discusses and decries the expulsion from the Turkish Lyceum in Baku of the popular young artist Peri Miniature, who is known by her paintings of activists, opposition leaders and the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Mammad Emin Rasulzade. Ali Karimli the leader of the opposition Popular Front Party appeals to his followers to stand up for her, as political censorship and pressure on the people of culture is unacceptable. Gultakin Hajibeyli commented that “They hate both Rasulzade and those who appreciate him”. All the opposition and civil leaders made statements in her defence. FB users report an increasing number of violent acts against women, most recently – the murder of two women in Shirvan and Pirallahi settlements. Rabiyye Mammadova, a feminist, argues that crimes against women are political, because the MPs “appointed” to the Parliament resist the discussion and ratification of the Istanbul Convention Against Domestic Violence. Natig Jafarli of REAL responds to the statement of feminists that violence against women is political and the criticism that REAL does not have women in its leadership structure. He supports feminism, but argues that like in every field, here the philosophy of feminism is also forgotten. He argues that women’s status is closely related to her financial independence and discredits the concept of a “mentality”, calling it a myth, and an artificial excuse used to cover some patterns of behaviour. He also notes that women themselves often contribute to the closed political system, besides being the victims of it. He takes the example of mothers preventing their children from being politically active, or wives – their husbands. Seymur Hezi discredits a new cliché – “if one speaks out about price rises or bureaucratic arbitrariness this will lead to the loss of Upper Karabagh”. Before they would say that speaking about democracy would result in the loss of Karabagh, now they blackmail – using the same argument – even those who mention a price rise. He asserts that the real reason of the uncertainty with Upper Karabagh, is that people are not the source of political power in Azerbaijan. FB reports about the beginning of the court hearings on criminal case 1(009) -53/2021 of Ali Karimli’s bodyguard, Ruslan Amirov, who argued that this case was opened because if his participation in July 2020’s rally.
Social issues and education. People continue to be concerned with the social problems in the country. Fuad Gahramanli of the opposition Popular Front Party comments that “in the country where the government is fake and a liar, the ordinary people also imitate living”. Habib Muntazir reports the statistics of suicides, noting that on 6 February, a 22-year-old has committed suicide, while a total of 33 people did it only in January. During last year, of 597 cases of suicide, 440 were men, with 157 being women. He also compares the price increase on diesel (33%), products 15%-20%, fruits/vegetables 8-10%, water 100%, with 11.4% only of pension increase. The FB community discusses the price rise of meat despite tax exemption from 1st January 2020 and the fact that restaurants are closed, and weddings have not been held for almost a year. The chair of the NGO on Protection of the Consumers Rights, Eyyub Huseynov, commented that “We expect only the price rise of meat. Because in Azerbaijan once the price is raised – it never tumbles”. He also notes that the farmers asked to turn the pasture areas into arable lands due to the reduction of cattle, along with those imported from Dagestan and Georgia. He attributes this price rise also to the difficulties of bringing the cattle from the regions to the capital Baku because of quarantine rules. He sees the solution of the problem in tax exemption. Eyyubov stresses that supermarkets strike illegal deals with the producers and meat suppliers, charging them excess price, but not registered anywhere. Natig Jafarli of REAL analyses the statistics of the retail trade turnover in the country, half of which is food products. (19bn 516m manat) and comments that this pattern is a characteristic of developing countries. In the developed states this indicator is usually 12-20% of all retail trade turnover. He observes a contradiction in the statistics which shows that in 9 months of strict quarantine the consumption of the gasoline decreased – as compared to 2019 – only by 270m manat. Ganimad Zahid, journalist in exile, comments on the MPs’ explanations of the large-scale replacement of old guard bureaucrats by the prevention of the “coup d’etats”. He discredits this argument and in turn explains it by the fact, that there is a big spending ahead, including the restoration of the liberated territories, but with a limited budget, this is one way of extorting corrupt money from the oligarchs/bureaucrats. He calls this process the ‘centralization of corruption’, where there is domination of a single oligarch. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR published the results of his survey of teachers and students in the Azerbaijani schools – on the state of online education. More than 40% of the students and pupils reported problems with technical devices, while 48.3% with the management of the process. The teachers stressed among problems encountered the inconsistency of attendance on the part of students, the poor overall environment of the educational system and problems with technical aspects eg. access to the internet.
60th birthday of Tofig Yagublu. The FB community shares and posts birthday wishes to the outstanding political activist and opposition leader Tofig Yagublu. Ali Karimli of the PFP called him “the symbol of the struggle over freedom, justice and democracy”. He called him a hero, who defended the state borders when there was a threat to the homeland, a fearless political leader and dedicated democrat, who has been through prisons and tortures, hard personal loss, but stayed firm and loyal to his principles. Karimli concludes that so far Tofig Yagublu already has written history with his struggle, but he is sure that he will do much more for his country and his people in the future.
Resignation of Angela Merkel. Fb community continues to discuss the leadership of Angela Merkel, the 6 minutes of goodbye applause by the Germans, her contribution to world affairs, and factors of her success. Most often activists stressed that in 18 years in power she did not enrich herself, and has lived in the same modest accommodation, without household assistants or any luxurious conditions, doing laundry, etc, with her husband. “And this is Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany”, concludes the lawyer Agil Laij. Against the background of the positive and praising comments on her leadership, there is criticism of her support for the Russian pipeline projects, such as Nord Stream 2, leaving Ukraine out of the Russian gas transit. The journalist asks: “How much can one sacrifice one’s principles for the sake of pragmatism?”