Center for National and International Studies
“The earthquake in Turkey once again confirmed that corruption kills…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Alizamin Salayev, the chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Salyan district branch, was arrested. The court charged him with Article 221.3 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to three months imprisonment. Alizamin Salayev‘s lawyer told Nemat Karimli that as soon as he got out of the taxi in Lokbatan district, a man attacked him with a knife and started to insult him verbally. Salayev said that to defend himself, he pushed the man and ran away. Salayev has been very active in criticizing the authorities and posting his critical views on social media.
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli reacted to Salayev’s arrest, saying that the regime must stop its repressive policy and release the political prisoners immediately. Karimli : “Of course, it is not easy to talk about arrests and violations of law when in a neighboring country, thousands of people are fighting for life under the most difficult conditions. However, the police regime does not take a break from implementing its agenda by force. Even when the country is mourning (for the victims of the earthquake in Turkey), the repression machine is working. We expected that there would be a new provocation against Alizamin Salayev, the chairman of the APFP Salyan branch. He also knew that the police regime did not stop persecuting him even after he lived as a political prisoner for two years and was arrested many times.”
Journalist Seymur Hezi said that the reason why the regime has become more repressive in recent months should be explained by its desperate attempts to obstruct any possibility of social uprising. Hezi’s Facebook post: “The government has accelerated the repressions again. Does it have anything to do with geopolitics? It probably does. But what is sure is that it is a policy to prevent discontent caused by rising inflation and rising prices. This is a policy of getting ahead of the opposition and the public. But they don’t understand that just because a method worked for a long time, it doesn’t mean it would work all the time. Ilham Aliyev is trying to eliminate his opponents, but he does not want to accept the fact that he is currently at war with himself, with his wrong policy, and is busy destroying himself.”
The representatives of independent mass media and journalist organizations and freelancers discussed the problems arising from the process of implementing the new law on Media. Gathered at the “Qanun” publishing house, the journalists voiced their concerns about the new requirement for registering media outlets. According to the statement by the Media Development Agency (MIA) that was created by the president in January 2021, the mass media and journalists who are not registered but continue their activities will be legally liable. Registration starts every year in September and ends in March. However, last year, out of 200 media outlets, 160 of them and 180 journalists were registered, and 40 were refused. According to the law, if their activity is considered illegal in court, the media representatives would not be able to collect and disseminate information. “Moreover, it can be expected that charges of illegal entrepreneurial activity can be brought against those journalists,” said Khadija Ismayil, who was charged with the same accusation and arrested in 2014. The requirement of the law on mandatory registration is contrary to Article 51 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, said Khalid Agaliyev, a lawyer in the field of freedom of expression. According to Alasgar Mammadli, a lawyer in the field of mass media and freedom of expression, making the registration mandatory for journalistic activity indicates the intention of the authorities to sharply limit freedom of expression in the country. Mehman Aliyev, director of Turan Information Agency, said that there is an urgent need to develop a law that would serve the development of freedom of speech, not its limitation. “I said at that time that this is not a law on mass media, but a law on information in general, that it covers all producers of information, regardless of whether it is a journalist or persons who expresses themselves. The name and provisions of the law pose a threat to the development of a free information society in the country.”
Devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
On Monday, early in the morning southeastern part of Turkey and neighboring regions of Syria were hit by a devastating earthquake killing thousands of people. Azerbaijan was among the countries that offered its help by immediately sending a rescue team. Moreover, volunteers collected humanitarian aid to be sent to the survivors of the disaster. Twenty trucks carrying humanitarian aid, such as warm clothes, blankets, and food, were sent to the regions of Turkey affected by the earthquake.
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli expressed his sympathy with the families of the victims, saying that if the civil society, press, and business were free and more independent and proactive in Azerbaijan, and if there were freedoms in the country, the Azerbaijani people would do more for Turkey than they are doing now. Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Tofig Yagublu said that due to the emergency situation in Turkey, the land border should be immediately open so that Azerbaijanis living in Turkey could easily return to their homelands. Yagublu: “The terrible earthquake in Turkey makes the opening of land borders inevitable. Thus, due to the critical situation, thousands of our citizens living, working, and studying in Turkey have to return to our country. Also, we have a large number of citizens who want to go to search for their loved ones in the affected areas and help the people. The best option is to go by private car or bus through Georgia. If the land borders are not going to be opened now, it means that Ilham Aliyev is dealing an additional blow to the people I mentioned above.” Karimli also said that parts of Azerbaijan are in a seismic hazard zone, and therefore, the government must be prepared for any natural disaster. “I am sure that there are serious issues that the Azerbaijani authorities must also draw conclusions from. The Azerbaijani authorities should not forget that Baku and a large part of the territory of Azerbaijan are located in a sensitive seismic zone. In this case, how can it be understood that the Republican Seismological Service Center was removed from the department responsible for the construction works in Baku? I assumed that most of the constructions in the country were carried out without considering the seismological standards. However, frankly, I did not imagine this much – the removal of the Republican Seismological Service Center from the construction work. This action of the government is very serious irresponsibility towards the lives of our people and should be removed immediately. How long should we live only solely on “the mercy of God” as a nation? The risk resistance of the high-rise buildings built in the seismic zone in Baku, as well as the buildings in the areas where underground water rises, should be checked seriously and regularly. All high-rise buildings that are not prepared for earthquake risk should be demolished with a special state program, and new earthquake-resistant buildings should be built for the residents of those buildings. Let’s not forget that every tragedy that happens around us is also a warning for us!”
Activist Nigar Hezi argued that the reason why there are so many causalities is that the construction companies could easily bribe the authorities when building the residential apartments that were collapsed during the earthquake. Hezi: “The earthquake in Turkey once again confirmed that CORRUPTION KILLS. Undemocratic societies are doomed. In Turkey, where there are frequent earthquakes, the failure to build earthquake-resistant buildings that do not meet the requirements of the modern era has led to the loss of many human lives. At least the Turkish government should have learned a lesson after the 1999 earthquake. It cannot be called a natural disaster. That natural disaster also happens in Japan. However, the result is not the same as in Turkey. Erdogan‘s government is responsible for the losses of so many people.”
The general director of the Azerbaijan Seismological Service Center, Gurban Yetirmişhli, said at the press conference about the earthquake in Turkey that the earthquake in Turkey would not trigger the earthquake in Azerbaijan. However, Yetirmishli also said that since 2019 none of the construction companies applied for receiving the permission document on the seismological safety of the construction sites. He said that although he has already informed the authorities about the issue, no one so far has shown interest.
February 10, 2023