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The prospect of Azerbaijan’s CSTO observer status remains a hot issue on FB, with the community mainly denouncing it, along with continuing criticism of Russia’s role in the country, conflict and region; are keenly upset at the lack of understanding in the West of Azerbaijan’s position on Karabagh, including the refusal of the Minsk group co-chairmen to visit Shusha. They are highly concerned about the rapid spread of synthetic drugs in the country; indignant about the government’s prohibition (travel ban) for Tofig Yagublu to participate in the funeral of his mother; welcome the new territorial economic division of the country and celebrate the victory of Shahriyar Mammadov over Harry Kasparov.
Post-conflict situation. FB users discuss the results of the meeting of Putin and Pashinian and share news that the agreement on the location of Russian troops on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border was not achieved. Ambassador Isfandiyar Vahabzade in his interview on Osmangizi TV calls Russia ‘a prison’ which she does not want Azerbaijan and Armenia be released from… He argues that while Russia is in the region, the states will never be free and democratic, and the conflict will never be resolved. The activists and journalists continue to express their protest against the government’s surrendering position to Russia, whose peacekeepers are letting armed citizens of Armenia to illegally cross the state borders. The ruling party functionaries praise the new regional economic division of the country, which incorporates the liberated territories and has some new names, like Eastern Zangezur. Siyavush Novruz, for instance, states that the new division has put an end to the name ‘Upper Karabagh’, while including Khankendi and Khojali in Karabagh’s economic region is an ultimate indicator of sovereignty and a new stage in economic development of the country. The former advisor to the late president Heydar Aliyev, Eldar Namazov, argues that Armenia has not yet made its choice in favour of peace with Azerbaijan. The results of recent elections in Armenia is a positive factor, but so far Armenia has not cancelled its official documents and decisions with territorial claims to Azerbaijan, did not agree to the creation of commission on delimitation of state borders, or the talks on the Big Peace Agreement. He comments that turkophobic propaganda, territorial claims, or overestimation of one’s own role in geopolitics in Armenia pushes her to adopt unwise adventurous decisions, often provoked by the third party. He suggests preventing the armed attacks of the Armenian army, if they acquire a threatening and systematic character, by creating a buffer zone on the borders of Azerbaijan/Armenia to a depth of 30km, similar to those created by Armenia on the occupied territories over 30 years, calling it a buffer zone. The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov regrets the non-broadcasting of two interviews with himself by German radio and TV channels, only because he argued that the war was inevitable and that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should have been restored. He comments that this happened in spite of the broader discussion on human rights violations and political prisoners’ issues in Azerbaijan and called it self-discrediting of media outlets. Some political leaders express their disapproval that the co-chairmen of the Minsk group, France, Russia and the US, did not join the visit to Shusha arranged by the Azerbaijani government for foreign ambassadors accredited in Azerbaijan. Panah Huseyn suggests that this fact should be used to start the procedure of refusal of the Minsk group co-chairmanship mediation. He states that in public opinion, Minsk group activities were directed not towards conflict resolution and peace but to the continuation of the occupation of Azerbaijani lands. The prominent lawyer suggested the President put an end to such Minsk group behaviour by stating “the OSCE Minsk group is finished for Azerbaijan”. BIZ TV program of ADR movement discussed Pashinian’s visit to Moscow and his meeting the leader of the Karabagh Armenians, Arutyunian, along with bringing the Karabagh status issue onto the agenda, the construction of the Lachin corridor with Azerbaijani budget funds, the new situation caused by the refusal of the Minsk group participants to visit Shusha, as well as consequences of Azerbaijan’s possible joining the CSTO.
Russia’s push for Azerbaijan’s CSTO membership. Talks on the possibility of Azerbaijan’s CSTO observer status continue to be a matter of very high concern for the FB community. Criticising the absurdity of this idea, Ali Karimli of PFP questions the possibility of Azerbaijan’s being in alliance with both Russia and Turkey at the same time. He argues that NATO and Russia consider each other military targets, while CSTO membership is directed at undermining the military alliance of Azerbaijan with Turkey. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP stresses that if the issue was not publicized by the Russian side, the Azerbaijan society would not know about it and that not sharing such important issues with people became a routine for the Azerbaijan government. He considers the CSTO issue was accelerated by Russia in response to the visit of Erdogan to Azerbaijan after his meeting with Joe Biden, the Shusha declaration and his discussions in Baku aimed at moving Azerbaijan away from the Russia’s sphere of influence. He argues that firing at Agdam region from the territories under Russia’s control, and aggravation on the Azerbaijan Armenia border in the Tovuz region had been aimed at showing the West that the region is under Russia’s full military control. Russia demonstrated that the conflict was not resolved and could flare up any moment, while the statement of Kalashnikov about Azerbaijan’s observer status testified that Russia is ready to do anything to prevent deepening military cooperation of Azerbaijan with Turkey and the country’s integration into the West. If Azerbaijan will join the CSTO as an observer, he comments, it will act as an ally of the anti-Western strategy of Russia. For Russia, the CSTO is also a mechanism for taking control over the “near abroad”, which will allow her to do this, if the membership happens to prevent Azerbaijan’s military cooperation with Turkey. And last, but not least, he argues that it is impossible for Azerbaijan to be affiliated in any status in an organisation which includes Armenia, the country which does not recognise the borders and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. He stresses that if Russia signed an agreement with Armenia to give her military aid and protect her borders – how can Azerbaijan build a common defence policy with a military alliance which is against it? He comments that it is obvious that dragging Azerbaijan into the CSTO aims at preventing its integration in the West and will conversely strengthen the military-political influence of Russia in the country. Gahramanli also regrets that President Aliyev, who considers calls for democratisation from the West as a threat, prioritises corporative interests without taking into account national interests, is conducting an erroneous policy. He concludes by pointing to the main problem of the country – divergence of state and government interests. The activist in exile, Ordukhan Temirkhan Babirov, states on his timeline that Azerbaijan has lost its independence and is now essentially one of the republics of the Russian federation. He concludes that the names of the president’s family will be written in history as those of traitors.
The spread of drug addiction. The political and civil leaders continue to ring the bell on the conditions favoring spread of drug addiction in the country. Ali Karimli of PFP states that the spread of the synthetic drugs, nicknamed ‘pati’ or a ‘glass’ has reached such a threatening scale among the youth that it has turned into a problem of national security. He argues that the patrons of the drug business are from the power structures and calls its spread a purposeful policy. He appeals to all the families of the young people to be alerted and protect their children from drug addiction. Osmangizi TV broadcasted a programme dedicated to the issue with the activists, experts and journalists – Ilkin Rustamzade, Tural Maharramli and Ikram Rahimov. Arif Hajili of Musavat asserts an intention at his party level to join the campaign in the struggle with this drug issue, but argues that public protest is not a sufficient measure – it should be done at the official level too. He recalls that when he was in prison, the drug situation differed depending on the administration of the specific prison. Everyone knew that the drug business was under patronage of the officials and prisoners named them. He asserts that without it, the spread of drug consumption would not have reached this current scale, that’s why the potential role of the government in this struggle is instrumental.
Social problems. The e-media continues to cover the problems which the war participants are facing in everyday life. The handicapped Sayad Guliyev has complained that the shop Wentto Electronics has been consistently following him for insignificant credit payment, which he could not pay due to the loss of working ability. He appeals to private enterprises to be more empathetic to the war heroes, in contrast to state indifference. The Azadlyg newspaper reports the case when those seriously injured in the 2nd Karabagh War cannot register as a handicapped in the respective category. It also reports that the family of one war martyr has to live in an abandoned furniture factory. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat and NCDF criticises the poor condition of the health system in the country: he describes the volatile crowds trying to get access to the PCR test in a metal container in the courtyard of City Hospital#18 for hours and compares it to the much quicker and easier procedure at private clinics. Azad Soz platform reports on the protest action of the citizens of the Saatli region against the shortage of their water supply. Meydan TV attracts attention to the water problem in Azerbaijan, arguing with reference to the experts, that 70% of the water consumed in the country is from the sources outside of the country. The Azadlyg newspaper reports on the violence that police applied to war-handicapped Elvin Badalov, near Nizami metro station, while taking him to police station #27. As a result, his health condition deteriorated, so an ambulance was called to the police office. The police, in turn, said they intervened to prevent a quarrel of Badalov with his wife.
Governance, economy, corruption. FB users note that some pensions, all previously received from the International Bank, are now transferred via Kapital Bank, which does it a few days earlier than the former. They also observe another limitation on the purchase of the dollar currency. Samir Aliyev, the economist, comments that people are complaining that often it is not possible to buy more than $20,000 dollars – the limit established by the Central Bank, but responsibility for which the latter puts on other banks. He argues that the currency purchase limit is obviously part of the official policy to control the exchange rate and that the Central Bank should openly announce that, rather than put responsibility on other banks. The FB users share the news that the Inform Xeber TV head Azer Kazimov and the employee Rubaba Veliyeva get money from the families of martyrs in the regions to make a video report about them. The e-media reports a new field of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey – the introduction of paid highways in Azerbaijan. Azadlyg newspaper writes that the president of SOCAR which finished the year with significant losses of 1b 700m manat, has awarded himself and his 12 vice-presidents each with bonuses of 106,000 manats. Tofug Yagublu comments that everyone knows that President Aliyev has turned SOCAR in his family’s company. The FB community continues to discuss money laundering scandal in London with the participation of Ilham Aliyev’s cousin. The author of Azad Soz platform comments that by giving £4m to the British agency, she had saved the daughters of Aliyev – Leyla and Arzu. The blogger and investigative journalist Mehman Huseynov stresses that the money expropriated from the cousin belongs to the Azerbaijani people, but instead they went into the budget of the British investigative organs. So, both English and Azerbaijan official elites benefit from the people’s money. He also ironically comments that he enjoys watching the historical final of the European football championship, as if he was enjoying his family playing. Both Italians and British benefit from the Azerbaijani budget – the Italians by constructing a 500m road tunnel in the city, while the British simply by doing nothing and just taking millions and transferring it to their budget. He concludes that the Azerbaijani government feeds everyone except its own people. The other activists also mention the recent business and corruption scenario while commenting on the final football match. Natig Jafarli of REAL tells the stories of success of Azerbaijanis once they move abroad. He reports a few examples of the excellent careers of Azerbaijanis in the US, such as of the participant of the US Mars Program Allen Mirgadirov who was selected among 6 astronauts and whose family moved to the US when he was 10. Jafarli argues that Azerbaijan’s current conditions are not conducive for the realisation of the rich talents and potential of its people, because it is not knowledge and expertise required as promotion in the country. FB users share the news about the suspicious death of Anar Sujayev a waiter at the resort belonging to the MP Igbal Mammadov. The family of Sujayev suggests that he was first murdered and then thrown into the river, where his body was discovered. Yadigar Sadikhli of Musavat describes the alarming decrease of arable lands in Lenkoran region – one of the richest agricultural regions of the country, with a subtropical climate. He argues that for years the best arable lands were sold to oligarchs for building villas and commercial projects. That’s why they started cutting the woods to free lands for tea plantations, which Lenkoran was famous for. But this process was stopped by the resistance of the eco-activists led by Javid Gara. People are also making fun of the idea of building smart cities, towns and bus stops in the country, as those which were built failed, and most of state enterprises are drown in debts.
Democracy, power-opposition relations. Ali Karimli of PFP states in his video appeal, that whatever these authorities do, they do it with one purpose: to stay longer in power and to steal even more. He also stresses that all violations of human rights and the arbitrariness of the government cannot be achieved without the sanctioning of the President himself. The FB readers share news about the suicide of the head of police office #4, Lieutenant-Colonel Rahib Mirzayev. They note that his brother is the head of the Department of Internal Investigations of the Ministry of Interior, which is known for its functioning by political solicitation or bribery. Thus, they question the capacity of the department to investigate the case objectively. The FB community shares and comments on the information about the action of Azerbaijani activists in exile in front of the Swiss Embassy in Germany, demanding the abolition of the criminal case against Fuad Aghayev and other activists opened by the government on request from SOCAR, and punishment of the Swiss bureaucrats responsible for providing the address of Fuad Aghayev to Azerbaijan authorities. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports that the person whom he sued for the blackening and slander campaign against him (apparently Ramin Hajili), was arrested, accused of fraud in connection with sending people to Germany. The political and civil leaders, opposition activists and journalists express their condolences to Tofig Yagublu in connection with the loss of his mother. They decry not lifting the travel ban of Tofig Yagublu to enable him visit his mother in Georgia’s Bolnisi region where she had lived, to see her and participate in her funeral. Earlier, they did not allow her grandson to visit her when her health had started to seriously deteriorate. People share the heartbreaking story of the inhuman treatment of the Yagublu family by not allowing them to see their dying member. The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil recalls how she could not to see her dying mother due to the travel ban imposed on her and expresses her deep sympathy to Yagublu. Ali Karimli of PFP questions the sincerity of the Ministry of Interior, when they appeal to the society and young people to co-operate and help them in preventing the drug trade. He points to the recent arrest connected with drug use – the trumped-up accusations of the member of Muslim Unity Movement, Razi Humbatov, who was himself fighting the drug issue, posting critical messages on his FB page. He stresses that in addition to this, the arrest of Humbatov is a blow to the national image and thus national interests of the country, as it extends the list of political prisoners. Karimli expresses his protest in the #I protest campaign at the arrest of Humbatov and all other political prisoners.
Liberal freedoms. The FB community continues to discuss events in Georgia and the region in regard to exercise of freedoms. Many activists, such as Dashgin Agalarli and others, were all shocked by news of death of the journalist declaring LGBT rights, beaten up by radicals at the pride parade in Georgia. They shared news of Georgian activist Yelena Khoshtaria’s painting the government buildings doors in red in protest at the death of the journalist and cameraman Lekso Lashkava. Nurlan Libre reported that the leader of the Muslim Unity Movement, Taleh Bagirzade condemned the LGBT movement from prison as immoral. After his visit to Tbilisi, Rasul Jafarov of REAL considers that the violent events in July in Georgia and the related political process should be viewed in the context of upcoming local elections, including those of the mayor of Tbilisi. The activists also follow Georgian society’s demands for their government to resign. Afghan Mukhtarli, journalist in exile, argues that the authorities restrict people’s freedoms not only by repression, blackmail and buy-offs, but also by creating the legal basis for dictatorship. He stresses that the recent legal amendments about fines for legal defenders and on the media is evidence of this. He points to the objective of the amendments, which is to prevent sending cases to the European Court for Human Rights and calls for public expression in the form of protest in front of the CoE and the EU.
Human rights. Meydan TV reports the arrest of the head of the Azerbaijani European Movement, Ramin Hajili, as an accused in a criminal case. The Line of Defence human rights organisation updates the FB community on the status of detained member of the Muslim Unity Movement Razi Humbatov, held in the Department of Organised Crime at the Ministry for Internal Affairs and reportedly is being administered torture. The organisation demands that the head of the press service of the Ministry, Ehsan Zahidov, give an official information about the detainee, asks the Ombudsman Office and International Red Cross Society to monitor the issue and calls on society not to stay indifferent to the case. Meydan TV reports the action of animal rights activists in front of the Toplan – protection of street dogs society – against the shooting of stray dogs. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov appeals to society to express their protest against the arbitrary and repressive policies of the authorities. He reminds his followers that this government abducts, gives tortures, beats up its critics, arbitrarily releases whoever it wants while accuses the others on trumped-up charges. Tofig Yagublu, who now has 6 years’ experience behind bars, mentions the still-preserved inertia in his house not to throw away plastic containers from cheese, as they were used by his family to bring the meals to him and his daughter when they were in prison.
Victory of Shahriyar Mammadyarov over Harry Kasparov. The FB community cheers the victory of the young Azerbaijani chess player, Shahriyar Mammadyarov, over the ex-world champion Harry Kasparov, in just 7 moves. Mammadyarov expresses his admiration by Kasparov, whom he called a genius, having admired him all 28 years of his chess activity, all this time waiting for this game. He expresses his love and appreciation of his fans, who gave him a lot of support and called this game “a piece of history”. Both chess players are from Baku; Harry Kasparov currently lives in Moscow and New York.