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Center for National and International Studies
“…We should all learn lessons from the events in Afghanistan!…”
Post-conflict situation. The FB community is highly concerned by the frequent violations of the ceasefire. It reports with the reference to the Ministry of Defense Armenian forces firing at the Azerbaijani positions from the 14th in of August in Nakhichevan, Kelbajar and Shusha. It is also reported that the two civilian automobiles arrived from the Russia controlled territory near Shusha and opened fire against Azerbaijani posts. The opposition and civil society leaders and journalists observe that the government itself is aware of the threat of the third war. By the 17th of August the exchange of fire was taking place along all state border. The opposition leaders continue to comment on the president’s statement on the people’s rights to live in Zangezur and Goycha. Ali Karimli of PFP comments with irony, that Azerbaijani people who are humble are not in a hurry to return to those regions in Armenia, but rather request the return of their homes in Khankendi, Khojali, Agdere, Khocavend, Asgaran in Karabagh. People also decry Russian peacekeepers’ allowing military equipment to Karabagh. Seymur Hezi of PFP argues that while nobody takes seriously official rhetoric on Zangezur and Goycha, the president continues to use it to inspire the pseudo-nationalists.
President’s interview to CNN. The activists discuss the president Aliyev’s interview to CNN. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR stresses a few moments in this interview: admitting that Russia arms Karabagh forces, besides Armenia herself, expressing concern on non-implementation of the trilateral agreement, dissatisfaction with Russian and Iran policies, stating that relations with Turkey are expanding and the West especially EU supports opening of the transport routes and communication. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP stresses that the president expressed ideas of opposition, which he previously criticized. Ilham Aliyev called Russia an ally of Armenia, which according to Gahramanli, makes Russia’s peacekeeping a serious strategic mistake. For the first time, the president expressed his dissatisfaction with the activities of Russian peacekeepers, admitted that Armenia tries to increase tension in the zone of conflict, sending armed forces, which are also armed by Russia. For the first time he characterized the opening of communications and transportation routes not in the context of interests of Russia, but EU. PFP activist concludes, that taking into account the complicated relations with regional powers, such as Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan needs to take practical steps in regards integration in the EU. The journalist Afghan Mukhtarli also noted that president Aliyev “complained of Russians”. He reminds the readers that many activists and journalists predicted repetition by Russia of the scenarios which she introduced in the other secessionist conflicts– Abkhazia, Ossetia etc. – introduction of Russian as an official language, distribution of Russian passports, the new owners of the passports joining the peacekeeping forces etc.” Hard times are awaiting us”- he concludes. Natig Jafarli of REAL, while supporting some president’s ideas, criticized the interview for lack of vision – he for instance, did not clarify and show the ways in which the Armenian citizens of Azerbaijan will be integrated in society, such as via local elections etc. Many also took a notice with irony of president’s mentioning that his wife Mehriban asked him to stop to tell: “ So now what, Pashinian?”. The government representatives, members of YAP (ruling party) praised the president’s interview. MP Siyavush Novruz stressed following ideas of the president: Armenia should come up with specific position and return to the negotiation table, rather than continue to support the situation of uncertainty, Azerbaijan is in favor of deepening of the cooperation in the region, but it will stop any provocation or attempt of the illegal activities. Ali Karimli comments on the president statement, that during the war with Armenia Azerbaijan has been following all the international legal norms- “ Why does not he follow legal norms in treatment of his own people?”
Insults by Jirinovski. The community continues to discuss the argument between the diplomat Isfandiyar Vahabzade and MP Rasim Musabekov over humiliating statements of Russia’s politician Vladimir Jirinovski about Azerbaijan. The strong reaction to the weak response of the authorities to the Russian politician’s insults, and asymmetry in such reaction in Baku and Moscow ( the latter declared ban on entrance to Russia for Vahabzade, while the former in contrary – previously warmly hosted Jirinovski) indicated growing dissatisfaction with Russia in the country. The idea of manipulation by Zangezur (Siunik region in Armenia) in order to distract people’s attention from the fact of unrestored sovereignty over Karabagh is popular among activists. The relations with Russia is a permanent topic of debates on FB. Ali Karimli of PFP analysed Russia–Azerbaijan relations to clarify whether there is a true tension or it is just another game.
Social problems. Azad Soz reports the forceful destruction of people’s houses by the groups of the deputy speaker of the parliament Adil Aliyev. The academic and opposition activist Jamil Hasanli attracts attention to the water supply shortage in the country. He recalls that until recently there was no such a desperate situation with water. He names some objective reasons of the water shortage, such as only 15% of all water resources of the South Caucasus is in Azerbaijan ,there is a contamination of the rivers by the neighboring states, the water resources were under occupation for 30 years. And subjective reasons- water wastefulness, water supply system infrastructure’s collapse, misappropriation of the water resources by the oligarchs etc. But the main reason he argues is the poor management. He recalls the presidential decree about the water resources of the liberated lands of the 19th April 2021 and comments, that “ people need not the decree but the water”. He comments with irony, that by the time of completion of the smart cities, the poor donkeys, who carry the water, while being thirsty themselves will die. The e-media calls the new presidential decree on the Rights of the Handicapped a serious blow to their situation. According to this law- the loss of 30-60% of ability is given the 3d category, 60-80% – the 2nd, and 80-100% – the 1st one.
Governance, economy, corruption. FB community discuss another investigation by the journalist, blogger and activist Mehman Huseynov – this time on the illegal riches of the head of Baku Executive Power Departnent of Communal Housing Rafail Mehraliyev. He was selling abroad the road equipment – property of state. Meydan TV reports the death in Turkey of the brother of the Anar Alizade who has been in deep business relations with SOCAR. It also reports revealed corruption– 88 thousand 622 misappropriated funds in a year and a half in the boarding school under control of the Ministry of Education. The economist Samir Aliyev reminds the FB community that it is the 29th anniversary of the national currency – manat. He describes the evolution of the trust to it by the population which reached its peak in 2014, but decreased by now. He argues that the guarantor of such trust is strong and sustainable economy. He warns that time works against manat, whose value is supported by the oil revenues- “ while the decision on the fate of manat today is given by the government, tomorrow it will be given by alternative energy”, he concludes. People are interested in the fate of illegal money syphoned to the UK by the corrupt oligarchs and whether they will ever be returned to the Azerbaijan people. Commenting on the official ceremony of launching construction of the Lachin international airport, the academic and one of the leaders of NCDF Jamil Hasanli critically assesses president’s decision to build 3 airports ( along with those in Zangilan and Fizuli) in the relatively small territory. ( total 6 airports in Azerbaijan). He lists the failed projects during the 18 years of the president’s rule, such as Ismayilli bicycle factory, the international airport in Zakatala, Neftchala automobile factory etc. and argues that most probably the planned airports will follow their fate. The FB community discusses the other cases of corruption, such as the trial of the deputy Minister of Culture Rafig Bayramov, who denied that he was taking bribes. Some suspect that he was a scapegoat, but the true culprit is the minister. Hebib Muntazir reports the illegal business of the MP Iltizam Yusifov. In spite of the legal prohibition of business activities for the MPs ( except for pedagogical activities), he has been a vice-president of the Shirvan Operating Company Ltd, and was also getting salary at the registered in Kayman Islands Karasu Operating Company. This is against the background of the problems with salary payments to the companies’ employees earlier reported by the media. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev considers the Flag Square the symbol of poor governance of the country. He recalls that so many houses were demolished, so much money was spent to construct the highest flagpole in the world, but now there is no a flagpole or the flag in the square. The activists share the story about the German tourists in Azerbaijan: the 5 year child got sick while his family was visiting Azerbaijan, but the local toxicologists said that diagnosis will require 15 hours. The German embassy arranged the plane in 3 hours, so the child was taken back to the German doctors. The activists unanimously called the story with ironic reference to the official propagandist cliché:” Germany is collapsing”.
Withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan. This is the dominating FB topic related to foreign events on Azerbaijan FB. Some stress that with Taliban in power an illegal drug and weapons sale will turn into a legal one, and it will arm the radical religious groups in the region, will cause strong refugee flow- mainly to Turkey. One of the journalists called it a threat to the secular values in the world. The society observes that nobody- neither people, nor authorities- resisted takeover by Taliban. Yadigar Sadyghli reminds his followers the history of power in Afghanistan since the 1950s and argues that the state power has never been strong anywhere beyond the big cities. The female writer Gunel Movlud stresses the danger of creation of another state in the East based on Sharia laws and argues that neighboring states, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are taken by fear. She asserts that government should protect the groups such as feminists, eco-anarchists, LGBT defenders, secular opposition instead of persecuting them. The female opposition leader Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF comments with irony, that now so much criticized in some parts of the world for “ creating confrontation in the Muslim states” the US, West has left Afghanistan and Taliban is on the way to create a Sharia law based state with “progressive” education, “perfect” health and social protection system. She argues that the events in Afghanistan prove importance of the will of people to fight for their rights and better lives. “ To be a nation, human being, a citizen- one need to have a will!” She asserts that people instead of the rule of law, democracy and dignified life just wanted money and these are the ones, who has left their families behind and sticked to the wheels of the US plane. “ We should all learn lessons of the events in Afghanistan!- concludes Hajibeyli. The other activist– Fuad Gahramanli of PFP comments that the dark face of Islam– Taliban has arrived to Kabul and the appearance of their leader can be a good example for anti-Islamic propaganda. In contrary, the representative of AG party Ahad Mammadli argues that Taliban is the only chance of stability in Afghanistan and if they do not repeat the mistakes of the first period of governance, they will at last bring peace and stability to the country. Some comment with irony, that the number of Azerbaijanis who left their country for Europe exceeds number of Afghanis who left their country after US withdrawal. The political and civil society leaders react with great concern to Taliban taking over the power in the country, fearing for the fate of human rights, especially women’s rights, liberties and other consequences. People have been horrified by the scenes of the falling Afghan refugees from the flying plane. The political commentator in exile in the US Ramiz Yunus argues that the events in Afghanistan is an evidence of “a complete fiasco of the US policies and NATO allies in this country”. He sees it as part of the wider failure of policy in Iraq, Syria, Lybia, and post-Soviet space, such as Georgia and Ukraine, calling it” a systemic crisis of the military -political doctrine”. The local activists support the statement by Joe Biden on Afghanistan. Some interpret it as a willingness “to outsource the trouble” to Russia and China. The activists and human rights defenders share with alarm and high concern the updates about women politicians and officials in Kabul, such as on the situation of first female head of municipality. The activists tend not to blame the external forces for the problems of Afghanistan, but rather, according for instance to Tofig Yagublu, the domestic reasons, such as way of thinking and ignorance. The FB users also share comment that the main loser in the situation is the company Silk Way owned by the president’s family, which was the leading company carrying the cargo to Afghanistan for the US troops. Ilgar Mammadov reports that former UK ambassador to Azerbaijan, Sir Laurie Bristow in his capacity of the UK Ambassador to Afghanistan refused to be evacuated home and stayed in Kabul in case if anyone needs viza to the UK. Mammadov highly praised the action of Bristow, calling him brave and commented that he was not surprised as remembered his principled diplomatic service in Baku. The issue of refugees is also actively discussed on FB. Ilkin Rustamzade contrasts the world wide aid and reception of refugees by the German government to the silence of the oil billionaires of the Gulf states. The youth leader Ulvi Hasanli comments on the promises of Taliban to provide for women’s rights based on Sharia. He argues, that it is better then to say from the beginning that there will not be any rights of women. Hasanli also decries their attempt to decide to give or not give rights to women. “ You are supposed to believe in Allah, why do you behave like Allah?” He concludes that religious regimes in Iran and Afghanistan should be a warning to Azerbaijan society to do its utmost to prevent them in their own country. The analyst and opposition politician Azer Gasimli argues that Azerbaijan is not Afghanistan, but the probability of its transformation is directly connected to Ilham Aliyev’s system of governance which aims at providing for wellbeing of only 1% of the population.
Solidarity with victims of repressions in Myanmar. The youth leader Ilkin Rustamzade, a former political prisoner and an author of the newly published popular book about his experience in prison, expresses his solidarity with activists of Myanmar, joining the campaign #WeStandWithMyanmar and appeals to the FB community to join him too. He reports that because of the cruel repressions, the young activists throw themselves from the high buildings committing suicide in order to avoid being captured by the regime.
However, the Ambassador of Georgia, the country, which is integrating in the EU, refused to accept the resolution of the protesters. One of them commented that this is the first case of refusal in many years of protest experience in Europe.
President’s speech in Kelbajar. The opposition reacted strongly to yet another attempt of Ilham Aliyev to discredit and blame the Popular Front government for losing Shusha, Lachin and Kelbajar to Armenia in the early 90s. Arif Hajili of Musavat party commented that the president in Kelbajar was in his role again: he blamed the PFP for what have been in reality done by his father and himself, but “the lies if repeated many times still do not become truth”. The truth is that Heydar Aliyev is a symbol of the slavery to Moscow and founder of corruption and bribery in the country. The statue to the Bolshevik Shahumian and 11th Red Army was also erected during Aliyev’s rule. He mentions the power struggle’s role in the defeats, but points to the Aliyev’s supporters who waged it in order to bring him back to power in the 1990s. Panah Huseyn, ex-premier in the PFP government, called the accusations of PFP in the president’s speech” slander, libel and lies”. Osmangizi TV called the speech “ a demagogy”.
Democracy, power-society relations. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that this is how the state dies: when the culprits are not punished, but the innocents are persecuted. He lists unjust court decisions, tortures and slander against activists and comments that none of those to blame were punished or tried. The leader of REAL party Ilgar Mammadov reminds the readers the meeting of Stalin with the ambassador of Afghanistan to Moscow in 1946 and suggests in its modernization policy to take example from Azerbaijan and Japan. Seymur Hezi of PFP reported provocation of the authorities against him- they have spread the photoshopped status on his behalf. Tural Abbasli of AG Party argues that the biggest problem of this government is that instead of finding common language with its own people, it tries to find it with Russia or with the US, instead of looking for an agreement with its people- tries to find an agreement with the EU.
The donkey sanctuary. The story prepared by the analyst Leila Alieva about the donkey sanctuary in the UK was adjusted by the journalist in exile Natig Adilov. He called the video, which collected a few thousands views “ The Happy Donkeys”. The viewers made an immediate connection to Azerbaijan, where the donkeys are widely used in agriculture and are often overexploited, but nobody ever had an idea of sanctuary for donkeys. Some made ironic observations like “our donkeys have even better lives, as they are in the parliament”. The story ends up with the sentence: “ The donkeys are taken care in the UK, even they are happy in this country”
Human rights and liberties. The activists, journalists, bloggers are indignant with the sentence of 4 months in prison to Agil Humbatov, the father of three underage children, who criticized the authorities for not providing social protection and first of all – of child benefits. He was beaten up, slandered, threatened with rape and imprisoned. The human rights NGO the Line of Defense issued a statement demanding to put an end to slander and accusation on trumped up charges of the government critic and father of 3 underage children and the only breadwinner of the family Agil Humbatov. Tofig Yagublu reports that police has beaten up the legal defender Choshgun Iskandarov and threw him out of the building of the Shirvan Court of Appeal. Afghan Mukhtarli warns the Belarus opposition and dissidents not to stay in exile in Georgia, as the agreement between Security Service of Georgia and Belarus KGB just went into force. The e-media and activists widely discuss the life sentence to Yunus Safarov-the attacker on the head of executive power of Ganja city Elmar Veliyev and contrast it to 6 months of imprisonment sentence to the Armenian saboteurs. The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov attracts attention to the violation of the legal process and procedure in this case, such as absence of evidence of the involvement of the other accused in the case. He assures that he will try to achieve justice at the higher levels of the court. However, he decried the spread in the media Safarov’s speech in the court as the propaganda of violence. In spite of the filing numerous motions by Bahruz Bayramov – the legal defender of Ruslan Amirov -the security guard of Ali Karimli of PFP-the Baku Court of Appeals did not grant any of the motions. Dashgin Aghalarli and other activists and journalists commemorate the late journalist Rasim Aliyev, who was killed in 2015 and whose death remained uninvestigated. The journalists remind the tragic death of the young activist Asim Mammadov who was born in Baku in 1994, and studied at the Oriental Department of the State University. He spoke at the protest action in Nardaran after arrest of the religious leader Taleh Baghirzade and then was hijacked by the employees of the so called Bandotdel – the Lead Department of the Fight with Organized Crime. In 2013 he disappeared again, and 10 days after his body was found in the sea.