Center for National and International Studies
“Almost every day, while more than half of the population live below the poverty line, there is news about a new corruption scandal, money laundering, and long lists of illegal properties of the oligarchs and officials.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Head of APFP Ali Karimli argued that the government is preparing for the next wave of repressions and crackdown. Karimli wrote: They are preparing to crack down on people who do not break the law and don’t have any intention to go beyond the peaceful demonstrations. I officially declare that the allegations made by the government media and its supporters against the National Council and the Popular Front Party are lies and disgusting slander, an attempt to discredit the opposition. We demand that the authorities renounce this criminal intention. The people of Azerbaijan know that the National Council and the Popular Front Party reject the violent struggle for power. Yes, we want to change this government. We have held rallies with various demands against this government, and we will organize them again after the pandemic. But we want to change the government in a peaceful, constitutional way through elections, and sooner or later, our people will achieve their goal. Authoritarianism, family rule, and rigged elections will be brought to an end in Azerbaijan. The people will be able to choose and change their government. No provocation or insidious plan of the government will be able to prevent its inevitable defeat.”
Ramish Jafarov, a truck driver who blocked the road in Baku, was sentenced to two months in detention. He is charged under Article 233 of the Criminal Code (organizing or actively participating in actions that violate public order). If found guilty, he faces up to two years in prison. The other two truck drivers were sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention. Pro-governmental media outlets argued that the truck drivers received orders from the West to cause social unrest. The truck drivers were protesting against the two officials who failed to provide permits to transport the goods. The society and FB community were outraged by the reactions of the officials against the truck drivers. Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that the argument that the truck drivers protested on the orders of the West is nonsense and is aimed at labeling anyone who protests against the violation of their rights. Mukhtarli wrote: Ilham Aliyev sees every protester as the agent of the West. First, politicians, then NGOs and journalists were called agents of the West. Now the drivers are the agents of the West. This list will continue to expand. Drivers, oil workers, sellers, cooks, in short, the whole nation will turn into the men of the West. There is a reason for this, and it is Ilham Aliyev‘s thief, bloodthirsty, corrupt, and fake regime. If the road was closed by drivers yesterday, the cooks would take to the streets tomorrow, one day, oil workers will protest, another day, the unemployed will join them. Arrest and torture, dissemination of apologetic videos will not work.” Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that the protest of the drivers could easily be avoided if their complaints were taken into consideration. Hajiyev wrote: If the government officials in charge of the press, socio-political issues, had seen the signals of the protest, what happened today would not have happened. Days before the drivers’ protest, there were articles that the truck drivers were complaining about not receiving permits. Instead of listening to their complaints, the officials opened a criminal case against the citizens. As if it was not the fault of the respective authorities, they try to put the blame on the drivers and claim that Iran, the United States, and Israel are behind this.”
Meydan TV reports that singer Manaf Aghayev, who shared a video of his visit to Fizuli, and accompanying businessman Sanan Huseynov were arrested. According to the decision of the Yasamal District Court, Aghayev and Huseynov were detained for 15 days for their illegal visits to Fizuli. Earlier this year, the government made an announcement that the Azerbaijani citizens could visit the liberated territories once a year with the permission of the authorities.
Journalist Seymur Hezi reported that government agencies deduct membership fees from the salaries of the members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP). Hezi wrote: Is there any legislation for this? To this day, there are many people who complain about it. Teachers’ and doctors’ salaries are cut without their knowledge. When asked, they were told that it was for the membership fee of the YAP. Another problem is that people cannot leave the YAP. They need to provide a signed resignation letter from the party in order to suspend the deduction from their salaries. However, their applications are not considered.”
Governance, corruption, transparency
The International Union of Investigative Journalists has published an investigation into the large-scale corruption of the head of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Vasif Talibov, and his sons. The study shows that the Talibovs own large estates in various parts of the world. Vasif Talibov‘s son Seymur Talibov’s $ 34 million hotel in Dubai is one of them. According to the investigation, Talibov brothers earned $ 20 million through the Azerbaijani money-laundering machine alone, bought $ 63 million worth of property in Georgia and Dubai, and transferred money into Swiss banks on behalf of their Cahan Holding employees. A recent study by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) focused on the Talibov family’s assets abroad and their links to money laundering. The report discusses the capital that the Talibovs have taken out of the country through offshore companies. Vasif Talibov‘s annual salary is officially less than $ 26,000. His sons work in low-paid government jobs (Rza Talibov is an official of the migration service, and Seymour Talibov is a member of the Nakhchivan parliament).
Gahraman Gahramanov, who was the mayor of Yalavaj, Mahammadli, and Rasullu villages of Imishli region in 2014-2019, said in a court hearing that he was appointed to this position by paying bribe. “I took a loan from the bank, gave it to the chief executive in order to be the mayor. That is to say, I paid the cost and became the mayor,” Gahramanov said at the trial of former Imishli chief executive Vilyam Hajiyev on February 18.
Economic and Social issues
Azadliq newspaper reports that an entire family of 5 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Gusar. Close relatives of the family who left Baku to attend the funeral had a car accident on the Baku-Guba highway. A father, a mother, and a year-old baby died in the accident. Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu said that the root cause of these deaths lies in corruption. Yagublu wrote on FB: “two families of eight people fell victim to greed and corruption in the country. It is known to everyone that gas provided in households is not good for use. That is why every winter, about ten people die of carbon monoxide poisoning. At the 43rd kilometer of the Baku-Guba highway, where the accident took place, the road was uneven and bumpy. The driver, who was driving at high speed, lost control on the cracked part of the road, and the whole family died in the accident. May God have mercy on both families. And we, as a nation, once again realize that corruption not only robs us of our national wealth but also kills individuals and whole families.”
The press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office reports that a mother and her two young children were killed by her husband in Baku on Monday. A journalist living in the same residential building reports that earlier on that day, the neighbors called the police after hearing the screams of the children. However, the police who came to the site said that “it’s a family issue and they can not intervene” and left shortly after. Reacting to the tragic incident, activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that “the law enforcement agencies are waiting until the last moment, and only after the crime happens they take action. Hajiyev wrote: It would be possible to save the lives of the mother and her two children by intervening yesterday…For months, I have not been able to explain this to our glorious law enforcement agencies, saying that their job is not only to investigate the crimes but also to take preventive measures.”
Head of APFP Ali Karimli linked the discontent in society with the widespread corruption and malfunctioning of the political institutions. Karimli wrote: “Social tension in the country is growing not only every month, every week, but every day. Various groups are protesting against injustice in small groups. At the same time, social stratification is deepening. Oligarchs and corrupt officials are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. Almost every day, while more than half of the population live below the poverty line, there is news about a new corruption scandal, money laundering, and long lists of illegal properties of the oligarchs and officials.”
Post War Situation
Azadliq newspaper reports that the so-called parliament of Armenian separatists in Karabakh has adopted a law on “occupied territories”. The separatists have declared Shusha and Hadrut, “occupied territory,” which is believed to pave the way for a future ceasefire violation. Meanwhile, about 200 Armenians in civilian clothes blocked the Azerbaijani civilians and military vehicles from Sugovushan to Kalbajar. Independent journalists report that numerous residential and administrative buildings are being constructed in Khojali and the Malibeyli village of Shusha. Reacting to these developments in Karabakh region, head of APFP Ali Karimli said that “there is no doubt that these measures, carried out under the direct leadership of Russian “peacekeepers”, are aimed at strengthening the position of Armenian separatists in Karabakh, moving Karabakh away from Azerbaijan and tightening its ties with Russia.”
February 22, 2022