Center for National and International Studies
“In the era after Ilham Aliyev, in a democratic Azerbaijan, the Tartar crimes will be given a completely objective legal and political assessment.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Members of the Sumgayit Youth Legal Awareness Public Union reported that they have been preparing an appeal to present to the UN Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) on behalf of human rights activist and investigative journalist Elchin Mammad, who has been in prison for more than two years. The Public Union stated that the arrest of Elchin Mammad is a response to his activities as a human rights activist, his critical reports on the human rights situation in the country, his writings against corruption, and his posts on social networks. Mammad has been in custody since March 2020, and the Supreme Court did not grant his appeal.
Tofig Mammadov, a member of the Popular Front Party, said that he would start hunger strike in protest of the injustice committed against him. Mammadov was trying to support his family by selling fruits and vegetables on the street near the Inshaatchilar metro station, but the police did not allow him and took away his fruit cart. Mammadov was repeatedly detained and taken to police stations in the past, was detained again, and fined 100 manats. The police confiscated products worth 700 manats that he was supposed to sell. Mamamdov said that street vending was his only source of income. As this would lead to the starvation of his family members, who depended on his daily income, Mammadov made a radical decision to start a dry hunger strike.
Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu said that Elkhan Aliyev, who had been sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention a month earlier, was rearrested as soon as he was released from prison. According to Yagublu, this is one of the methods president Aliyev uses to remove the opposition from public space. Yagublu also added that the authorities tried to prevent him from taking pictures with the Ukrainian flag on Ukrainian Square in Baku.
Samir Ashurov, a political migrant in Germany, was detained after being deported to Azerbaijan. The official allegation is that Ashurov stabbed a stranger. Ashurov said a few days ago that he was being persecuted for his political activities and would be arrested on trumped-up charges. Criminal cases have already been opened against four political migrants deported to Azerbaijan from abroad. They were all charged with drug use, although it is believed that they were arrested for their political views.
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli reacted to Ashurov’s arrest, saying that “Ilham Aliyev takes revenge on migrants.” Mukhtarli wrote: In his speeches, he (Aliyev) repeatedly targeted Azerbaijani migrants in Europe, calling them agents of foreign governments. On his orders, migrants in Europe have been beaten, stabbed, kidnapped, and arrested. The German government is responsible for these arrests too. Five political migrants were arrested after returning to Azerbaijan. While they were in the deportation camp, the German government was informed about each of them and that they would be arrested upon their return in Baku. But to no avail. I immediately informed them about Samir Ashurov.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov shared similar opinion saying that German authorities’ “lip service to democracy and human rights is an evil equal to the brutality of dictatorships.” Goyushov wrote: I am not going to accuse Azerbaijani authorities. Because Azerbaijan is a dictatorship, and this is the way dictatorship actually works. Dictatorships can not survive without inflicting injustice. In order to survive, they have to arrest, kill, launch attacks and then bribe the West to get tacit, behind doors approval for their crimes. My question is addressed to German authorities. Are you a democracy? Do you have something to do with human rights? Are you sure? Your lip service to democracy and human rights is an evil equal to the brutality of dictatorships. Dictatorships inflict physical damage, you intentionally kill hope and belief in those values!”
“I was against the war, but I was the first to be enlisted,” said Rasul Huseynli, a 27-year-old participant in the Second Karabakh War who was injured during the fights. Huseynli complained that despite his continuous he was not able to get a degree of disability.
The Tartar Case: notorious torture committed against hundreds of soldiers and officers
Seven people have been arrested in connection with the Tartar case, and one is put on Interpol’s list of wanted persons. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, as a result of the investigations, 397 soldiers and officers were recognized as victims of torture. Hundreds of Azerbaijani soldiers and officers were declared traitors and subjected to inhuman physical and psychological torture, during which they were humiliated, forced to sign confessions, and brutally killed. The verdict against 16 officers who were charged was overturned, and they were acquitted. Thirteen individuals who were killed during the torture were acquitted.
Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu reacted to the new investigations by saying that “at first, Aliyev tried to hide the crimes in Tartar, because well aware of what has been carried.” According to Yagublu, only later, “when the was a public outcry, he was forced to investigate this heinous crime.” Tofigli wrote: Exactly a year ago, the military prosecutor Khanlar Valiyev called the allegations about the Tartar crime a “fiction”. If Ilham Aliyev still keeps this man in office, then he is unprincipled. Khanlar Valiyev was the first person who should have been arrested for the Tartar crime. If Ilham Aliyev still keeps him in office, it means that he protects the criminal and is not interested in a completely objective investigation of the case.”
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli says that he doesn’t think that the Tartar crimes will be solved completely. Karimli wrote: How is it possible that only low-ranking and middle-ranking executives are responsible for the horrific crimes that the prosecutor’s office recognizes as 397 victims and that 13 people were tortured to death? In other words, should we really believe that any operatives, servicemen, and investigators in this country can torture 13 people to death and torture hundreds of people at their own discretion? I said from the very beginning that as long as Ilham Aliyev is in power, the crimes in Tartar will not be solved until the end. I still think so. But I am sure that in the era after Ilham Aliyev, in a democratic Azerbaijan, the Tartar crimes will be given a completely objective legal and political assessment.”
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that if there were no public protests and if this issue was not on the agenda, the government would continue to deny the allegations of torture. Hajiyev added that “the public should not forget this issue until the day when all high-ranking officials involved in the Tartar crimes will be punished.” According to Hajiyev, “this crime was the greatest betrayal against the Azerbaijani state, the Azerbaijani people and the Azerbaijani army, and everyone who plans, assigns and executes it must be punished in the harshest possible way.”
The chairman of the Chamber of Accounts Vugar Gulmammadov said that “869 million manats were written off from the budget and misappropriated.” During the discussion of the report “on the activities of the Chamber of Accounts in 2021” at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy, Industry and Entrepreneurship, Gulmammadov said that, as a result of their inspections, “it was found that none of this amount was recognized as it was simply written off.”
Ehsan Zahidov, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, reacted to growing demands for removing lockdown measures such as masks in public spaces. Zahidov said that “police officers, who have been carrying out control and preventive measures for more than two years, have never been and are not interested in imposing fines on the people.” According to the decision of the Operational Headquarters, it is still mandatory to use medical masks indoors and on public transport. The implementation and control of these decisions made by the Operational Headquarters are ensured by the police officers. Social media users and activists demand that, considering the strong decline in the number of COVID patients, the lockdown measures should be lifted.
Social and Economic Issues
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reported that in the last three days, about 20-30 people were called to the police station because of their comments or likes on critical posts on Facebook. Hajiyev added that two women were fined by the police for breaking lockdown restrictions, and despite their objection, the police kept arguing with them and fined them heavily. When the video of the incident became viral on social media, those who wrote critical comments were called to the police departments. Hajiyev added: The Ministry of Internal Affairs must immediately stop this shameful, cheap practice. If you are criticized, look for flaws in your actions. One of your employees is standing and arguing with two women for hours which was utterly unnecessary. If people are fed up due to the nonsense restrictions and excessive fines, and if someone writes about it, you should blame yourselves, not the citizens.”
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli pointed out the “terrible situation in the country,” saying that unemployment and rising prices have reached the point of social catastrophe. Gahramanli wrote: “In the first three months of this year, Azerbaijan exported $ 7.9 billion worth of goods. Of this, $ 7.2 billion consists of oil and gas exports. If 91% of exports are oil and gas, there is no need to mention the situation in the non-oil sector. As a result of this huge gap, there are no jobs in the country, and living conditions are getting worse day by day.”
Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that although he was not “very concerned about the enthusiasm shown by the teenagers at the meeting of blogger Huseyn Hasanov in Baku, he was disappointed by the humiliation they faced.” Ibadoghlu argued that hostile attitude against young people is, to a larger extent, due to authoritarian rule. Ibadoghlu wrote: “The closed society in Azerbaijan, the restriction of political freedoms, the low quality of education, the widespread use of drugs hinders the development of the public consciousness of some young people, narrow their worldview and perspective, critical thinking. One of the sayings relevant for Azerbaijan today is that “society is like a garden: if you do not take care of it, weeds will prevail.” Let’s think, where can the youth of Azerbaijan stand out to show their talent and realize themselves? During my 25 years of pedagogical activity in Azerbaijan, I met many talented young people who could not realize their potential in the country, but later I saw that most of them had many successes abroad. Therefore, we should not be sad about what happened, if we can save the country from authoritarianism, if we stop the outflow of our youth, then society and youth will develop.” Ibadoghlu also informed his followers on social media that the Oil Fund has lost $ 1 billion in the first three months of this year. According to Ibadoghlu, “the losses over the past quarter have been largely due to the devaluation of assets the Fund has placed on the Russian market and, despite repeated warnings in recent years, has not withdrawn.” SOFAZ (The State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan) has released information on revenues and expenditures for January-March 2022. According to the statement, the State Oil Fund lost 1,660,800,000 (1 billion 660 million 800 thousand) manats in the first quarter of this year.
April 22, 2022