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Center for National and International Studies
Current FB posts continue to highlight a profound sense of dissatisfaction with the lack of vision, transparency and due justice in the arena of political affairs. Condemnation of the conduct of specific leaders and oligarchs is underpinned by frustration at the deterioration of social care in administering staples, namely power and bread, at affordable prices. The suicide of a young woman elicits shock and underlines the moral fracturing of society. Historians past and present add critical dimensions to the unfolding drama while comparisons are made with other South Caucasian Republics and countries further afield in their handling of common issues. Biden’s unfolding policies are applauded, and the underlying dilemma of EU integration is reviewed, stressing Aliyev’s reluctance to embrace reform.
Post-war situation. The FB community discusses the fate of the political agreement on the conflict. Osmangizi TV commentators assess the possibility of the approaching big “Daton” peace agreement. The opposition leaders question the opaque statements of President Aliyev, that “Armenia is threatening us”, assert the high social tension in the country, and assume Turkey’s disappointment with the post-war arrangement. The activists and journalists keep the issue of the radical drop in salary of the military serving in Karabagh at the centre of attention. The PFP leader Ali Karimli demands that Ilham Aliyev should clarify his contradictory statement that Armenia, who signed the act on capitulation, is threatening Azerbaijan. He also attracts attention to the indifference of the state to the condition of the war heroes and their families. Karimli discusses how Turkey was marginalized in the post-war situation and query Turkey’s possible actions in this regard. He argues that it is not Russia, but the government of Aliyev, who keeps Turkey at a distance. The FB community shares and decries the celebration of the 33-year anniversary of the so-called Artsakh republic, led by Arayik Harutyunian and the commander of the Russian peacekeepers. The opposition activist Hajibeyli comments on whether the authorities at least confess among themselves that the 10th November trilateral agreement was a total fiasco. Isa Gambar, former leader of the Musavat party, gave an interview to Radio Freedom about the OSCE Minsk group, which “failed both in its format and in its substance”. The journalists of the two states continue their joint programme on the dialogue between Azerbaijani and Armenian societies, which is closely followed by the FB community. The most recent interview by the prominent dissident and opposition leader of Armenia, Paruyr Hayrikian — was particularly widely circulated, even by pro-government sources — as the guest stated that the pogroms in Sumgayit were arranged by the Soviet KGB.
Human rights. FB users share news that the embassy of Azerbaijan in France has sued the popular blogger-in-exile Mahammad Mirzeli and analyses what is behind the recent intensification of the attack on bloggers abroad, including the recent beating-up of Orkhan Agayev by a group of unidentified persons in Germany. The community of activists, journalists and bloggers widely share and decry the expulsion from the Turkish Lyceum of the popular female artist Peri Miniature by its director Aylem Gultakin, for painting a portrait of the founder of the Azerbaijan democratic republic (1918-20) Mammad Emin Rasulzade, and plan to sue her to get arrested. Ilkin Rustamzade comments that she should be ashamed since this represents the Ataturk Lyceum, or, better to change the name of the Lyceum to that of Stalin, because they have a Stalinist way of thinking anyway. The activist of the Masalli branch of the opposition Popular Front Party, Elvin Bahramov, was tried in court and sentenced to 8 days of administrative arrest. Earlier he was brought to the police office for activities on social networks. The Azadlyg newspaper published an article entitled “The government’s fascist treatment of Gultakin Hajibeyli”. It tells the story of Hajibeyli’s son who was accepted by the university in Germany but faced a travel ban by the authorities and could not start his studies. This is part of the long-lasting repression against one of the leaders of the opposition National Council of Democratic Forces — female activist Gultakin Hajibeyli, who was sued by her former husband, an employee of the prosecutor’s office and whom the authorities used to try her on trumped-up charges. She writes: “To take a revenge on the relative of your political rival is simply fascism, a moral terror, a crime… and in this way they are writing the future not of my son, but of their own family members. with just a minor time difference”. Ilkin Rustamzade brings an example of Turkish president Ismet Inonu, who gave permission to the son of Ali Kemal (executed for treason) to take the test for the diplomatic service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commenting that “the sons are not responsible for the deeds of their fathers”. Zeki Kuneralp as a result had a prominent career as a diplomat and ambassador of Turkey in Romania, Czechoslovakiya, Spain, Switzerland, France, the UK and NATO. Meydan TV reports the vigil in front of the US embassy in Baku, attracting attention to the problems of political prisoners of the country, attended by the wives of the prisoners, journalists Afgan Sadykhov and Polad Aslanov, as well as women activists of the Popular Front Party. The opposition media assesses the 4 years of vice presidency of Aliyev’s millionaire wife as “Four years of shame”.
Suicide of Sevil. The FB community is shocked by the suicide of a young girl, Sevil. Before she threw herself from the floor of their building, she left a message that her father had warned her that if he caught her in any “sinful activities” he would kill her, pay the police off with 50,000 Manats and literally get away with murder. Seymur Hezi (PFP) commented that “Everyone is killing each other. The system has destroyed both education and law and created 2 major categories of victims: the physical and the moral. The ‘Homeland of the Fires’ is turning into the ‘Homeland of the Dead’”. Ilkin Rustamzade argues that this event is strong proof that the system is to blame for such a tragic act.
Anniversary of national hero. Activists, journalists and bloggers commemorate the murder by terrorist attack on 21 February 1997 of the prominent historian and public figure, Ziya Buniyadov. Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences, he graduated from the Moscow Institute of Oriental Sciences, and in his time contributed significantly to a deeper visionary understanding of political issues, an openly fearless critic till his last days. The activists stress that his killers were never found, but that when democracy is established in the country, they will surely be located and punished. Historian Jamil Hasanli recalls that when on 10 March 2005 the famous organised group of Haji Mammadov, a criminal, high level employee of the Ministry of the Interior, was arrested, the National Security Agency spread the news that the gun used in the killing of Buniyadov was found in his secret storage. This episode was then withdrawn from further investigation. Hasanli draws attention to the strange fact that Mammadov was a member of the NSA group and General Prosecutor’s Office investigating Buniyadov’s murder. Moreover, the head of this investigation, Royshan Aliyev, was later also killed by Mammadov.
EU Integration. The activist Altay Geyushov comments on the responsiveness of President Aliyev to EU integration. He mentions that although previously Aliyev would explain the EU’s cool attitude by its Islamophobia, the real reason lies in his resistance to the democratic reforms entailed in this process. He recalls Erdogan’s recent declaration that Turkey’s future lay with Europe. Geyushov comments with irony that based on these statements, one would think that Aliyev was a hard Islamic believer, while Erdogan does not care about Islam at all. In fact, religion is just an excuse, as the stumbling block to Azerbaijan’s integration is fundamentally the President’s fear of reforms. The same reason underlies non-entry to the WTO, unlike all Azerbaijan’s neighbours. On the other hand, Tofig Yagublu of the Musavat party and NCDF observes that in an inconsistent way, the president has started to make pro-EU statements recently, indicating the fast-changing situation in the region and beyond.
Economy, governance, corruption. The e-media reports that Vasif Talybov, the head of the Nakhichevan region, is building himself a private empire in Shahbuz. The recently completed trade center Agbulag Khiziyak belongs to the company of his son Seymur Talibov, who is 35 years old. He owns Nakhichevan Holdings which unites more than 35 companies, gas stations, trade and industrial plants and medical clinics. At the same time, he is the MP of Nakhichevan Republic, vice-rector of Nakhichevan University and vice-president of the Azerbaijani Chess Federation. Azadlyg Newspaper reports that ECHR has fined Azerbaijan 234m Euros – all because of the ex-in law of the president Aliyev, Araz Agalarov. The municipality has illegally expropriated the private plots of 18 people, two of whom died, by now, and sold it to his company Crocus Group to build the seacoast hotel “Sea Breeze”. The economic expert Azer Mehdiyev comments that a government which refuses to free book printing and sale from taxes, is preparing to do it in relation to the sale of gold and silver. The activists comment on the increasingly politicized website of the Academy of Sciences, which is turned into the stage of political statements by its current president, ex-head of presidential administration, Ramiz Mehdiyev. Natig Jafarli reports the recent award by the Ministry of Sports and Youth of the tender of 2,158,000 Manat to the company Tremix-Co for the “organization of sports in schools”: this company, created just 3 months ago, does not have a website, or any information in the internet. He also questions the discrepancy in official data of the trade turnover, exports and imports between Azerbaijan and Turkey — in particular, Turkey’s report on $400m worth of imports from Azerbaijan, while the latter gives the figure of $2,862,000. He also notes the decrease in exports of the non-oil sector by 5.2% in 2020. FB users share the report of the illegal property of the Sheykhul Islam Pashazade in Shuvelian village near Baku: a palace, with a 3km tunnel, constructed in the shape of Azerbaijani map — in the middle of a 4.5hectare property, with 3 floors above ground and 3 underground … regarding the latter, one of them jokes that since he is a Sheikh, he might belong to two worlds.
Social issues. The FB community widely shares and comments on the news that the state company Azerishig has appealed to the Council on Tariffs to double the price per kw of electric energy for the population (from 7 to 14 gepiks). Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF warns that the hard times are ahead. The Ministry for Internal Affairs has spread the statement, in apparent response to the strong reaction of the population, opposition and civil society to the unjustified fines for not wearing the masks in the open air. It has stated that neither police, nor the state are interested in the fining of its citizens. It is the responsibility of each of them to protect their family, members, friends and community from being infected. The statement argues that the fines are not as high as in the other states, giving the examples of prices in various countries. The NGO on Protection of Consumers’ Rights reports an increasing number of complaints at the increase of the price of bread. They also observe the decrease in weight of a typical loaf of bread.
Russia’s role in the region. The activists continue to be concerned with Russia’s role in the conflict. Gubad Ibadoglu argues that by stirring instability and tension in the domestic politics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Russian is distracting their attention from what she is doing in Karabagh, namely, entrenching its military forces, building the defensive and offensive objects, creating “mini-Kremlin” governances, with Russian language adopted as the second official one, etc. He considers that the war is not over, as its probability is increasing with Russian peacekeeping forces’ continuing presence in Karabagh. He makes a reference to Mariya Zakharova, spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, who reported 27 monitoring centres built by Russia in Karabagh. At the same time there were telephone conversations between Russia and Turkey at the level of heads of state and foreign ministers.
Perception of Armenia and reference to history. The academic Jamil Hasanli suggests that there is a cyclical transformation of mythology in the facts of Armenian historiography. He reports that in order to justify the territorial claims of Armenia on Upper Karabagh and Nakhichevan, they argue that for 70 years the borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia were illegitimate, and that the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan upon the collapse of the Soviet Union were not legitimate either. He asks what happened then to the Moscow and Kars agreements on the borders between the South Caucasus republics? How come those — based on the same agreements the Armenia’s borders with 3 other states (Georgia, Turkey and Iran) — are legitimate, while with Azerbaijan they are not?
COVID-19 The activists in exile report that German government has distributed free masks to the population — 10 per person — and a letter to each citizen which they can present at pharmacies to get a mask free of charge.
Events in Georgia. The activists comment on the resignation of the prime minister of Georgia in response to the arrest of the opposition leader, while in Azerbaijan the head of state, Ilham Aliyev, orders such arrests himself. Moreover, comments Nigar Hezi, often he is not limiting by the arrests, ordering tortures too, which he enjoys watching. The news that Germany will allow a 3-month long visa free permit for guest workers (farmers) from Georgia is widely commented on by the Azerbaijani FB users. The allowed work is 5-6 days per week, 8-10 hours per day, and paid at the minimum wage of 9.50Euros per hour. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev comments that the guest worker in Germany who works for 8 hours per day and drinks German beer in the evenings, will get a higher salary than the Azerbaijani soldier serving in the Kalbajar mountains 24 hours per day.
NHS in the UK. Jamil Hasanli, the opposition leader and historian based at University College London, describes the effectiveness of the British national health system, vaccination process and government compensation measures for people and businesses affected by the lockdown, comparing this with the situation in Azerbaijan. He reports that although the opening of the school season was announced there, in a few of the schools there is still no heating.
The Munich Conference. Activists highlight the main ideas of Joe Biden’s speech and welcome its focus on the role of democracy in his policy vision. They note the idea that the struggle of democracy and autocracy in the world is at its turning point now, that it is important to curb the threats coming from China and Russia, who are trying to weaken NATO and democracy, that there should be no doubt about the necessity of democracy helping to survive the pandemic and problems related to technological revolution. They praise his assertion in his belief in the victory of democracy and the importance of transatlantic unity and cooperation, especially his pointing to Russia as the main threat to international security, as well as stressing the significance for them of the protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. They also discuss the absence of Putin there and comment that this might be due to the domestic tension within Russia. Activists also welcome the statement by Biden’s advisor Jake Sullivan in his interview with CBS that the US will apply sanctions in response to Russian cyberattacks.
First images of Mars. The FB community widely shares and comments of the perseverance of this mission examining the surface of the planet Mars. One of the Azerbaijani social network users jokes that it looks exactly like Hajigabul, one of the country’s regional territories.