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Center for National and International Studies
“…To oppose the Istanbul Convention is an indication of oppressive thinking…”
The FB community discusses US President Joe Biden’s epithet for Putin as ‘killer’; Putin’s allegation of the CIS states as being fake ones; President’s Aliyev amnesty decree, the scandal of illegal hunting of Arab tourists using drones; the general ongoing indifference to the welfare of Azerbaijani society. Opposition activist Sadyghli looks back on his pre-war interview with popular Russian journalist Shevchenko who underestimated the inclusivity of Azerbaijani society, imagining that this would lead to losing the Karabagh war. Journalist Movsum highlights the anti-feminism of autocratic rulers and expresses wishes of freedoms of a modern Azerbaijan which could take its rightful place among democratic nations, while YAP representative Novruzov applauds the amnesty decree as a step in the right direction.
Post-war situation. The FB community continues to keep at the centre of attention the cases of bureaucratic indifference to the families of war heroes. Ali Karimli of PFP presents cases of social solidarity with the war victims’ families. The next one is the story of Aziza Hasanova, the widow of the hero Fariz Hasanov, who went to a hardware shop to buy tools. When she came home, she discovered that besides the tools, there was also the money which she had paid the owner, returned to her out of solidarity. The economist and leader of the ADR movement, Gubad Ibadoglu, reports that Azerbaijan has started to supply Khankendi with electricity. Before the last war, only 6 out of 36 hydropower stations of Karabagh were in the regions populated by Armenians, that’s why they faced a shortage of electricity after the war. From 20th March, the electricity produced in Lachin and Shusha will also supply Khankendi. He notes that while he is a staunch supporter of the integration of Armenians into Azerbaijan, some issues remain unclear in this regard, for instance, how will the payments be realised? The staff of the Azerishig company cannot enter the territory populated by Armenians – besides, they do not accept the national currency of manat. He also wonders whether increased tariffs will be applied to that region, too?
The PFP activist Vahid Maharramli comments on the speech of Ilham Aliyev that the heroes of the war were young people. He argues that indeed they were, but none of them are family members of the oligarch-ministers of Ilham Aliyev’s government, who were enjoying themselves abroad. The activists discuss the apparently truncated video of Heydar Aliyev’s speech where the name of “Khankendi” and other cities is cut off to adjust it to the current situation under the control of the peacekeepers. The opposition activist Yadigar Sadyghli comments on the pre-war interview with popular Russian journalist Maxim Shevchenko. The latter presumed that Azerbaijan would lose the war, because among other reasons, the other minorities would rebel, and the country would be torn apart by separatist movements. Sadyghli states that nobody really understands the Azerbaijani nation, which is unique, because except for the Armenians, the other secessionist trends are simply non-existent. Some may speak about Turkic nationalism, but easily get involved in mixed marriages with minorities, never get interested in the ethnic background of others, and all the minorities consider Azerbaijan their homeland. The war has proved it by the large-scale volunteer participation of minorities in the army. He argues that the situation is the same with religion.
Democracy and power relations in society. The FB community discusses the action of 19th March in Fountain square organised by the bloggers in exile. The participants, who came even from the regions, spoke about the various social difficulties they are facing. They demanded the resignation of the president, freedom for political prisoners. The police squeezed the protesters from the square. The FB users share the quotation of a female protester, who said: “There are many starving people, but a few still have the courage to come out!” The journalist Ruzgar Movsum expresses his vision of a free Azerbaijan. “I want an Azerbaijan where the presidential and parliamentary elections are free and fair, there is no corruption or political pressure, the oilmen and soldiers do not die, their families do not get burned while sitting in their low-quality flats, the patients of the narcology clinic do not turn into ashes, there are normal social, health, judicial, transport and sewage systems, where freedoms of sexual orientation are provided, and there are no selective abortions!” Ilgar Mammadov of REAL argues in his interview to Meydan TV, that REAL’s dialogue with the authorities has changed the political environment in the country, as the two sides are gradually finding a common language, the number of political prisoners is decreasing, the victims of the Karabagh war were buried in Baku (instead of Karabagh). Yet, he urges the government when reporting its achievements to publicly recognise that they were reached in the process of a dialogue, and that there is another party to it.
The FB community widely discusses the recent detention (and release) of the activists Ulvi Hasanli and Mehman Huseynov, who had been using drones to record the illegal property of bureaucrats and thus fighting corruption, contrasting this with the indifference of the authorities to the using of drones by tourists from Arab states. The latter were using drones in the illegal hunting for birds, which was disclosed by the environmentalist Javid Gara. The latter made a video of the Arab tourists using drones with tied to them wild doves to hunt with hawks. He showed courage as had to engage with armed people to get the evidence of illegal hunting. Javid Gara, the chair of the Ecofront environmental organisation, discredits the Ministry of Ecology by giving dire examples of illegal hunting involving the tearing apart of wild doves by hawks just for entertainment of tourists. He also decries the work of the other government structures who allowed the arrival of these tourists in times of quarantine. Javid Gara wrote an appeal to President Aliyev on behalf of his organization attracting his attention to the camp of hunters on the territory of Gakh State Natural Reserve and urging him to undertake measures to eliminate this illegal camp and punish those responsible. He concludes that the work of the government created by the president in 18 years is ineffective and expresses hopes that the problem will find its immediate solution upon his instruction. He urges the prohibition of bringing in hunting hawks from abroad.
The Ministry of Ecology had to announce that they were fined. Ilkin Rustamzade decries this measure, arguing that it is not enough, and that the tourists should be deported from the country. Mehman Huseynov comments that there is greater respect shown to the Arab tourists in this country than to its own citizens, reporting that those tourists were guests of the Minister of Emergencies, Kamaladdin Heydarov, whose illegal property he was showing recently in his videos.
The journalist Ruzgar Movsum has written an evocative article decrying the traditional-patriarchal reaction of some parts of society to the suicide of the young woman Sevil and discredits the role of the authorities in leading and manipulating it. He argues that if state institutions were in place to protect women from domestic violence, then “she would probably not be in the cold grave but still among us”. The government, he continues, will never agree on the destruction of the family dictatorship, as understands that the passion for freedom will cross the borders of the family and will spill over into the whole of society. “That’s why the government will so intensely do its utmost to advocate for conservatism, anti-feminism and patriarchy with the help of internet trolls and controlled media”.
Human rights. People are avidly discussing the much-awaited amnesty decree. While it is greeted by all, it is being interpreted differently by the government on the one hand, and the opposition and independents on the other. The representative of ruling party YAP, Siyavush Novruzov, gave a high appraisal of the amnesty, calling it an “expression of the humanist attitude of the state to its citizens”, noting that this tradition was laid by the ‘all-national leader’ Heydar Aliyev and arguing that before his arrival to power no such decree existed. Ali Karimli of the PFP welcomed the release of 4 party members: Babek Hasanli, Elchin Ismayilli, Orkhan Bakhishli and Mahammad Imanli. Yet he expressed regret that the president remained loyal to tradition in releasing those whose terms in prison were close to expiry. He expressed the hope that the rest will be released too, as society was expecting that all would be released and this shameful page would be closed forever. The prominent human rights defender Leyla Yunus, currently in exile, commented that there are still more than 100 political prisoners. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF calls it “an amnesty mimicry”, as it concerned prisoners who had 2-3 months left of their long multi-year terms and claims it is “making fun of people and the world”. Ganimat Zahid comments that the amnesty decree did not resolve the issue of political prisoners. Fuad Gahramanli welcomed the release of some political prisoners, but called it only a half-measure, because others, such as Agil Maharramli and Saleh Rustamli were not released. The e-media reports on the tortures which the opposition activists were subjected to while in prison. Rahim Hajiyev states for the Azadlyg newspaper, that the Azerbaijan authorities view its citizens as objects (rather than subjects), and their governing philosophy is that one should suppress them in order to look superior. The activists express regret that of 475 amnestied people, only 40 were political prisoners.
The activists, journalists and human rights defenders continue to discuss and decry the attack on the blogger in exile in France, Mahammad Mirzeli. They also mention that French Le Monde has covered the story of Mirzeli. Rasul Jafarov, the Human Rights defender and member of REAL party reports the release of journalist Zaur Gambarov from the court of Appeals hall, whose legal defender, Javad Javadov, is the co-founder of the new Human Rights Club (the previous one was divided due to disagreements between its leadership on the softened position of REAL party towards the government, with the other co-founder Emin Huseynov remaining the leader of the original HRC). The new Human Rights Club issued a statement, where it praised the release of 37% of the political prisoners based on the new amnesty degree and assured that would continue to work on the release of the other prisoners too. It stayed that only 5 people are left from those arrested in 2015, accused in the Nardaran events. Gultakin Hajibeyli stresses that this is exactly because most of the Nardaran prisoners were arrested in 2015 for 6 years: they constituted the majority of the political prisoners released, namely, that they had only 2-3 months left before the end of their sentences. The Azadlyg newspaper reports the arrest on 19th March of the Ganja branch member of AXCP Shahin Hajiyev, whose house was attacked by the police, who was charged for resistance to the police and is now being held for 30 days. Earlier, he was detained for 25 days on the 20th January. The FB community shows alarm at the news of the arrest of the activist whose case was nicknamed “Fuuu, Mezi!” due to the protest at the falsified elections and who was arrested previously. Afghan Mukhtarli, journalist in exile, reports complaints of the prisoners about their torture and mistreatment in Penal Colony No.16 by deputy chief Emin Eminaliyev. He refers to his own experience in this colony, when this person attacked his legal defender Nemat Karimli, and suggests that he has a mental problem and is a maniac. Mukhtarli recalls that he appealed to the minister of the Judiciary, Fikret Mammadov, asking him to remove this person from his duties, as he represented a danger as a deputy chief, and is now appealing on the same matter to President Aliyev.
Economy, governance, corruption. The FB community shares news about a new appointment – that of Emin Mammadov, as chair of the state company AzerKhalcha (Azerbaijani Carpets). Habib Muntazir reminds his readers that he is the brother of the AFFA vice-President Elkhan Mammadov, besides being an owner of a few galleries — Q Gallery, Art Baget, ART-Q. He also reminded them that the previous chair of Azerkhalcha Vidadi Muradov was fired due to the misappropriation of 4m manat from the budget. The FB community continues to discuss the sudden arrest of general colonel Rovshan Akbarov on charges of manslaughter outside of the country (in Ukraine in 2001) and speculates on the reasons for that. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov argues that the article he is charged with allows him to be released from criminal liability 20 years from the date of the crime. He considers this process as a time for “negotiations” between the state officials, when the accused has a chance “to pay” for his release. If within this term he submits all his property, including his underpants, to the authorities, he will be released, if not – he will be sent to prison, concludes the human rights defender, noting that this is the nature of the Azerbaijani “mafia-state”. Gubad Ibadoglu comments on the Supervisory Board of SOCAR, newly created by decree of the president. He stresses, that despite a period of two months of this structure’s activities, there is no indication of it on the official website of SOCAR. Natig Jafarli connects the sharp rise in the number of lethal car accidents with the policies of the government, among which are 1) the prohibition of public transportation due to quarantine, which has increased the number of people using taxis 2) the obsolete car parks of the country, due to the plundering policies of the government Customs Agency, which enforces the buying of older cars, instead of new, hybrid and electrical vehicles, etc.
Perception of Armenia. The FB users follow events in Armenia and discuss the early parliamentary elections appointed on 20th of June this year with a reference to the information which the Armenian president Pashinian posted on his FB timeline. They note that he came to this decision after consultations with the parliamentary factions and concluded that it would the best way out of the ongoing crisis. They proactively discuss the statement by ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian advising the current president Pashinian to resign and comment on the reasons of this standoff. Seymur Hezi comments that while he believes Pashinian will win the extraordinary elections too, he will face the necessity to build a coalition government. But it is better if they go to the elections separately, while uniting after the elections. These tactics will help them to win over the “war party/clan”.
Relations with Russia. The activists and journalists discuss with indignation Putin’s idea that the former Soviet republics were all artificial and had been created on Russian territory. S.Hezi of PFP parallels Russia’s current behaviour to a person who needs to save himself by jumping from the cliff to the ocean, but seeing the cliffs below, starts thinking of going back. Altay Geyushov comments that besides the falsification of history, Putin is becoming more and more imperialist in his statements. However, if viewed with attention, this shows that the ‘killer’ is being pushed into a corner. He considers that this anxiety “was also affected by the fire of Bayraktars”.
Relations with Turkey. The FB community shares a quotation from Erdogan’s speech at the presentation of the new reform package to the public, that “despite the pandemic, the Turkish economy has shown an economic growth of 1.8% in 2020, the second after China in this regard among the G20 states”. The economic experts consider that the strong Turkish economy is beneficial for Azerbaijan too. Gubad Ibadoglu argues that it will have a positive impact on resolution of the Karabagh problem. He stresses that the country should open wide opportunities for Turkish capital, technologies and products and suggests 5 measures for that, among which are: creating optimum conditions for Turkish agricultural participation in the liberated regions, building a Turkish light industry factory there, entering the WTO and signing a bilateral free trade agreement with Turkey, inviting Turkey to the GUAM membership and to turn it to GUTAM and regulate trade relations between these states.
Relations with the US. The FB community shares news that on same day Joe Biden called Putin a killer, he sent a letter to Ilham Aliyev wishing him Happy Novruz and offering him friendship and cooperation. The activists urge the president to make a relevant conclusion from this strategic message of the US president. Some part of the political forces in ‘dialogue’ with the government are concerned with the aggravation of relations between the US and EU on the one hand and Russia on the other. Natif Jafarli comments that this will have an impact on the “near abroad”, as it will weaken the position of Russia’s domestic critics, allowing Putin to label them as “foreign agents” in the short-term perspective. While it will weaken Russia, he argues, in the mid and long-term perspective, it creates various risks in the short-term. He concludes that it will provoke Russia into taking more assertive steps in the near abroad, which none of the sanctions can prevent or counter. In contrary, Fuad Gahramanli writes about Russia-US relations and how Biden seems to deal with Putin. He argues that Biden has all legitimacy in his geopolitical war against Russia and that he plans to build a strong coalition on the Euro-Atlantic foundation. The UK has already disclosed some aspects of its security and defence strategy, where Russia is shown as the major threat and the UK alliance with the US as the defence against it, which means a strong Anglo-Saxon unity against Russia. He also notes the importance of the support by Germany’s Greens to the sanctions against Russia for the Nord Stream gas pipeline project, as well as support from the EU representative to Biden’s calling Putin a killer. He considers that Biden is weakening Putin in three directions: 1) weakening the elite and economy by applying sanction regime 2) helping the CIS states to liberate from Russian occupation, like modernising weapons in Ukraine, or neutralising the 5th column. 3) recognizing the Russian people’s right of protest and the agency of its popular leader Navalny.
Relations with Turkey. The opposition activist Seymur Hezi of PFP explains Turkey’s exit from the Istanbul Convention. He argues that not only independent law and conscience, but even the old Turkic traditions are in line with this law, so going against this convention is an expression of oppressive thinking.