Center for National and International Studies
“Formula 1 tickets can cost up to 1,000 manat, which is equal to the total consumption expenditures of the average Azerbaijani for three months.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Ziya Ibrahimli, a political immigrant in Germany, was deported without prior warning. It is reported that the German police used violence against Ibrahimli and broke down the doors of his apartment. Exiled Journalist Afgan Muktarli said that although the German authorities and International Human Rights Organisations were informed about Ibrahimli, they did not intervene. Mukhtrali said that the German Embassy in Baku is responsible for what happens to Ibrahimli.
With Ibrahimli altogether, six political migrants have been arrested recently upon being deported from Germany. Activists believe that the reason why german authorities chose to be complicit with the violations of migrants’ rights is the bilateral agreement between the Aliyev regime and german authorities on energy trade.
Blogger Rashad Ramazanov, who was forcefully taken away from his home two days ago, was rearrested. According to human rights activist Rufat Safarov, Ramazanov was detained on drug charges and has already been remanded in custody for four months. Ramazanov lived in exile from 2013 to 2019. After his release, he settled in Georgia for some time. While in Georgia, Ramazanov sharply criticized Ilham Aliyev and the government on social networks. His rearrest is linked to this political activity.
Safarov said that in the light of increasing violence against the activists and repression, the Azerbaijani society should finally raise its voice against injustice. Safarov wrote: “As human rights activists, we consider ourselves helpless in the face of what is happening, and in this case, we cannot prevent the gross violation of people’s rights to freedom. It seems that in most cases, we are not able to protect the critics of the violent regime, and we can do nothing but protest against the illegal tendencies, which are incompatible not only with the law but also with morality. In this process, we also fall victim to a severe repressive policy. What to do? As a society, we must raise our voices in protest of what is happening – both locally and internationally.”
Former speaker of Parliament, and chairperson of Musavat Party Isa Gambar appealed to the Baku Administrative Court in protest against the law pension assigned to him. The complaint includes the violation of the politician’s right to a fair pension as a former chair of the parliament.
A member of the Muslim Union Movement Razi Humbatov was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Police used violence against the members of the Movement who came to the court to attend the court hearing of Humbatov.
Governance and Corruption
US President Joe Biden congratulated the people of Azerbaijan on May 28, Republic Day. In his congratulatory letter to the President, US President Ilham Aliyev called for real reforms in Azerbaijan: “We call on Azerbaijan to take purposeful steps towards democratic governance and reforms that protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of all Azerbaijanis.”
The opposition leaders and activists agreed that President Biden’s message should be seen as a warning message. Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli wrote: “The authoritarian regimes no longer have the opportunity to take refuge under Putin. The Western world, united by Biden, sees authoritarianism as a threat to democracy. And most importantly, the West has a mechanism to put pressure on the Azerbaijani government to seize the 10 billion dollars it has amassed through corruption. At the same time, Britain and its ally, the United States, which has stated that there are no democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan, have set the global goal of overthrowing the Russian-backed authoritarian systems. Apparently, the Azerbaijani government fears that as the number of such messages from the West increases, it may increase the hopes of the Azerbaijani people. Therefore, the government wants to show the Azerbaijani people that they should not hope for change. However, the government forgets that the possible confrontation with the West promises the prospect of tough sanctions, and neither the energy card nor the security talks on Karabakh is enough to prevent it.”
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli said that on the day Biden’s call for reforms reached Baku, Azerbaijan’s agenda again included illegal arrests and police violence. Karimli wrote: “Today, Razi Humbatov, a member of the Muslim Union Movement was sentenced by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes to six years in prison. Humbatov was arrested in July last year on drug charges. However, he is known among the active community as a person who fights against drugs. During Humbatov’s last court hearing, the authorities committed another scandal. Members of the movement, who had gathered in front of the courthouse to support Humbatov, were forcibly detained and removed from the area and taken to court for administrative punishment (it is already known that one of them was detained for 30 days).”
Meanwhile, another activist exiled in Germany was deported to Azerbaijan and was arrested shortly after. According to Ziya Ibrahimli, who was deported from Germany, he was detained at the airport yesterday. So far six activists deported from Germany are arrested. Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that “the European states and international organizations must be careful and sensitive in their decisions regarding Azerbaijani migrants, given that the Azerbaijani government has clearly violated its commitment not to persecute deported migrants.” Mukhtarli wrote: “The Azerbaijani government must finally understand that it is wrong and dangerous for it to continue the policy of violence and repression that it is accustomed to at a time when the world is undergoing serious changes. The Aliyev government must immediately release political prisoners and denounce police violence. Political freedoms and liberties must be restored in the country, and the country’s development must not be prevented. This is the demand of the whole civilized world, and most importantly, of the Azerbaijani people.”
Journalist Seymur Hezi argued that the reason for Biden’s message to the Aliyev regime is to show Aliyev that there are two ways to follow. According to Seymur, “clearly The United States stands for reform, and we will see what will be Aliyev’s choice.”
Political commentator Arastun Orujlu reacted to president Biden’s message saying that “the warning of the US Secretary of State, and then the President, about democratic reforms, is not accidental, and in fact is a warning.” Orujlu wrote: “The West has no organized support or partners in Azerbaijan, and the purpose of the warning, however paradoxical it may seem, is to protect Ilham Aliyev‘s regime. Yes, the United States wants to say that Russia will organize riots and try to use violence against you. But I am not sure that these Americans have a clear idea of the scale of Russia’s capabilities in Azerbaijan, because, in many cases, experience shows the opposite.”
Commenting on the Belarusian delegation’s visit to Baku chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli said that “as a last resort, Lukashenko turned to his friend Ilham Aliyev for help.” Karimli wrote: “The Belarusian delegation headed by the Prime Minister of Belarus is trying to maximize profitable trade relations with Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliyev has already done a lot to save his friend Lukashenko. Azerbaijan-Belarus trade turnover is expected to increase 1.9 times a year to $ 1 billion a year. The Azerbaijani government is maintaining this dictatorship, which is sinking by buying more goods from Belarus. Lukashenko himself is proud to say that Ilham Aliyev opened the wallet generously and once saved him from financial hardship. At that time, the Belarusian leader had to repay some debts urgently. According to Lukashenko, Ilham Aliyev delivered the $ 300 million he needed in one day. Yes, Aliyev is helping many countries to maintain authoritarian regimes at the expense of Azerbaijan’s state resources. Unlike the Azerbaijani unemployed, pensioners, the poor, and children, the leaders of the world’s authoritarian regimes receive “help” immediately. He immediately rushed to the aid of those regimes with all the means of Azerbaijan.”
Social and Economic Situation
Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has exacerbated one of the consequences of the pandemic and climate change – global food shortages. According to Ibadoghlu, such a situation will also affect Azerbaijan. Ibadoghlu wrote: “I do not expect a permanent shortage, but a sharp rise in prices is inevitable. In particular, the prices of flour and flour products, and even alcoholic beverages from wheat, as well as beer will increase. In short, this year is not promising for the poor. Therefore, the government must assess global trends in a timely and accurate manner, and take additional measures, especially in the areas of effective social protection and anti-inflation of the poor. I think that the government should urgently hold an agrarian meeting and assess the current situation, and discuss their expectations for this year and ways out.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov also touched upon the economic situation, saying that with the current wages, it is unlikely to cope with the rising living costs. Goyushov wrote: If the monthly consumption expenditure per capita in the country is 298 manat, this means, firstly, that the person is half-starved, and secondly, almost all expenses are spent on food and utilities. In short, it is not living, it is hardly surviving. Formula 1 tickets, can cost up to 1,000 manat, which is equal the total consumption expenditures of the average Azerbaijani for three months. In other words, they can take a loaf of bread in their hands, look at the cars of the millionaire drivers of Formula 1 through fences, and plunge into philosophical thoughts about life.”
May 24, 2022