Center for National and International Studies
“…The source of power in Azerbaijan is not its people, as in the Constitution, but Russian authoritarianism…”
The FB community shows concern over the violation of the ceasefire in Zangilan region, over the burning of Turkish and Azerbaijani flags in Khankendi, and over Russia’s underlying intentions, keeping human rights violations and government ingroup fighting at the centre of attention; reports and shares pressing social issues and bureaucratic indifference, comments and reacts to the statement by US Joe Biden on the recognition of 1915 events as a genocide, giving varying assessments; decries the voting of the Azerbaijani delegation at the PACE session and suggests a discussion of the 10th November agreement in Parliament.
Post-war situation. Meydan TV reports with reference to the official statement by the State Border Troops Service of Azerbaijan, that on 21st April on the state borders, the Armenian troops shelled the Azerbaijani border troops in Seyidli village in the Zangilan region, as well as Russian border troops serving on the Armenian side. The Russian border troops appealed to Azerbaijani colleagues not to respond to the provocation, as the Armenian military were drunk. The Azerbaijani party abstained from reaction, and was informed that the provocateurs were fired from the service. However, the State Border Troops Service of Azerbaijani stated that if repeated in the future, such actions would be met with the adequate and strict response. The Armenian party reports the opposite – “the aggressive and provocative actions” of the Azerbaijani side shelling, on 20th April, Khankendi, Shosh and Mhitarashen villages. The opposition leaders continue to protest at the Russian peacekeepers and demand their soonest withdrawal. The media reports that Russia tries to get yet another compromise from Azerbaijan – to enter the Eurasian Economic Union. The opposition leader, Ali Karimli, considers that Azerbaijan should categorically reject this, as reported by Osmangizi TV. He argues that Aliyev thought that Russia would not expect him to make other compromises. FB has circulated the video with crowds of Armenians burning the Turkish and Azerbaijani flags in Khankendi, the comments by FB users being mainly that “the nation is sick”, “what a state of psyche there” etc. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP comments that it is clearly Russia who is behind these events. He urges the authorities to react to it. Meydan TV reports the address of Nikol Pashinian of Armenia on his resignation, according to Constitutional provisions, before the parliamentary elections.
Human rights. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev greets the decision of the ECHR in his favour and obliges the government to pay 12,000 Euros in compensation for the moral damage for his illegal imprisonment. He reports that there are at least three more claims by him in consideration by the court, and he will send another 5-10 complaints this year on violation of his rights. The feminist leader Rabiyya Mammadova decries the decision of the authorities to keep attendance restricted at mosques, while they have provided access to restaurants and trade centres. She argues that they simply have to call for keeping social distance and following the rules of health and safety. The Line of Defence human rights organisation reported that the activist imprisoned on trumped-up charges, Tahir Heydarov, who is currently on a hunger strike, was transferred to a punishment cell. Rufat Safarov of Line of Defence shares a report by the journalist Ruslan Farzaliyev, that during investigation of the Ter-ter case, after severe tortures and resulting death of the colonel Saleh Gafarov, the military prosecutor’s office directed a letter to his family, stating that “his guilt was not proved”. However, concludes the author, the society keeps silence, as does the government. Azer Kazimzade reports that Aliverdiyev Mahir, who was a set-up ‘groom’ in the intimate video of the academic Jamil Hasanli’s daughter, sent a letter of gratitude last year to President Aliyev for his speech at the Munich Security Conference, which was published on the official site of the president. “The porno-government…” comments the author. The local e-media is spreading the report by the USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom), which reports 43-51 religious activists among political prisoners in the country, and recommends the US State Department put Azerbaijan in the special list of 11 states (SW) with the most severe violations of the rights of believers (along with Cuba, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan). Human rights defenders report the arrest of Rauf Yusifzade – one of the protesters of the demolished houses on Sovetskii street, who is ill (on dialysis). He was taken to the hospital as his health became aggravated during detention, but was later tried in court. The ex-political prisoner Orkhan Bakhishli stood up for the doctor Abbasov Parviz, who was arrested and accused of corruption. He described his personal experience with the doctor a few years ago, while undergoing medical treatment, which testified to his integrity and decency. Meydan TV reports the detention of citizen Shamakhi Akif Naftaliyev of Gushchu village, who discredited corrupt local officials on a Tik-tok program. He was severely beaten in the police station and then the next morning was tried and given 10 days of detention. The Line of Defense organization reports that 10 people at the Penal colony No.6 at 6-7am have inflicted self- injuries, including cutting veins in protest at the arbitrariness of the administration of the colony. FB users report that imprisoned ex-deputy Huseyn Abdullayev has been transferred to the medical facility of the prison. He has started a hunger strike in protest at his imprisonment. Javid Gara, the eco-activist, stresses that people should be alert and ready to defend themselves in case of threat to the minorities, as it was in Georgia in the early 1990s. Azerbaijani citizens of the Bolnisi region got themselves armed and managed to resist deportation.
Governance, economy, corruption. The e-media reports that the newly-appointed young government officials are now also being detained for corruption. The activists decry the recent scandals and statements by the MPs and ruling party officials. They ridicule the statement by MP Tahir Karimli, where he said that an unmarried couple cannot stay in the hotel. The video of Huseynbala Miralamov, author, ex-MP and member of the YAP party, harassing his secretary in the workplace, continues to be decried and commented on, eg: “many of his colleagues are of the same moral level”. The culprit was, in reaction to the video, expelled from the party, which was also commented on with irony “as if this is the only problem of the party”. The other activist notes that the video was screened on a popular talk show in the US, and comments that after internationally discrediting the country with corruption, falsified elections, this is yet another way of doing it. The journalists ridicule the comments by his colleagues, such as MP Elman Nasirov: “Video does not mean that he is to blame”, or ex-MP Hadi Rajabli’s “At the moment Miralamov is fasting. Such videos can only be result of installation”, or awarded by the People’s Poet title, Nariman Hasanzade: “Miralamov is a very nice man – is it worth condemning him for that?” The journalists revealed that Miralamov managed to promote his three sons to government positions – in the Foreign Ministry, Railway Police, and Ministry of Internal Affairs. One of the FB users suggests with irony, that the monument “Old teacher” in the Baku boulevard should be given his name, as he earned his incredible “popularity” not thanks to his academic and literary life achievements, but thanks to his ‘hand work’ reflected on the video. The blogger Mehman Huseynov continues to discredit, in his videos, corruption in the government. He presents a list of the expensive restaurants which are owned by the current president of SOCAR, Rovnag Abdullayev: the “High Boost” Lounge, “Martido” Lounge, “Level99” Lounge, and Qasr Restaurant. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports with reference to the Global Financial Integrity publication, that with an annual illegal outflow of capital of $9.5b from the country, this will total $95b in 10 years. Habib Muntazir reports that Agayev Imran, son of the chief doctor of the Module-type hospital of the Ministry of Emergency, was detained on charges of corruption. He is also the nephew of the Deputy Minister of Emergencies, Faig Tagizade, who in turn is the nephew of the Health Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev. Gubad Ibadoglu, an economist and ADR leader, suggests a radical reduction of the number of ministries and state agencies. Ministries – from 17 to 11, State Committees from 14 to 3. Many FB users support the suggestion, some argue that the ministries and the state agencies bear a formal character anyway, because everything is governed by the President and his family. The FB community shares news about the firing of the Minister of Health Ogtay Shiraliyev, comments on it and connects it to the arrests of his relatives. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF comments that under Shiraliyev, the health system worsened, but it does not mean that his replacement will make it better. She mentions the European educated Inam Karimov – the replacement of the Minister of Agriculture, Ismat Abbasov, who practically destroyed the agriculture of the country. One of the young “pashas” Ramil Guliyev’s appointment has marked strict limitations in the field of communications and high technologies. In such a strictly authoritarian state like Azerbaijan, where the bureaucrats do not decide anything, the system should change, she concludes. The journalists follow the fate of the children of the old bureaucrats, who prosper with the government of Aliyev. Ganimat Zahid, journalist in exile, argues that the ex-Minister of Defence Mammadrafi Mammadov has been sending construction materials to Moscow by plane, when he was in office, but when he went too far, he was sacked. His son currently works (allegedly by recommendation of Russian intelligence) as a chief of SOCAR’s office in Germany. The blogger Mehman Huseynov quotes Minister of Emergencies, Kamaladdin Heydarov, who said in connection with the corruption scandals revealed recently: “Corruption does not recognise age. If someone has it in his/her blood, he/she will commit it.” The blogger comments that “Kamaladdin Heydarov himself has that 100% in his blood, but behaves like an innocent angel, as if half of the country was occupied not by him, but by myself”. The Azadlyg newspaper reports on the continuation of the Baku Court of Appeals’ hearing on the case of fraud of officer Tural Abdullayev of the State Border Troops, who misappropriated 1m 200 manat from various people. He appeared to be related to the military prosecutor Khanlar Veliyev and this has been affecting the punishment. The victims appealed to the Court of Appeal, unsatisfied by the softness of the sentence. The prosecutor originally having asked for 12 years of imprisonment, but the decision by judge appeared to be only 6 years. The journalist Afghan Mukhtarli reports that Ilham Aliyev is officially chair of 48 political parties.
Democracy and power-society relations. The activists, journalists and bloggers observe and record the increase of social protests in the country. The ADR movement TV channel BIZ discusses the influence which the wave of protests in Russia and Armenia might have on the situation in Azerbaijan. Rufat Safarov ironically comments that this is an unprecedented case in the history of political struggle: the leader of the “opposition” party MP Gudret Hasanguliyev suggested doubling the salaries of the police. The ruling party YAP official Siyavush Novruz, commenting on the human trafficking problem, argues that countries who called themselves democratic cannot cope with the migrant issue, as many boats sunk and people died. There are many movies made on how migrants are forced to be involved in prohibited activities, but instead of denouncing this, they promote human trafficking. It is not possible to intervene in the private TV channels, so only state channels can play an educational role in the fight with human trafficking. The activists, journalists, and bloggers decry Azerbaijani delegation’s voting against the resolution of PACE on support for Alexei Navalny. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev stresses that of 16 PACE members, who voted against the draft resolution urging reforms of the electoral system in Belarus, 4 were of Azerbaijani delegation, (including the MP Nigar Arpadarai, who was “appointed” from his district in spite of the majority votes received by Hajiyev at the last parliamentary elections). Of 23 who voted against the draft resolution on international investigation of the violations in Belarus, 4 were from Azerbaijan, while of 26 voted against the resolution on protection of Alexei Navalny’s rights, 4 were also from Azerbaijan. The Azadlyq newspaper writes that the political system created by the Aliyevs is destroying the Azerbaijan people. FB users decry rewarding with medals and other awards those people giving tortures to the troops during the Ter-ter case investigation by President Aliyev, based on the decree of 2020. FB reports another victim of tortures in 2017, Elkhan Agazade, and his death on 10 May. Tofig Yagublu of NCDF and Musavat discusses with Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR and their life-stream BIZ the low quality of governance in the country, how the struggle with corruption has turned into a tool of ingroup fighting in the government, raising social dissatisfaction in the country and the tasks before the opposition connected to that. The leader of PFP Ali Karimli argues that once people come out to protest in the streets – the government will find money for everything – for child benefits, for salaries and pension increases, and will open up new jobs.
Social issues. The problem with compensation to the war heroes continues to worry the FB community. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP argues that the fact that the lowering the categories of the handicap bears not accidental but mass character is evidence that this is not done at the local, but in a centralised manner. This is a deliberate policy in order to save money on compensation. He stresses that this is not only insults and deprives of the war veterans of their deserved compensation, but also is a serious blow to the national trust in the state and its institutions. The group of war-handicapped staged a protest in front of the building of the Ministry for Employment and Social Protection; they were received later by the deputy minister. They protested at bureaucratic indifference and receiving inadequate categories of handicap. The sister of the war-deceased citizen of Ganja, Elza Alizade, had to make a video appeal to President Aliyev, complaining that although she belongs to the vulnerable diabetic group and has COVID-19, there was no help from the medical institutions as yet. Vahid Maharramli, an economist and member of PFP, comments that child benefits were given before Ilham Aliyev and will be given after his term in office – thus he will be written in history as the only head of state who gave no child benefits, and never cared for children. The media reports another suicide of a war participant. Meydan TV reports the story of 33-year-old citizen of Yardimli, Garashov Ilkin Khanbaba, who has been bedridden and handicapped for many years.
Besides not being able to support his family, he suffers severe pain, but he was deprived of the one of two social benefits he was receiving, which put his survival under serious risk. He asserts that to restore his social benefit, they asked for a bribe at the Ministry of Employment and Social protection, and then simply kicked him out. Azad Soz website reports another protest meeting of the mothers-of-war-victims in front of the presidential apparatus and wonders whether the president will pretend that he does not see it again?
People share the video with angry people protesting the absence for 28 years of communal services in the Alasgarli village in Shamkir region – no water supply, no gas etc. The historian professor Jamil Hasanli tells in detail the history and situation in the village which bears the name of the famous folk singer, Ashig Alasgar. He contrasts the desperate social condition of the village, which is shared by many mountainous villages, to the lavish expensive classical music concerts with high level orchestras at the annual music festivals in Gabala region. Altay Geyushov ridicules the state of infrastructure in this village, calling it a “smart village”, where the water is carried on donkeys. Another video shows the enforced illegal eviction of the family of a mother and two children from their flat by the executive power official of the Zakatala region, Elvin Ahmadov, with the policeman Ilgar Khalilov. Although the regional judges are aware of the situation, they have no power to stop the arbitrariness of the local executive. Meydan TV interviews the war veteran, Mais Zeynalov, from Soyudlu village in the Jalilabad region, who told that the most difficult times began after he returned home from the front. He was injured in the battles, but had to face unemployment, financial difficulties, stress and other social problems.
Relations with the USA. This is highly affected by the identification of the massacres of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire as genocide by President Biden. The predominant reaction of the leaders of the parties and journalists to the event is in the negative, condemning the recognition of what is perceived in the country as “fake genocide”. The FB community shares news that before this recognition of “genocide”, President Biden called President Erdogan to warn him about it, but also about his interest in support of constructive bilateral relations and readiness to talk to him at NATO’s upcoming meeting in Brussels. Gubad Ibadoglu assesses the recognition of events 1915 as genocide by Joe Biden as not in the national interests of the US. It will only increase anti-Western attitudes in Azerbaijan and Turkey and will promote a Russian-Turkic alliance. One of the activists ironically comments that at last recognition has been made, and Turkey will be comforted, because every year it was going through stress. But Erdogan should ask Joe Biden which year it happened, and see if he knows…The other activist argues, that this decision has a “ geopolitical” nature, and while it may have some temporary impact on Turkey, it will stimulate Ankara to conduct its more strategic and more independent policies. The MP Aydin Huseynov argues that recognition of so-called genocide is an expression of double standards and a blow to the US national interests in the region. He also considers this decision threatens international order and could result in creation of new military alliances. The youth leader Bakhtiyar Hajiyev argues that nothing will change after the “genocide” label by Joe Biden, and partnerships and cooperation will be restored as before in the other cases. But he expresses regret that an issue which should be resolved by the study of scholars has turned into a tool of political pressure in the hands of the Armenian lobby, and that even the president of such a powerful country as the USA has turned into a hostage of the promises given during the election campaign. Hajiyev argues that this is exactly how Biden explained his decision to recognise “genocide” in his telephone call to Erdogan. He suggests that the more this term will be used, the less power the lobby groups will have in using it as a political tool, and perhaps that’s why Erdogan has not reacted seriously to this statement. Hajiyev comments that the only conclusion Azerbaijan should make is that its lobbying activities have been miserable, although such capacity exists. The pro-government MPs Aydin Mirzazade. called this recognition the biggest mistake in US history. He also reported that after Joe Biden’s statement, President Aliyev called Erdogan twice, during which they decried the statement, which President Aliyev described as a historical mistake and that Azerbaijan would not abandon its brother country. The human rights defenders and activists, such as Anar Mammadli, call on society not to exaggerate the statement and note that Biden did not mention Turkey or Erdogan at all in this statement and this is a good sign of will of cooperation between the two states. Zohrab Ismayil, the civil leader, argues: “What has changed? On the contrary, it has resulted in closure of the issue which has been pushed for ages, the games are over. Russia recognised the “Armenian genocide” 26 years before, but Erdogan almost calls Putin his brother.”
Relations with Russia. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF argues, with irony, that the source of power in Azerbaijan is not, as stated in the Constitution, its people, but the Russian authoritarian regime and that the Azerbaijani government is copying any reactionary decision in Russia. But it looks like they are not inspired by the social package suggested by Putin at the address to the Federal Congress, apparently in reaction to the pressure of the public rallies in support of Navalny. She addresses the government in her timeline:” Do not always copy only negative things from Putin, from time to time copy the steps, which people might benefit from too”. Arif Hajili of the Musavat party states that Putin was isolated and only 3 countries and leaders support him – Lukashenka, Bashar Asad, and Ilham Aliyev. If this continues, they will sink together with his boat. The e-media reports Russian Defence Minister Shoygu’s announcement that it will start withdrawal of Russian troops from the borders with Ukraine.
Osmangizi TV reports the detention of 2000 protesters in Russia and discusses the lessons and example of the Russian protests with Azer Gasimli. The visit of the “president” of the Upper Karabagh to Moscow caused a wide reaction on FB. Seymur Hezi of PFP argues that this visit confirmed the correctness of opposition assumptions. 1) Russia does not follow any international norms. On which passport did Araik go to Russia? 2) The reason why Russia is not taking official Baku seriously is the Azerbaijani government’s dependence on the Kremlin. 3) The Azerbaijan government, by keeping silence on this matter, proves this dependency. 4) This situation not only violates principles of independence and sovereignty, but even puts the very existence of the nation under threat. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat and NCDF calls the reaction of official Baku to this visit ‘a parody’ on foreign policy. He argues that not daring to react himself, President Aliyev instructed the group of public figures to appeal to the Russian Embassy in Baku that the people’s trust in the activities of Russian peacekeepers in Upper Karabagh is declining. However, this contradicts the official statements by Aliyev and foreign ministry officials that Baku is satisfied with Russian peacekeeping activities. The ex-prime minister Panah Huseyn calls for bringing the trilateral agreement of 10 November 2020 in Moscow to the consideration at the meeting of the National Parliament. He and his Azerbaijan People’s Party declare that the Russian troops came here not for peace, but for occupation and its activities are not based on international norms. He based the statement on articles 12, 95, 109 of the National Constitution, along with the national law on signing the international agreements. It argues that taking into account the developments of 5 months since the signing of this agreement, the National Parliament will not ratify this agreement, unless there are serious changes in the document. Osmangizi TV discusses the issue whether the way to Azerbaijan without Aliyev lies through Russia without Putin.
Reference to history. The historian Jamil Hasanli has presented documents, with the reference to the state Russian archives, which show that in Soviet times the rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (famous MGIMO) Prof. Nikolai Lebedev was fired and even expelled from the membership of the Communist Party for “helping” to write a dissertation for the current president Ilham Aliyev, along with other cases of corruption. The activist and member of Musavat, Yadigar Sadighli, recalls the early 1988s, when he served in military base 366 stationed in Upper Karabagh autonomous region. He describes how unprepared he and his friend were for the social tension when they went out on leave into the streets of Khankendi (Stepanakert). He writes about sense of fear when they were surrounded and asked by the crowd of local Armenians which ethnic group they belonged to and who argued in an emotionally charged manner. They were saved only by an approaching car with the military bosses, who put them in a punishment cell “for their better security”. Later he found out that those Armenian citizens sent a telegram to the Ministry of Defense with a complaint that Yadigar Sadighli and his colleague had attacked peaceful citizens of Khankendi with the intention of killing them. The answer from the ministry was that the case was being investigated, but so far advised to send Armenian and Azerbaijani draftees to different regional branches of the army.
Relations with the UK. “Why are our oligarchs taking up their illegal properties in the UK?” The activists argues that this is because the UK is a classical property country, with a dynamic auction market. There is also a stable image of the UK in the East that it can host offshore capital. The Azerbaijan related famous “laundromat” revealed that the illegally taking out of $4m over 2 years was conducted by means of 4 British offshore companies. Of this money, half was taken out by only a single fake company. Another reason is the protection of Aliyev’s family by BP, who in turn pays it back by creating special conditions for BP, such as extending the contract for another five years. The activist considers that this is why such a substantial crime as the recent illegal case reflected by Guardian etc. was not investigated.
April 27, 2021