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Center for National and International Studies
“…Why is Azerbaijan managed as a company, while SOCAR as a separate state…?”
The FB community is concerned with the protest of the martyrs’ families, the sentence of the person who hit the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, the domestic situation in Russia, government re-shuffles, the protest of the handicapped, the nepotism in SOCAR and private business of bureaucrats, the role of Iran in the conflict and resistance to participation in post-conflict restoration; it reacts to and decries President Aliyev’s blaming of the Karabagh losses in 1992 on Popular Front Government and discusses the policy toward Iran, Russia and Turkey.
Situation in Upper Karabagh. FB community expresses its concern with the situation in Upper Karabagh and many unresolved issues after signing of the trilateral ceasefire agreement. They comment that the absence of the peace process is a dangerous development. They attract attention to the main contradiction between the two sides: Azerbaijan considers Upper Karabagh part of its territory within internationally recognized borders, while the military administration which the region is controlled by- does not. They argue that the peace agreement should soon be signed and criticise authorities for the absence of the clear policy toward the developments in Karabagh. They decry building in Hojavend, which is under control of Russian peacekeepers, of the monument to Armenian commander of the early 20th century Garegin Njde, responsible for thousands of killed Azerbaijani civilians,. There is a growing criticism of the perceived true goal of “Aliyev-Pashayev’s clan” in the war. Ordukhan Babirov, an activist abroad, interprets it not as a liberation of Azerbaijan and its people from the occupation, but the opposite – to fully defeat Azerbaijani people and put them on their knees, as well as demonstrate to the rest of the world their full victory and themselves being masters of the country. “The goal is – to break people’s willpower to achieve full victory”. More activists stress that there is a difference between the interests of people on the one hand, and the government on the other. FB users report that President Aliyev appointed Aydin Karimov as his representative to Shusha, spoke about the restoration of historical monuments there including the mosque, but in order not to irritate Armenians — prohibited loud prayer.
Protest of martyr’s families. Political and civil leaders report and express their protest against the authorities’ indifference to the families of the war martyrs. Ilkin Rustamzade, Khadija Ismayil, Nigar Hezi, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Habib Muntazir, Fuad Gehremanli, Gultakin Hajibeyli and others reacted with indignation to the fact of the absence of any proper place for burial of the war heroes. FB is full of news about the 17 families of the martyrs of the second Karabagh war, who protested about the swampy burial place for their sons by blocking the road in central Baku, demanding their burial in the Alley of Martyrs. Habib Muntazir comments that for days the protests were left without any answer from the government, while only by one government’s appeal these heroes went to the front. The disrespectful attitude of the bureaucrats to the families of martyrs is one of the top issues on FB. The Xazar TV channel called the families “the group of provocateurs”. Ganimat Zahid reports that the protests have been taking place for 3 months, and because the doors of the state agencies were closed for the mothers of martyrs, they have started protest actions.
Russia’s interests. The media stresses that the Sputnik News Agency, created on the personal initiative of Putin, calls Araik Arutyunian, the leader of Upper Karabagh Armenians, “the president of Karabagh”. The activists and journalists react to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ protest at the illegal trip to Upper Karabagh by Russian MP Vitaly Milonov and his inclusion in the list of those banned from entering Azerbaijan.
Foreign policy. MP Fazil Mustafa, loyal to the government, speculates about the foreign policy of Azerbaijan, justifying a balanced one. He proves its correctness by the war experience. He comments that before, he also had extreme views on Russia, but with possibility of the liberation of Karabagh through achievement of the agreement with Russia, those views became outdated. He considers that some developments do not depend on the people’s will — “While before those in Turkey who were getting close to Russia were labelled communists, now they are called realists. So it’s better to have a peaceful non-confrontational foreign policy”, he concludes.
President Aliyev: blaming opposition again. The activists, journalists and bloggers react to the President’s yet another attack on the opposition, blaming it for the losses in Karabagh in the first war of 1992-1994 in his speech on 27th January upon the appointment of his special representative to Shusha. Altay Geyushov calls this act of President Aliyev’s “going the old Soviet way”. He questions these tactics and recalls the end of the Soviet Union. Panah Huseyn, ex-Prime Minister in 1992-3, calls it unfair, unjust, fake and a slander campaign against the PFP government. Zohrab Ismayil of REAL reminds the readers that while thousands of PFP members were fighting in Karabagh, the support groups of Heydar Aliyev and Ayaz Mutallibov were non-stop rallying in Baku.
Human rights. Activists and e-media discuss the state of health of the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev and the 2yr 3m sentence given to Kanan Abdullayev, whose car hit him in 2019. His son — Tebriz Gulaliyev — stated on his timeline, that no less important is the fair investigation and punishment of the doctors of the City Hospital, whom he considers major culprits of his father’s continuing coma condition. A video of the citizen who was beaten up by police has circulated social networks – the policeman continuously applied martial arts on the person, who complained of suffocating. Gullu Jangirova, a female activist in exile, expresses her full support for the consistent powerful coverage of human rights issues by Sevinj Osmangizi in her programme, particularly the last one, dedicated to Ogtay Gulaliyev. Osmangizi TV explores the issue of why there is fear of investigation of delayed medical aid and wonders if this is because the doctors were fulfilling the request issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. She urges people, after Osmangizi, to be more appreciative and supportive of their own leaders-activists, than spend so much attention and discussion on other countries’ opposition leaders. Tofig Yagublu, activist of Musavat and NCDF, told in his interview to Osmangizi TV that he might be arrested after the court hearing on 28th January.
Jamil Hasanli decries the recent statements by Ahmad Shahidov, the government’s loyal representative in the civil sector, blaming the youth leader Bakhtiyar Hajiyev as being a Feto (Fatulla Gulen- L.A.) supporter. He argues that the government which blames him has conducted an official pro-Feto policy in Azerbaijan, including presidential apparatus, SOCAR, various ministers, Parliament and in spite of that it still blames the youth activist. FB reports that the bodyguard of Ali Karimli of the PFP has at last been allowed to meet his father, who informed media, that his son underwent severe tortures. Tahir Kerimli, MP loyal to the government, has expressed his negative attitude to the rights of sexual minorities, justifying it by quotation from the speech of Ilham Aliyev, saying that “we are protecting our national values as the apple of our eyes”. He recalled that the Roman empire fell because of this issue, which led to degradation of the society. He promised that while he is a deputy, he will resist this issue, and if needed rebel against it — “one can tolerate everything, but not this one.”
Social issues. The students at Baku State University complain that although the university is under quarantine conditions, students are required to pay fees to be allowed to pass the tests. The group of handicapped held a vigil in front of the State Medical, Social Expertise and Rehabilitation Agency in protest at the denial of giving them this time the status of the handicapped. Seymur Hezi comments on the statement by the Minister of Education, who expressed the idea that if the education is cheap, more people would like to get educated. He found it similar to the Head of Baku Transport, who some time ago responded to the complaints about rise of taxi tariffs prices by claiming that if taxis were cheap, everyone would use them. He comments that “it seems they belong to the same circle, which gets together to discuss and humiliate its people, and then by mistake reveals it to the media”.
Relations with Turkey. Activists share information that on 24th January, on the day of Lawyers at Risk, Turkish lawyers held a solidarity action with Azerbaijani lawyers. It is reported that the head of the Azerbaijan Bar Association demanded his members to denounce this action. The opposition activists of Musavat party expressed their attitude to the issue.
Protests in Russia. The Azadlyg newspaper writes that “Alexey Navalni is “Lukashenkasizing” Putin — the protests are growing”. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF compares the trigger of the mass protests in Russia and cost of Putin’s palace relative to the country’s budget with the Azerbaijani scale of corruption and absence of people’s freedom of assembly. The snowball effect at the Russian protests – 40% participants of rallies in support for Navalny being newcomers — is among details widely shared by the FB users.
Governance. Ibadoglu reports that his critical posting on SOCAR was attacked by trolls, who are defending its current president, Rovnag Abdullayev. He comments that the official media has reported the PSA signed in 2010 on the restoration and development of the bloc, covering the Balakhani-Sabunchu-Ramana oilfields between SOCAR and the German company UGE-Lanser-RTI Ltd, with shares of 25% and 75% respectively. Although Abdullayev stated that they have been cooperating for 5 years in the field of eco-engineering, the company was created only 2 years before the contract and not in Germany but Singapore and belongs to the cousin of Abdullayev — Anar Aliyev. He concludes that the oil contract was signed between the cousins, then approved by Parliament into the law and then signed by President Aliyev. He argues that the country is governed as a big company, which simply is passed from one hand into another. He reminds the readers, that the name of the company ZQAN, owned by the ex-Minister of Transport Ziya Mammadov, consists of abbreviations of his and his family members’ names; the name of the company QALS owned by the ex-Minister of Culture Abulfaz Garayev is made based on the same principle, registered in a Panama company owned by the ex-Minister of Taxes, Fazil Mammadov, having his initials in its name FB-Management. The former Minister of Economy, Heydar Aydin oglu Babayev, called his company “ABU” (the children of Aydin Babayev). Pasha Holdings reflects the maiden name of the current vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva, belonging to the family of the president and his wife, and has a monopoly over almost all the country’s economy. He concludes that this is an indication of the degree of their confidence, because in spite of the law on conflict of interests, they not only have personal business using their official positions, but even give their personal names. The feminist leader notes the hopelessness of the Parliament and MPs. She comments that there are enough conditions in the country for a rebellion – the arbitrariness of the bureaucrats, corruption, social pressures, falsified elections, increasing daily consumer prices — but the MPs are satisfied and will be the last to rebel, as they are useless and abuse their positions.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev comments on the speech of President Aliyev, where he expresses a wish to see young people who are living abroad to come and stay in Azerbaijan and make a contribution to the country’s development. He lists the problems of the country being the reason for students not returning: nepotism, absence of a free market and the flourishing of oligarchic business of ministers instead… “Send those who want cheaper plane tickets to Georgia, while those seeking affordable medical treatment to Iran, and unemployed young newly-weds — to Russia for jobs. Send their contemporaries whose 2m watches are stolen in Ibiza with 200,000 manat budget money for a start-up in Silicon Valley in the US. Those who criticise your policies, send first to jail and then to exile in Germany, Netherlands or France. And then look for exactly which intelligence is behind those who have then opened a Youtube channel there criticizing you from abroad. Do not hurry to change, wait a bit more: when the people who leave the country are joined by another 50-100,000 and only then you can start changing. Those choosing to leave their country to realize their potential abroad — is a your doing, mister Supreme Commander”. He also mentions that presenting the newly appointed Minister for Transport, Communication and High Technologies as a Harvard graduate is — as a rule — fake, as most of the bureaucrats who write in their CVs are either attendants of 1-5day courses, but not graduates, or alumni. Natig Jafarli of REAL is surprised why state agencies are complaining to people about their own ineffectiveness. As an example, he quotes the complaint made by the Cabinet of Ministers about purchases at inflated prices, although it is all under the control of the Cabinet of Ministers itself. FB users report that Anar Cabravilli, press service head of the Azersu company, threatens and insults the citizens who called him to complain. Azadlyg newspaper reports that staff of the Azal air company wrote a letter of complaint that they have not been paid their salaries for 2 months, while for the last 10 years, meals were cut and salaries have been low. Gubad Ibadoglu asks the question: “Why is Azerbaijan managed as a company, while SOCAR like a separate state?” He reminds the readers that Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister has 3 deputies, while SOCAR’s president — 12 of them. He predicts that the replacement of the Minister for Transport is caused by the approaching privatization of the communication sector of the economy. He attracts attention to the fall of revenues – more than 5 times from the sale of oil this year, as compared to 2011. The revenues from the sale of gas are less than 10% of those from oil.
Corruption. The activist and blogger Mehman Huseynov reveals in his investigation that the person who was found driving a Jaguar in Baku under the influence of alcohol is a relative of Mayor Eldar Azizov.
COVID-19. The chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social policy, Musa Guliyev, declared that the priority categories for vaccination would be medical personnel and law enforcement bodies, who are considered the most vulnerable groups. The MPs and their staff will also be vaccinated.
Relations with Iran. Jeyhun Bayramov, the foreign minister, stated that Iran has always supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and the latter appreciates the support which was shown at all levels of Iranian society during the 44-day war, as the two countries are tied by the historical, cultural and religious connections. In turn, the opposition, for instance the leader of the Musavat party, Arif Hajili, strongly criticises the plans of the government in attracting Iranian companies to participate in the restoration of the regions destroyed under occupation. He stresses that everyone knows that the Iranian regime cooperated with Armenia, who kept these lands under occupation for almost three decades. He considers it absurd to delegate restoration to the companies of that country, who was helping and supporting Armenia in destroying these regions, and besides, violating the cultural rights of around 30m of its Azerbaijani population for decades. The media quotes Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, stating that “The territorial integrity of Armenia is the red line for Iran”