Center for National and International Studies
“…Fines increase, fees increase, prices increase… Only the people’s prosperity does not…”
The FB community continues to express dissatisfaction with visible elements of corruption within the political system, drawing comparisons with the democratic policies of Georgia, and more favourable historic steps in Azerbaijan’s past. Users repudiate the new proposal of 500 manat in court fines, welcome discussion of the Ter-ter case in PACE, celebrate National Army Day and the birthday of human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, continue to discuss elections in Armenia and note with due pleasure Lukashenka’s retreat in response to EU sanctions.
Azerbaijan-Armenia relations. The FB community is highly concerned with the shooting into the Azerbaijani region Tovuz by the Armenian side. Osmangizi TV experts interpret it as a provocation, along with analysing the recent talks of Erdogan and Putin on monitoring the ceasefire. The government sources praise the status of the victorious Azerbaijani army and its place among the strongest armies in the world, as well as stress the role of the late Heydar Aliyev who opened in the 1990s a military school named after D. Nakhichevanski. FB users continue to comment on the elections in Armenia. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that after the second democratic election in Armenia, it will be impossible to avoid democratisation in Azerbaijan too. He also discredits the statement of the President that he “returned Karabagh by the conduct of strong foreign policy”, revealing the faults in his foreign policy. Activist in exile and political commentator Ramis Yunus argues that “the elections in Armenia demonstrated that the majority of Armenian voters voted against the Karabakh clan, who over the years of their rule have led the country to a dead end. This result inspires some optimism; the next step on the part of Armenia should be to recognise the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognised borders, and the rejection of separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh. This may lead to the signing of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with the restoration of diplomatic relations and the opening of all communications. between these countries”. The ADR TV programme BIZ (Us in Azerbaijani) compares the political situation, power change, etc. in the two republics. People react with controversy to the monument Iron Fist (the name of the military operation on liberation of the occupied lands) in Hadrut of Karabagh. The public suspects that Aliyev is trying to make the territories under Russian occupation forgotten within Azerbaijan. The opposition activists note with satisfaction that public pressure has had an effect and the deputy leader of Musavat party Faraj Karimli was at last awarded a medal “For the Homeland” – the delay of which many considered an expression of political discrimination. The government functionaries react to the criticism of opposition that it delays the return of IDPs to their liberated homeland, asserting that 97,000 mines in one Agdam region alone makes it impossible. The FB community observes that after the victory of Pashinian in the recent elections, Putin first called Aliyev, then Pashinian, and after that Erdogan. They discuss the issue of why Putin did not succeed in ousting Pashinian.
The Day of National Army. The activists and journalists celebrate the Army Day by posting and sharing stories, respect and wishes to those who served in the army and liberated the lands. Many activists criticise the way the heroes are treated and their social needs are addressed, the politically selective rewards of the war participants, etc. They also praise the late president Elchibey, who founded the National Army in 1992, and whose birthday was also celebrated this week. Elchibey also signed an agreement with Turkey’s leadership to send young military for training in Turkey. Dashgin Aghalarli comments that Elchibey could not stand the idea of the Azerbaijani military shooting each other, hated bloodshed and that’s why he avoided the power struggle in 1993. Ali Karimli of PFP praises the victory of the army in the 44-day war, saying that it raised the nation’s dignity.
Human rights. The activists and journalists support, share and comment on the recent discussion in PACE of the human rights violations during the Ter-ter case of Azerbaijan. Ali Karimli calls it “great support of international community to the victims of our regime”, as 24 members of PACE signed the proposal to investigate the issue, based on the report of the Italian MP Roberto Rampi with the appeal prepared by Emin Huseynov. The resolution assigns a special representative and states that Azerbaijani government by applying torture to the subjects of the Ter-ter case has violated articles 2, 3, 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The e-media reports that according to journalist Emin Huseynov, Erkin Gadirli refused to sign the appeal to PACE to discuss the Ter-ter case, while during the discussion – along with most of the delegation – was not present there. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports an increasing blackening, slanderous campaign against him in the social networks and the information that the authorities are preparing new “topics” to be developed by trolls. The FB community defends the activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who is under continuous pressure from the authorities due to his critical postings on social networks. Rufat Safarov argues that this dirty campaign will have a boomerang effect and will only strengthen the activist’s position. The FB community cheers the news that prominent human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, who was hit by a car over a year ago, is recovering and posts birthday wishes on his timeline. People praise his role in defence of human rights, especially in the most risky and challenging cases, like those of Ganja or Ter-ter. The fact of the awareness of these cases by large sectors of society is the best evidence of his valuable work.
Social issues. The FB community continues to share stories of the families of war heroes, who are continuously facing the indifference of bureaucrats. This time it is a photo of the Latifa khanum, street cleaner, mother of a martyr, who cannot afford treatment for her heart disease. The other video shows a desperate citizen posting his complaints on the statue of Heydar Aliyev and being detained by policemen. The activists analyze the newly introduced so-called “presidential” addition (from 20 to 60%) from July 1st to the salaries of the troops serving in the conflict zone. In reality, only a small number of troops on the front line were restored their pre-war salaries, while the majority received a 50% increase only. Ali Karimli also stressed that the increase will come into force only from July 1st, hence the troops get only 75% of their pre-war salaries since the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Now people who risk their lives in the mined territories will get that increase as a favor from the president, rather than as deserved. Karimli is indignant that the authorities think they can deceive people so easily. The war handicapped, in protest to the bureaucratic indifference, installed a tent in front of the government building in Ganja city, put his military beret in front of himself and begged for money. The people compare the enormous pensions of the MPs – 4,000 manats – to the miniscule pensions of the war veterans and handicapped. Azadlyg newspaper writes the story of the war hero Elchin Ahmadov who, unlike others, was not awarded any medal, supposedly because he grew up in an orphanage. One of the activists shared his observation, on National Army Day, that people were approaching war heroes met in the streets by praising and thanking them, offering their help, and even money. This was an indication that there is an awareness of the acute social problems of the war heroes among the population. The e-media reports suicide of the war-handicapped who threw himself to the canal in Agjabedi region despaired at the bureaucratic indifference.
Democracy building, power-society relations, opposition. The activists continue to discuss the support of the Shusha statement signed by the 48 parties, including some of the so-called opposition. Ali Karimli of PFP referred to this as the “masks being torn off” and that those who in the past had built their careers using the name of Elchibey, are nowadays calling Heydar Aliyev the “all national leader”. The activist Ordukhan Babirov argues that until the statues of KGB General Heydar Aliyev are taken down, freedom will not come to Azerbaijan. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev compares the policy of the Georgian government which forgave all fines imposed for violation of quarantine rules to 245,000 people and 144 companies, to that of Azerbaijan – which, in order to avoid giving 190 manats in compensation, decreed numerous excuses. He comments that this is because the power and parliament in Georgia were elected in free and fair elections, and people immediately protest in the squares and raise their voices when the authorities commit wrongdoings. He concludes that until this happens in Azerbaijan too, the attitude to society by the regime will not change. The rather primitive commentaries in response to the firing and discrediting publications about former rector of the Slavian University, 75-year-old Nurlana Aliyeva, are being ridiculed by the FB community. A similar reaction of the FB community is observed to the earlier commentaries by the ex-MP discredited in the harassment scandal, Huseynbala Miralamov, who said that “there is no age limit to love”. The e-media reports the support of the ex-ruling party member and assistant of the judge Rasim Soltanov to PFP leader Ali Karimli, which he expressed on his timeline. Altay Geyushov argues that the current Minister of Education cares nothing about accessibility and quality of education, but about the income and profit of the private schools, when opposing the concept of free or cheap education in Azerbaijan. The minister supports his conviction by the fact that the population is rich, as there are many expensive cars in the streets. Geyushov comments that by such statements he embarrasses Columbia University and the CEU where he allegedly studied and that was widely advertised. He urges him to look at statistics of cars – to discover that car-parks are being worn out year by year, but those who have such cars pay for their children’s education abroad. He calls him the only Minister of Education who advocates not better and accessible education in state schools, but the promotion of private schools. Gultakin Hajibeyli reminds her followers that on 27 June 1918, the Turkic language was declared the official language of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan.
Judiciary: proposal to introduce 500 manat fine. Seymur Hezi of PFP comments on the proposal for changes to the Procedural Code. According to these amendments, judges may impose 500 manats on lawyers who filed the motions, which the judges consider unfounded. He denounces these, as yet another step of the authorities to eliminate the institute of legal defence. He states that the authorities are turning the judicial system into a parody and all should protest against it. The lawyer Alasgar Ahmadoglu comments that this proposal has no legitimate basis, is an artificial obstacle to justice and humiliates the legal defender. Gultakin Hajibeyli concludes that the country is fully transferring to the “self-financing mode”. Based on her own experience with the court, she asserts that so far none of the motions in her case have been satisfied anyway, proving the absurdity and political request behind her case. Hajibeyli argues that the 500 manats will be transferred to the wage fund of the judges. She comments that people are still keeping silence, because probably this is not like in Syria yet – people are not hijacked for ransom, or not thrown out from their houses to the street. “But this day will also come”, she asserts, once we have run out of money to pay the police, executive bureaucrats, etc. The journalist Ganimad Zahid argues that President Aliyev shows disrespect to Azerbaijani people at each step – by appointing his wife a vice-president, by turning 30% of all arable lands and at least 50% of the oil sector into his private business, does not consider them human beings by depriving all human rights of the 21st century, etc. – and finally today, by fining them for the attempt to prove their innocence in court. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev comments that a country which does not have free and fair courts does not have a future. Natig Jafarli of REAL notes that this amendment, if adopted, besides other consequences will alienate the investors from the country. “Maybe you should just cancel the institute of legal defence altogether? – he asks in a rhetorical question. The academic historian Jamil Hasanli comments that the Azerbaijan state (if one can call it a state) is increasingly turning into a “fining state”, as during Ilham Aliyev’s office fines were increased 30, 50, 100 or even 150 times. The new proposal, which increases existing fine 40 times, is based on the President Aliyev’s decree on “On deepening of Reforms in the area of Justice” signed on 3rd April 2019. He calls it the creation of “the module type of a ‘fining’ government”. Hasanli stresses that these resources then go not to support people in need, but to further improve the living standards of the employees of presidential administration, ministry of interior, judiciary, etc. He parallels it to the times of the Russian empire, which did not give any salaries to bureaucrats sent to the Caucasus, assigning them to life at the expense of such “fees” as they collected, by robbing the local population. He calls the recent proposal for fines of 500 manat – an attempt to turn the courts into a pantomime managed by the president, and to “legally” shut down the institute of legal defence. Tofig Yagublu comments that this decision proves that President Aliyev is a man without (inferiority) complexes. The lawyer Agil Laij states that “Fines increase, fees increase, prices increase… Only the people’s prosperity does not.”
The memory of President Elchibey. The FB community continues to commemorate the late president Ebulfaz Elchibey (in office 1992-1993) The Turkish media quotes the opinion of the ex-leader of Musavat, Isa Gambar, about Elchibey: “Ebulfez Elchibey is one of the greatest personalities in the history of Azerbaijan. In the 20th century, the Azerbaijani people fought a war of independence twice. First of all, in 1918, under the leadership of Mehmet Emin Rasulzadeh, the Azerbaijani people gained their independence and established a republic. And in 1991, the Azerbaijani people gained independence again under the leadership of Ebulfez Elchibey. Ebulfez Elchibey, he was a great Turkist, a great democrat and one of the rare leaders who managed to combine both Turkism and democracy. Elchibey is the first and last president who came to power via democratic election. There has never been a real democratic election in Azerbaijan after Elchibey and this is the reality of Azerbaijan.”
Events in Belarus. The FB community welcomes the release of the founder of Nehta, Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega from prison to house arrest, assessing it as Lukashenka’s step back under the new EU sectoral sanctions. The Azadlyg newspaper stresses that such powerful sanctions were being imposed against a country located in Europe’s geographical space. According to these sanctions, all the important areas of the Belarus economy, including export of oil and potassium fertilizers, which brings an annual income of $6.5b and 3b respectively, will be affected. The sanctions will also cover the other important sector of the economy – the export of tobacco. The opposition leader Gultakin Hajibeyli argues that in this way, Europe is giving Lukashenka a message: that this $10-5b loss is the cost of incorrect policy decisions and that Russia will not be able to compensate for it, as she cannot even afford Crimea anymore. She argues that Putin will start to give away the dictators one by one to the West and “everything will be all right”. Many consider that President Aliyev should learn the lessons of Lukashenka’s experience.
Relations with Russia. The historian Jamil Hasanli makes a reference to history when analyzing Russia’s current foreign policy. He comments on the statement by Sergey Karaganov that Russia has all the capacity to win the West in the current Cold War. Hasanli finds it ironic that he speaks about the Cold War with the West, while most of the Russian elite sent their children and families to live in the West. He quotes the archival document – a letter from the British ambassador to Russia Frank Roberts, sent on 17th March 1946 to foreign minister Ernst Bevin, about the insecurity of a country with no natural borders and surrounded by enemies, as a major factor behind Russia’s policy. The letter also stresses that Russia has always been more backward than her neighbors. Hasanli notes that nothing has changed over 75 years in Russia’s policy: instead of improving lives in their own country, the new Russians are robbing their own country and step by step buying property in London, declaring cold war on the West. Similar to the brainwashing of the population by communism, the new generation is being zombified by the idea of victory in the new Cold War.
Governance, economy, corruption. The FB community discusses the plans of restoration of the liberated territories, suspecting that main motivation of the authorities is corruption and earning the profit. Vice speaker Adil Aliyev appealed to the MPs with the call to donate even 10 manat to the Yashat Foundation, which was created with the purpose of aid for war martyrs and their families and whose resources have been declining. This contrasts with the lavish spending on the infrastructure and extended bureaucratic apparatus of the Ministry of Economy. The economist and opposition leader Gubad Ibadoglu reports on the new decree of the President to reform the Ministry of Economy, which puts the number of its employees at 4, 394 people, with 409 of them working for the ministry’s apparatus. The annual salary of the employees is 64m 90,000 manats. Taking into account office and service expenditures, the annual support of the bureaucratic apparatus of the ministry reaches 100m manat. He also reports on the creation of the Student Education Credit Fund by the Ministry of Education with capital of 80m manat. Any student from vulnerable social groups will be given concessional credits for 20 years. Ibadoglu, while supporting this as a concept, is skeptical about its practice, as only universities will benefit from this, while students will be long carrying the burden of the debt. Because of the weak connection of the labour market and education, this system will not work well. He also stresses the ineffectiveness of the state company of Amelioration and Water Management, who for many years failed to provide water for the agricultural regions, the geographic disadvantage of which was aggravated by climate change, the main victim of this ineffectiveness being the family and small agricultural farms. Ibadoglu calls the national economy as that of 366.6m manat fines. He gives the data that while the income last year, as compared to 2019, has increased 3% at the expense of fines, etc., in formation of the budget income, the share of financial sanctions, administrative fines, taxes and state fees is approximately 1.5 %. This proves that a significant part of fines and sanctions did not reach the budget. According to the law, 50% of the fines goes to the agency which writes the protocol. He suggests forgiving the population their fines, similar to the policy in Georgia. The FB community shares news about the creation by President Aliyev’s decree of the Centre on Problems of the War Veterans. The investigative journalist and blogger Mehman Huseynov reports on another case of corruption – that of the money-laundering scheme involving MP Javanshir Pashazade – the brother of the Head of The Muslims of the Caucasus, Allahshukur Pashazade. He calls him the thief who launders the money with the help of his son, by opening endless restaurants in prestigious hotels in Turkey. He posts the photo of the 300,000 worth Maybach 57S van belonging to Allahshukur Pashazade and asks whether he earned this money, or spent that which believers had donated to the mosques’ “nazir” boxes. People discuss the prohibition of wedding parties in Nakhichevan trying to guess who is following whom in the policy decisions – President Aliyev, the leader of Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, or vice-versa. The activists call Nakhichevan the test ground for the President. Ganimad Zahid calls the governance in Nakhichevan an insult to Azerbaijani people.
June 29, 2021