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Center for National and International Studies
“…The state has long lost its seriousness as an institution in this country…”
The FB community is concerned with the continued violation of the ceasefire, seeing the interests of Russia behind it, shares and comments on the Baku Statement of three states – Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey, praises the reception of Tikhanovskaya by President Biden, discusses the conflict behind Turkey’s reaction to Allah Shukur Pashazade about the fatwa, follows the protests in Tabriz and Tehran, decries the continued problems with health and social protection of the war handicapped and martyrs’ families, empathizes with unemployment statistics and stories of ordinary citizens’ encounters with bureaucracy, denounces the restrictions of rights and freedoms with wedding and funeral raids on the subject of quarantine rules, and the violent dispersal of the meeting of the parents accused in the Tovuz case.
Post-conflict situation. The FB users share reports about the violation of ceasefire in Sadarak of Nakhichevan, Lachin of Karabagh, and Khojavend. The Azerbaijan Defence Ministry reported a new violation of ceasefire by the Armenian party, who fired on Azerbaijani positions in the villages Yukhari Sorcha and Zarkend of Basakecher region on 27th July at 16.00. The Ministry also reported 2 troop members injured (Sadig Aliyev and Imran Imranli) during Armenia’s firing at the Kelbajar region on 28th July at 00:50, who in spite of a declared ceasefire from 10.00, with mediation of Russian peacekeepers, continued to fire from their tanks and with other weapons. The Armenian party in turn blamed Azerbaijan for attacking its positions, resulting in 3 killed and 2 injured. A direct confrontation was reported in the area of Zeylik village in the Kelbajar region with the throwing of 10-12 hand grenades from the Armenian side. The experts call it the most intense fighting since the end of the 2nd Karabagh war and discuss the meeting of the two defence ministers in Moscow. The political party led by Panah Huseyn (Azerbaijan People’s Party) reported the discussion of the situation on the borders and expressed its full support to the Azerbaijan Army. Political parties, activists and journalists discuss and comment on the Baku statement of three states – Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan. The MP of the ruling YAP party S. Novruzov states that the Baku Statement signed by three friendly and brotherly nations bears a strategic character. He comments that Turkey and Pakistan had always supported Azerbaijan’s just position in the conflict and all three states expressed strong political will in the deepening of their cooperation. One of the national political analysts argues that this meeting and statement is an indication of 2 changes of the foreign policy of the country – a shift from a balanced foreign policy (balancing interests of the big power centres) to the balanced foreign policy with the national interests at the center, and a shift in geographic orientation. Ali Karimli of PFP comments on the frequent violations of ceasefire, by stressing that it contradicts the official statements about the “capitulation of the enemy” and that the government is again deceiving its people. He argues that it is not by accident that these violations are taking place only on the state borders of Azerbaijan–Armenia and not in Karabagh, as Russia wants to take control over these borders too and increase its military presence in both states. He concludes that if the government wanted to pursue an independent policy, it would discuss not the issue of Zangezur, but Khojavend, Agdere, Khojali, Khankendi and Lachin. FB users note that the Russian company GeoProMining Gold has withdrawn its technical equipment from the Zod gold deposits while its employees were evacuated, which indicates high security risks in the area.
International relations. The FB community praises the reception of the opposition leader of Belarus, Svetlana Tihanovskaya, by President Biden, who wrote in his Twitter that he was proud to meet with her and that the US stands with people of Belarus in their search for democracy and human rights. The appointment of the former ambassadors to the US of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to London has attracted attention of the activists and journalists. Osmangizi TV dedicated a programme to these appointments with the interview of US-based journalist Alekber Raufoglu. The e-media also reports President Aliyev’s reception of the delegation of the officials headed by the governor of Oklahoma state of the US. People share the photo of two of them with President Aliyev wearing a cowboy hat, presented by the guest. Gultakin Hajibeyli compares status wise the meeting of Aliyev with the governor of the state to the meeting of Tikhanovskaya with US President Biden. The activist in exile and political commentator Ramiz Yunus considers the statement by A. Pashazade about the fatwa to be an indication of activization of the pro-Iranian forces in the country, due to the competitive attitude of Iran to Azerbaijan’s relations with Turkey. He calls on readers to immediately decry such statements. Natig Jafarli of REAL explains the low amount of EU aid to Azerbaijan as compared to Armenia and Georgia by signed association agreements of those two countries with the EU. Assessing the role of France, the opposition activist Seymur Hezi states “that Putin realises control of the region by blood, while France agrees to it. Although Ilham Aliyev clashes with France, he also agrees with it”. The journalist Nurlan Libre strongly decried the Taliban in connection with the hijacking of the famous author of comedies Nazar Muhammad and his killing. They justified it with the prohibition by sharia of making people laugh. He considers that IGIL and Taliban reflect the nature of the Islamic religion; however, one should not even conduct a radical fight against it, because “it is fighting itself in the swamp of the Middle East”. He concludes there is no place for destructive believers in the civilized world. Meydan TV reports public meetings protesting at the shortage of water in Tabriz and Tehran. The protesters demanded the resignation of the religious leader Khameneyi. “Death to the dictator!”, “Mullahs, get out!”, “Police, be with us!” were among slogans at the rally. Numerous participants were detained, one reported dead. However, Khameneyi supported the protesters and called on the official structures to resolve the issue of water supply.
Social problems. Meydan TV reports another heartbreaking story about the family – victim of indifference and malfunctioning of the bureaucratic system. Failed to get proper medical treatment for the war-handicapped son – they lost him, and then even the status of martyr and social benefits were taken away from the family. Lost in hopeless appeals in the court, the father also died of a heart attack. FB users also decry another case of mistreatment of war heroes by the local authorities. A group of war-handicapped complained about the disrespectful attitude of Mingechavir city executive office and the doctors of the clinic. The protest resulted in clashes between the police, handicapped and the doctors. The Azadlyq newspaper reports statistics on unemployment in the country: in the last 5 months 18,400 mainly state employees lost their jobs and of 19 sectors of the economy, only 3 managed to avoid reductions. Of total losses of jobs – 3,800 – in the construction sector, 2,900 in education, 2,700 in electricity, gas etc., 1,500 in property business, 1300 – oil sector, 1200 – oil processing industry. The paradox is that these statistics relate to the current year of increase in oil prices, and if not changed this policy will lead to a deadlock, argues the economist Nemat Aliyev. The same newspaper tells the story of Tahira Rzayeva, the most prominent and consistent fighter for her property rights and for adequate compensation for a few years during demolition of the houses in the quarter Sovetskaya in Baku. She managed to receive a very small compensation, which was sufficient to buy a place only in the distant settlement Khirdalan (Sovetskaya was in the centre of the capital), which was sold to her by the bureaucrat and incurred problems with the paperwork.
COVID-19 quarantine raids. The media reports with reference to information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs that by the results of monitoring of 190 wedding parties from the side of three government agencies on the subject of compliance with the rules of quarantine, 4 people were arrested, 83 people were fined, the case of 1 was sent to court and 2,218 people due to the absence of vaccination passports were not admitted to the wedding. Arif Hajili of Musavat comments that the only remaining occasions for practice of the freedom of assembly were weddings and funerals – and now even they were being suppressed.
Governance, economy, corruption. An investigative journalist, Mehman Huseynov, comments that some officials via the press and TV of Turkey should not just criticize statements by Allah Shukur Pashazade (about Khameneyi’s fatwa), but should investigate. The brothers Pashazade, he argues, have created a big business empire in Turkey with funds stolen from Azerbaijan people. He urges the officials of Turkey to call them to the prosecutor’s office and demand disclosure of their source of millions. “Most probably they will not be able to disclose it, so open a criminal case against them, rather than discuss whether he considers Iran closer than Turkey to Azerbaijan” – he concludes. People continue to comment on the issue with Pashazade. B. Hajiyev, the youth leader, ironically advises that in order to improve the governance of the Agency of Caucasus Muslims (similar to the state enterprises) a Supervisory Board should be created. He considers that the story of the fatwa is an excuse to simply mask the clash of business interests of SOCAR and Pashazade in Turkey. Ganimat Zahidov considers that the fatwa story aims at distracting public attention from the scandal of the monitoring of 1038 Azerbaijani citizens. Habib Muntazir reports with irony that the founder of the newspaper Martyrdom and editor of the “End to Corruption” publication in Tovuz region were extorting money by blackmailing various officials in the region, commenting that their behaviour reflects the system of governance in the country. The media discusses the substance of “reforms” in the country, which represents reshuffling of the cadres of the same quality. The diplomat Isfendiyar Vahabzade commented to Osmangizi TV that the President’s firing of bureaucrats is usually followed by awarding them with high orders of glory. Ali Karimli argues that there are certain circles in the country which believe in reforms of the President and seriously follow his new appointments. The FB community continues to discuss the statement of President Aliyev, that “Uncontrolled spending is left in the past”. Seymur Hezi of PFP comments that Ilham Aliyev should specify which past he means. In particular, how does he punish those involved in such spending? He points to the contradictory policy of the President: while calling them disgusting, he often leaves them at their positions, and even awarding them with state glory orders. The most recent example is given by Fuad Gahramanli who reported the appointment of the previously failed as Minister of Health Ogtay Shiraliyev, the director of the Diagnostic Centre and commented: “I am not surprised, as the state has long lost its seriousness as an institution in the country”. Meydan TV discussed the losses of the state companies, such as AZERSU (water company) who got 407m manat from the budget, while brought into the budget only 10,7m. manat, AZAL (airflight company) -received 225,9m manat, but contributed to the budget -23,9m manat etc.
Democracy, power-opposition relations. The FB community continues to discuss the scandal with Pegasus and monitoring of the Azerbaijan citizens by the authorities. Ganimat Zahidov, a journalist in exile, shockingly contrasts the substance of the issue in France to Azerbaijan. In France, Marocco was monitoring the French officials, while in Azerbaijan the officials were monitoring their own citizens with the help of a foreign company. Many disapprove of the lack of transparency in OCCRP in regards the Azerbaijani list of the monitored. G. Hajbeyli considers publishing only 75 names out of 1038 by OCCRP serves only the interests of the Azerbaijani regime. The leader of the AG Party, Tural Abbasli, makes a statement on his timeline about the rise of the tension in society. He agues that people are not afraid any more, regional administration intervenes in every house where it sees 2-3 cars, suggesting this is a funeral, or a wedding – as a violation of quarantine: the minimum “fines” are respectively 300 and 500 manat, He touches upon the problem at work-the employers exploit their employees for 12 hours per day with no days off. And stresses that the authorities deprive a writer, politician, or elderly of any status and respect of, so they have no one left to convince the public to vaccinate.
Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF considers that the biggest problem of Azerbaijan is not Ilham Aliyev, but ignorance. She argues that people are now distracted by the issue of Zangezur, naively believing that Putin will help Aliyev to gain control over it. This way they forget about the true danger of losing Karabagh. She also mentions the cases of getting vaccination passports for a bribe as another proof of ignorance. FB community discusses the role of different leaders in the post-Soviet history of the country. Seymur Hezi of PFP states that Abulfaz Elchibey has become a success story of this nation in the last 30 years, as he is a symbol and a leader, who contributed to collapse of the empire and conducted the first democratic elections. The activists exchange information that according to OCCRP, Pegasus monitoring in Kazakhstan was realised not only over the opposition, but of the officials, big businessmen, etc. and suggest that a similar happening occurred in Azerbaijan. The Azad Soz platform posted a video about the illegal property of Allah Shukur Pashazade in the Czech Republic. The Musavat party leader Arif Hajili responded to the popular singer Flora Karimova who was in opposition for many years, but recently said in her interview on Meydan TV that “there is no place for opposition any more because the government raised us as nation, as people by the martyr’s blood”. He argued that there is not a single democratic country without opposition in the world, in spite of having no problems with territorial integrity, and thus defied her connection of existence of opposition on the one hand, and territorial integrity problem on the other. Ali Karimli also responded to this comment of Flora Karimova. He argued that to have no opposition means to have family rule forever. He also reminded the FB users that more than 70% of the former Karabagh territory is still under occupation, and that Azerbaijan lost its sovereignty over Lachin region too. Nowadays it is like Azerbaijan is returning to the condition of the 44-day war as the ceasefire is being violated, and there are wounded and killed. But this does not mean that countries without such a Karabagh problem do not or should not have any opposition. He concludes that in the country where there are no free and fair elections, people’s $100b worth of riches are being stolen, activists and journalists are arrested and tortured for their political stance, advocating for absence of opposition is equal to proclaiming the usurping family rule forever.
Liberal freedoms and human rights. The activists report violations of internet freedom. Tofig Yagublu was forced to shut down his FB account because of its being hacked. The protest action in Agalikend and Tezekend of Bilasuvar region directed against local authorities due to the water supply problem was violently dispersed by the police, with a few people are reported to have been detained. Rufat Safarov, head of the Line of Defence human rights organization, decries the brutal dispersal by police of the protest vigil of the parents of those accused in the Tovuz case. He argues that he is not surprised by such violence towards women when the Minister of Interior is Vilayet Eyvazov – the man whom he likens to Joseph Fouche, the French Minister of Interior during Napoleon’s rule. He reminds the readers that V. Eyvazov earned the nickname ‘the king of tortures’, personally tormenting innocent people, enjoying it and raising arms against peaceful population. But he believes that the history will show such people their true place. Meydan TV reports about the parents of accused’s attempt to stage a vigil in front of the Turkish embassy in Baku to get their attention, but they were quickly pushed away by the police. Natig Jafarli of REAL warns about cases of human rights violations based on vaccination, when an individual’s freedoms are restricted if he was not vaccinated. He considers that introduction of the mandatory COVID vaccination passport is in violation of rights and freedoms. Nigar Hezi tells the story of how the government did not allow her father, under an artificial excuse, to leave the country in order to be with the dying mother. She suspects that they may not allow him to leave even for the attendance of the 40th day of mourning. Tural Abbasli of AG party decries the fact of the thousands of brethren not allowed to cross the border to Azerbaijan because of COVID-19. The defender of the human rights of oil workers, Mirvarid Gahramanli, calls on the Supervisory Board of SOCAR to watch the new exploration company Oil Rocks Drilling Company which was created last year by Dashgin Iskandarov. She questions their agreement to the creation of the new company in spite of the still existing company Complex Drilling Works Trest, where numerous workers were fired.