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Center for National and International Studies
The dominating topic this week was the disclosed agreement of Azerbaijani government to the Iran’s project of building power station and the bridge from Iran to the occupied by Armenia Azerbaijani region Jabrayil in 2016 , the facts of corruption in the coronavirus related state aid distribution ( the salaries to the medical employees), closure of the 4 banks, alleged death of Ramiz Mehdiyev (ex-grey cardinal), continued repressions and new arrests of opposition activists, recent arrest of the head of executive power of Imishli region, the decision of the ECHR on the case of Khadija Ismayil, and the setting the tent camps for the Azerbaijani citizens returning home from Russia on the borders in Daghestan, the celebration of the 9th May Victory day, softening of the quarantine regime.
The FB users actively shared and commented on all materials related to the recently disclosed details of the agreement of Azerbaijani government to the Iran’s building of the bridge and the power station on the borders with the occupied by Armenian forces Jabrayil region of Azerbaijan. The projects of the hydro-power stations Khudaferin and Giz Galasi were co-financed by two parties.The issue was brought in the interview of Ilham Ismayil and Ganimat Zahid, as well as developed in the timeline status by the lawyer Alasgar Ahmadoglu. The journalist in exile Emin Huseynov arranged the Zoom session devoted to the issue which attracted near 65 thousand views. Participants gave a political, economic analysis to the issue, and discussed the implications to the conflict. They stressed the anti-national position of the government, absence of any consideration of the people’s opinion, the fact, that a few villages appeared under the water as a result of this project, and it gave a free pass to the occupants and promoted communication between Iran and the Armenian forces controlling the region. The activists and journalists report that 99 of 100 MPs present at at the session of the parliament under the chairmanship of Ogtay Asadov MPs at 16 June 2016 voted for this agreement. ADR movement came up with statement demanding the government to give explanations regarding the agreement of 2016.
While the issue of Jabrayil and Karabagh has been dominating, the coronavirus related state aid topic did not lose its popularity. The experts and activists discussed the fact of non-execution of the decree on 3-5 times increase of the salaries of the medical personnel. Contrary to the provisions of the decree, the doctors and medical personnel were receiving the payment not only the monthly basis, but according to the days which they actually worked. Ibadoglu calculated that only 30% of the allocated funds were given to the medical personnel. “Coronavirus will go, but the corruption will stay in Azerbaijan”, comments Gubad Ibadoglu. Contrary to the appearance of the fight with corruption, the authorities resist to creation of the public monitoring bodies/councils at major institutions such as SOFAZ, SOCAR, or include in the existing ones truly independent citizens and organizations.
The information about continuous arrests of the opposition activists were shared by many FB users. Gozel Bayramli reports about arrest of PFP member Ramid Nagiyev by the police holding him incommunicado for two days, and sentencing him for 30 days. Ali Karimli reports about arrest for 10 days of the activist of the Mingechavir branch of PFP Jeyhun Rzayev, who put the portrait of M. E. Rasulzade on the Soviet monument devoted to the killed in the Great Motherland War. The FB users also share the publication in the US about persecution of Ali Karimli, and government keeping him in communication blockade for more than 20 days, on the condition of Tofig Yagublu, who still do not have an access to medicine and fresh clothes, continues to discuss the report by Freedom House. Khadija Ismayil confirms that the state owes her 44, 500 euro of compensation, according to the decision of the ECHR, but has not given her a penny yet. She also mentions the case of the chair of the youth movement D18 Ruslan Izzetli, who was sent to the army in spite of the medical conditions, and that they use opposition as the “penal batallion” in the army.
The activists and journalists do not stop bringing to attention the issue of responsibility for corruption, the nature of the “fight against corruption” and the “reforms” by the authorities. This is first of all related to the arrests of the heads of the executive power of the regions with alleged expropriation of the millions of hard currency from their homes and offices. Similarly, many comment and share the information about arrests of employees of the Ministry of Culture. Khadija Ismayil commenting on these arrests quotes Hafiz Babali, who investigated that part of the tenders in the ministry was given to Arif Pashayev ( the father of the vice-president). Commenting on these arrests, for instance, the economist and PFP activist Nemat Aliyev writes that responsibility for the corruption at the level of the regions fully lies with the president Aliyev. He lists the awards which he has given to these people, later arrested for corruption, and for their almost open and consistent corruption practices in every region, where they used to work, and it is highly doubtful that police was not aware about it. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev suggests a topic for a dialogue with the government, that to resolve the issue – rather than arrest one by one the executive heads it should give the most poor and undeveloped regions for the governance to the young and professional civil society leaders and it will be the best remedy against corruption. The FB users also joke, that if this trend of arrests continues – soon there will be more arrested members of YAP ( ruling party), than of PFP ( opposition). Natig Jafarli of REAL comments on the expression by Elman Rustamov that he regrets that they will not be able to compensate to the businessmen who had deposits in the closed banks. He says, that the most transparent area in the country is corruption. Everyone knows the details and size of corruption. Any taxi driver knows whom the restaurants belong. Just on the basis of this knowledge if they really wanted 3 investigators and 3 judges can arrest all the corrupt people in 3 days.
The closure of the banks is a hot topic these days. Gubad Ibadoglu explains that the agent-bank for the return of the deposits to the customers of the closed banks Atabank and Amrahbank is the Kapital Bank, 99.87% of which belongs to Pasha Holding ( the vice-president family), and this reveals why the banks were closed. Kapital Bank has monopolized all the financial activities in the country in distributing aid– 190 manats, the education fees is also collected by Kapital Bank, it accepts the communal payments, it also gives the state workers salaries- all this happens at the expanse of discrimination of the other banks, which testifies absence of any free market economy.
The hot issue is the date and name of the Victory day. Majority of activists are against the celebration on the 9th May and name “ the Great Motherland War”, considering it an ideological cliché of the Soviet power. Toplum TV gave an interview with Isa Gambar of Musavat , who said that : “ The Great Motherland War is the Russian approach, which cannot be an Azerbaijan approach too, as at that time Azerbaijan was the country occupied by Russia and was in the status of its colony. The Azerbaijani state could not adopt an independent decisions.” Natig Jafarli of REAL recalls the story of his uncle, who fought all the war and upon his return home was sent to the Siberia and thus spent most of his life in sufferings. He expresses hopes, that the humanity knowing about the misery and sufferings at the expanse of whom the wars were waged, will never allow these militarist and authoritarian adventures to happen again.
The softening of the quarantine regime and post-coronavirus situation were discussed by economists and politicians. Gubad Ibadoglu warns about the health risks to the people due to the softening of the quarantine and opening the metro system, which is not prepared for the process. Natig Jafarli comments on “ social distance” concept and its role in post-coronavirus Azerbaijan, first of all its economic costs. He speculates, that if applied this concept will require a few times increased number of the buses, metro trains, trains, planes, etc. All the service and catering will be affected, as it will reduce the number of customers, gyms etc. But it seems that this economic costs will be paid by the consumers, as this will make prices rise exponentially. “ As you know, our government is not visionary, they try to resolve issues upon their emergence, they never deal with the cause of the problems, but with the consequences, so we have to write about it, may eb they will read and draw some conclusions, who knows”..