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Center for National and International Studies
The issues of coronavirus, government capacity to handle the pandemic, corruption of officials, persecution of activists – the arrest of Javid Mammadzade for the mask with the photo of M. E. Rasulzade, the attempt of PR for police with the fake choir -hired music academy students, the speech by Ilham Aliyev, the Day of National Army, the flight prices of AZAL, the restrictions on buying currency by citizens – have been topics most widely discussed and shared.
The activists, journalists, bloggers, public figures with great concern observe and stress the increasing worsening situation with coronavirus spread in the country and warn the citizens to rely on themselves, take precautions, as the state system is not capable to handle the crisis. They state the statistics- 180 died by now, and 6613 are in the hospital, and there are more in the closed institutions, like prisons and military garrisons. They urge the private clinics not to take an advantage of the situation for an additional income, or let the MPs not to go to the state clinics but those, owned by themselves or their colleagues, which are very expansive. They share the story of the young woman who died I one of the private clinics from COVID-19, but the clinic refused to give away the dead body, until the parents pay 40, 000 manats. The journalist Shahveled Chobanoglu lists the reasons of the increasing spread of the virus in the country: absence of freedom of press, authoritarian rule. He adds, that many people due to lack of information were treating themselves at home, the test system was not satisfactory etc. The FB admin. reminds the chronology of advises on how to deal with the virus by the PFP leader Ali Karimli from 25 th February through 7 th April.
The long list of advises ranges from the closure of borders with Iran- (on the 25 February) to the advise to give at least to 6-7 mln people the state aid of 300 manat and bank credit interest cancellation for 3-6 months, along with deleting the communal service bills for the poor families –(on the 7th April). The FB users discuss the increase two times of the fines for not wearing the masks and violation of the rules. Various parties and organizations discuss the issue of pandemic in Zoom sessions. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP argues that the pandemic revealed the crisis of the system of governance, which has three directions 1) total absence of trust between the authorities, state- on the one hand and the people- on the other 2) it revealed the incapacity of the state institutions and the government to give effective and timely responses to the crisis 3) disclosure one after another of the cases of corruption of the officials and absence of any punishment by the authorities seriously undermined its legitimacy. Gubad Ibadoglu raises the issue of thousands of Azerbaijani students waiting to return back home from abroad. He suggests that AZAL, who received 86,9 mln manat of aid from the budget should immediately arrange charter flights to bring students back, including our citizens from Russia and Georgia. He also suggests that increasing the fines for violating the rules of quarantine, such as wearing the mask, will increase demand for masks in the market. This will improve financial situation of the two major producers of medical masks Balu Textile Factory MMC and Gilan Textile Park MMC. The Economic expert Natig Jafarli calculates the expenses of one family of 4 for the medical means of protection from the virus— 127 manat 50 gepik. He asks how many families in the country can afford this sum? He urges the government first of all to provide citizens for the basic living standards and then demand the fulfilment of the quarantine rules. Gubad Ibadoglu stresses that in spite of Baku population is 19,8 % the number of infected is 53,4%. This is explained not only by the high population and its density, but also by the most of the enterprises, factories etc, as well as metro system. He also notes, that although Kelbajar Lachin economic region has 2,6% of population, there is no separate data on them. He urges the TABIB to provide all other necessary data region by region- number of hospital beds, doctors etc. Seymur Hezi states on his timeline that tests should be done for free, the people in Daghestan should immediately brought back to the country, the students from Turkey should be brought also, for those locked at home, should be rendered state aid- in none of the cases the state is present. There is no basis for people’s love and respect for the state.
The FB users widely share and comment on the continued persecution of activists, this time the arrest for 10 days of Javid Mammadzade in Sumgayit on the 26th June for having a small portrait of the founder of the first Azerbaijan Democratic Republic M.E. Rasulzade on his medical mask. The activists demand his immediate release. Gubad Ibadoglu suggests the young people in solidarity to stick similar photos of Rasulzade to their masks too. They also report that couple of days ago the Interior Minister Vilayet Eyvazov instructed to punish those, who insult the dignity of police in social networks. Ali Karimli reports detention of the PFP Ganja branch activist Firdovsi Amrahov on the 25th, bringing him to Baku and only after deleting his post on FB, releasing him. Then on the 26th June – the arrest of Faig Rashidov from Ismayilli PFP branch followed. On the 28th the activist Elshad Atayev was arrested in Imishli for 10 days. Gultekin Hacibeyli devoted a post to the prominent human rights defender on the occasion of his 48 th bitrhday Ogtay Gulaliyev, who was hit by the car last year and since then was going through the number of brain surgeries abroad. The FB community continuously discuss the PR for the police force- a clumsy attempt to improve the spoiled by the violence in Yasamal image of police – the fake choir – ( dressed in police form the students of music academy, who are also depicted with doners and colas in their hands after the performance. This photo is widely shared in the naming and shaming campaign of the students, whose behaviour was met with condemnation. The FB users report the arrest of those who revealed the identity of the “balcony ensemble”. Ilkin Rustamzade of NIDA comments on the contrast of the situation in democratic in Georgia as compared to Azerbaijan. He reports that citizens of Georgia will have a right of free movement in EU from the 1st of July. While in Azerbaijan, they detain people for the comment on social networks, apply the NKVD methods to get an “confession” and then spread the video. He also spreads the statement/appeal in defence of Vafa Nagi, recently elected member of the local self governance in Neftchala region, who is under permanent pressure of the head of municipality Alibala Salimov to be signed by the activists and public figures. Ilgar Mammadov of REAL composed the table with 11 people who are waiting for the implementation of the decision of the ECHR and suggested that the size of financial compensation should increase depending on the waiting time. Gozel Bayramli reminds of the “solidarity marathon” with those who was fined by police which was arranged in the Musavat party headquarters a year ago, and the police dispersed the action having arrested Ali Karimli. But as a result of the marathon all the fines were paid. The PFP board member Ilham Huseynli responds in his posting to the people, who call PFP the “project of Russia”, “project of the West”, “project of Armenian lobby “etc., that PFP is a” project of people”. People are worryingly sharing an information that the criminal cases were opened against 10 Azerbaijani citizens participating in the events in Daghestan ( trying to return home to Azerbaijan) with possible sentencing for 12 years. It is reported that due to the poor Russian language they “ confessed” in their “crime”.
Gultakin Hajibeyli comments on the 170 thousand views of the interview by Jamil Hasanli to the channel Azad Soz. She is amazed at the commentaries of people, who highly praised the interview. In response to the president Aliyev’s speech in Mingechavir, the scholar and politician compared Armenia’s political situation with Azerbaijani not in favour of the latter. She stresses the degree of animosity of the people to its own government and explains it by the recent policy of the government during pandemic. She concludes, that even the “Armenian card” is not working for authorities anymore, but comes back as ricochet.
The illegal properties and riches of the officials continue to be in the center of attention. This time the hectares of lands owned by the bureaucrats are compared to the Armenian occupation of the country. Many discuss the Summer residence of the recently hired the head of the State Border Service Elchin Guliyev in Shuvelian, which was designed in the form of the map of Azerbaijan and where in each of the “ regions” the trees typical of that zone were planted. The FB users also discuss the high prices of AZAL flights which arguably is taking advantage of the pandemic, in spite of the 87 million manat of state aid. The price of bringing students from Istanbul to Baku is 1,200 manat. The other enormous and magnificent property on the 15 hectares, described by Habib Muntazir, an investigative journalist in exile, which is also in Shuvelian belongs to Ruslan Eyubov, the nephew of the chief of the security of the president Aliyev, Beyler Eyubov. He has business in the chemical production, marble, expensive stones, granite, paints and other construction materials. 2 days before the president and his wife were present at the opening of his big factory in Ganja. Muntazir continues his list of corrupt bureaucrats properties by the description of the villas of the head of the Military Headquarters and deputy defence minister Najmaddin Sadikhov. Natig Jafarli of REAL also mentions double standards in approach to the business and citizens, which undermines the trust in state institutions. He brings an example of the company-monopolist on the city boulevard, which apparently has a tax debt of 160 thousand manats, but continues freely operate. In contrast, Jafarli himself was arrested in 2016 for the tax debt, which was not confirmed by the tax agency. Habib Muntazir argues that the prosecutors office is forming a new image of itself.
The FB users comment on the National Army Day with mixed feelings. Some like opposition politician Gultakin Hajibeyli said, that there could not be a celebration of the defeated army. She considers that nobody in the country can be congratulated with this day while Shusha is under occupation of Armenians and transformed into the capital by Pashinian— neither men, nor women, and even more so, the army. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP connects the possibility of liberation of the occupied by Armenia lands with the capacity of the people to get rid of the corrupt and autocratic regime of Aliyev. People comment on the speech of Aliyev on the National Army Day -93 anniversary of their creation of the Armed Forces 25th June. Altay Geyushov ironically comments, that he said all about dictatorship of Pashinian, but forgot to mention the holding which he opened for himself monopolizing all the business in the country and called it Pasha Holding. ( hint to the holding owned by the vice-president’s Mehriban Pashayeva family) Gozel Bayramli reminds that three courageous and heroic defenders of the country Tofig Yagublu, Babek Hasanli and Saleh Rustamli are in prison. Yagublu and Hasanli – the second time are political prisoners. This is, she comments, true relation of the government to the Karabagh Issue.