Center for National and International Studies
FB users analyze the reasons of failure of state pandemic policies, discuss the future of the country, the aid to the regions with renewed quarantine, the economic decline, SOCAR’s declining income dynamic, shortage of water in Neftchala, situation with political prisoners, the consequences of the Constitutional amendments in Putin’s Russia.
Persecution of activists, pressure on the youth leaders, situation with political prisoners is again on top of agenda of FB users. The most recent event widely shared and discussed is the resignation and decision to freeze his FB account of the former leader of the NIDA movement, the political prisoner of 6 years Ilkin Rustamzade, due to separation with his wife ( whom he married few months ago). The family did not sustain the continuous pressure of blackmail and slander by the authorities. The news were commented, discussed and shared thousands of times, stating that “Azerbaijan authorities destroyed the young family”. Thousands gave support to the young people. Some, such as Gunel Movlud, analyzed the problem and suggested that such blackmail have an effect only if there is a vulnerability of men and in society to this method. It is only if men and society do have a conservative position in regards women, such slander may have an effect. She brought an example of herself and her husband when the similar blackmail was taken place against her , but neither herself, nor her husband reacted to it, and they left them alone. Khadija Ismayil reports the case in the “ reform” driven Uzbekistan, when the prisoner, who called home to report corruption was thrown in the boiling water. Habib Muntazir reports that because mobile operators belong to the officials, they take control over FB accounts by means of SMS, as well as with help of IDs and ASAN service. They take control of the FB accounts, get personal photos, phone numbers, videos and then blackmail the activists, journalists, bloggers. He comments, that puts ethics, education, traditional values aside, this is first of all a crime and the state structures are involved in this. The security of the state and people is left in the hands of the group of criminals, and they are worse than the virus, as there is no vaccine, or doctor to help. The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil in connection with the repeated imposition of the quarantine reminds that she along with her other colleagues, like Shahveled Chobanoglu, has not been able to leave the country due to the travel ban, while Ali Karimli of the PFP – for 15 years as was deprived of foreign passport. The FB users report that the appeal of the political prisoner PFP activist Babek Hasanli to be released before the expiry of his term was not satisfied. The name of the judge was Matanat Hajiyeva.
Absence of positive dynamic in statistics of infected, especially in comparison with other neighboring states, and failure of the state to influence it- the hot topic on FB. Nurlan Libre says, that they think they can win over the pandemic by the clubs. People discuss how difficult is to get tested, as there is no capacity of the state institutions and that majority cannot afford tests in the private clinics, about low quality and credibility of the tests and in general medical service in the country. People share the recording of the dying of coronavirus young employee of AzTV Samir Nemetzade who spoke about dire conditions in the hospital. Nigar Hezi reports 2 people infected in her family of 6 people, but there are no beds in the hospital and that they will not be able to afford test on virus. Natig Jafarli speaks about meaningless and illogical strict quarantines which deepened people’s dissatisfaction. He criticized the extension of the quarantine to the 1st of august and return to the unjustified SMS system of permissions. He also stresses the short-term insufficient aid for the population (190 manats) and the collapsing state of the small and medium business in the country, and that there is no any midterm and long term plan of actions of the leadership. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports complaints by many people, that the ambulance does not come in time when called for. They cannot find the place in the hospital, the drugs are not found, or their prices are increased, and there is a a confusion with responsibilities between three state agencies- Ministry of Health, Mandatory Medical Insurance Agency, and under its umbrella –TABIB ( the Medical Regional Governance Division Public Union) – there is no coordination, but rather a competition between the agencies.( mostly for resources) He argues, that to win the coronavirus besides inviting foreign experts, the government should invite also the experienced agencies to monitor the management in the medical area. He ironically suggests to create the fourth agency on monitoring over the reforms in the medical system. He stresses the inconsistency in implementation of the sanctions on quarantine violations: while not punishing the conservatory students singing for the police for violation the required distance, they arrested the guy, who had a portrait of M.E.Rasulzade on his protective mask. Hajiyev also criticizes the use of the state agencies of the “ social proof” effect. He argues that by stressing in their reports the violators of the quarantine rules, they only encourage such behavior among the population. The Fb users share with ironic comments the interview with Ibadulla Agayev the lead epidemiologist of the country, who is resting in the country side and says to the Unikal.org journalist that he has no idea on what’s going on in the country. Failed governance- absence of transparency, corruption and nepotism, are most frequently reasons of the crisis with infection. Farxad Mekhtiyev argues that it is the political elite YAP ( ruling party, the government – who is to blame for this situation. Seymur Hezi urges the authorities to make tests free for the citizens and to give support for conducting them for free in private clinics. Some report that Arbidol is sold 10 times higher of its original price. ( instead of 8-9 manats – for 80-100 manats) Ganimat Zahid reports that the owner of Bone Dea clinic, which recently was in the center of scandal for not giving the dead body of the young women to their parents unless they pay high sum, is allegedly Rovnag Abdullayev ( a s a proof, he reminds that Ilham Aliyev was present at the opening of this clinic in 2018 on 27 March. Bakhtiyar Haciyev asks whether it is true that the health minister Ogtay Shiraliyev has an alcohol dependency? And if yes, how come the 70 year old Shiraliyev is still in the office after 15 years? People speak about inconsistency of quarantine in Lenkoran- one side of the road has all cafes closed, as it is considered the city, while the other side – all open – as this is the territory of village.
The shortage of water in the country has reached the alarming level, which is reflected in the Fb debates. In Neftchala people pay 70 manats for a truck of water.
Ai Karimli bring statistic revealing the causes of water shortage in the regions. He explains f 6,7 bln cm of water 3,3 bln compares with Israel which uses 1,11 bln to satisfy all the agriculture of the country with the same population. In Azerbaijan by the decree of the president 33 agricultural parks were built and in addition there will be 18 more ( total 51). They cover 260.000 hectares of former state lands-so all the water primarily goes to these parks monopolized by the bureaucrats. ( this territory is equal to 173 min famers family lands). This also explains why the food import is increasing year by year. The water shortage in Baku is affected by similar factors. There are summer residencies and fruit gardens of the officials around Baku, which also receive most of the water. Besides, the artesian sources/wells are affected by the uncontrolled construction and endless fences built by the oligarchs bureaucrats. Gubad Ibadoglu, the economic expert and ADR leader, also gives his analysis of the shortage of water in the country. He considers that the respective state organs keep silence because of the bureaucratic business monopolies. He traces it to the corruption in the area of melioration, irrigation and water supply. He reminds that last year for these works ( renovation and building of infrastructure in this area) there were 1 bln 649 mln 300 thousand manat were allocated from the budget and from foreign credits. In spite of that the biggest problem which the farms non related to the bureaucrats farms faced in 2019 was the water supply. The “”Melioration and water supply” ASC signed contracts only with the farms which belonged to the bureaucrats/oligarchs having refused to sign them with the Water Customers Farmers Union. The other reason is the sharp decline of the water level in the Kura and Araz rivers in early 2020 mainly due to the utilization of water from their side streams by the bureaucrats-oligarchs. The side stream made of cement the construction of which started in 2018 with 80 mln manat was supposed to irrigate the arable lands of a few regions, but currently serves only a few farms, which belong to the bureaucrats. This has not only dire environmental consequences, but also damages the business of independent farmers. Jamil Hasanli lists the reasons of the drying of Kura river which contributed to the shortage of water in Mil-Mugan valley of the country. The main is the agreement with Iran on building the bridge and hydropower station in Khudaferin bridges area, which while supply with water of Iranians and the Armenian occupants will deprive more than 500 thousand people who traditionally lived at the expanse of the Kura rtiver water.
The economic consequences of pandemic and the way the government approaches them is another popular topic on FB. Gubad Ibadoglu considers the discussion of the president Aliyev the issue of tourism with the secretary general of the International Organization of Tourism as not based on the strategic vision and the correct priorities of the current state of economy. Besides, uncertainty with the end of pandemic, the share of tourism in Azerbaijan GDP is only 2,8 %. But currently he should deal with the problems of the agricultural sector, whose share in GDP two times higher. He notes, that the even the quarantine rules benefit the oligarchs, as allows the transportation of harvest by trucks, while majority of the small framers do it in their private cars. He argues, that such an important issues as the food and water security situation is not the subject of the discussion and decisions at the government level. In the area of industrial production, he mentions the increasing debt and decline of income of the major capital producer in the country State Oil Company. He states, that the net profit of SOCAR in 2019 has decreased 3 times as compared to 2017 and compared to 2018 – 2 times.The debt of SOCAR by the 1st of January 2020 was 11 bln 369 mln manat. He also notes, that while SOCAR has published its 6 imonths of 2020 financial reports, SOFAZ has not done so yet. The feminist Rabiyya Mammadova argues that the country has been exploited for 30 years- the resources were stolen, the nature was destroyed and people’s money were taken abroad- there are no reserves for the future generations. The pandemic proved that there is no even a laboratory or experts to handle the issue. She considers that people are treated not as citizens, but as employees working without contracts at the big MMC. ( enterprise). She calls people to unite and influence the course of events. Fuad Gahramanli compares resource poor Georgia state aid-1, 2 mln people’s communal bills are paid by the government , 650 thousand people’s gas debts are deleted, while nothing of this kind is done in the oil rich Azerbaijan. He compares locking people for months in the houses with only 190 manats for the family of 4 to the keeping animals in the cages, but who unlike people are regularly fed. He demands the authorities to delete the communal bill debts, and give to the families an adequate state aid. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR argues that the reasons of the current crisis is not pandemic or the fall of the oil price, but the governance. He lists the indicators of crisis: the mass unemployment and poverty, the GDP growth was negative 3,9% this year, the balance of payments in the first quarter of 2020 showed the deficit of 1 bln 343 mln 500 thousand dollars and the pressure on manat increased , even if some of the economic sectors opened a bit ( tourism, service, transport etc.) the restoration it to the past level will require time. The only way out , he concludes, to start reforms. He also suggested to give the Olympic complexes in the regions to the medical service – treatment of the infected and to announce the tender for the non-professional personnel to help with the service after certain trainings. He also notes, that his suggestion to have a wide video meeting with the responsible officials on the situation with pandemic – has been realized 10 days after by the officials. Gultaking Hacibeyli exclaims on her timeline:” If you are the state- you should not fine the citizens, but give him a real aid. You should give the unemployed, poor the state support. You should distribute masks for free, while conduct COVID-19 tests at the expanse of the state!” Habib Muntazir brings an example of how the Operative Headquarters were referring to the war in Karabagh on every coronavirus related question by the journalist. He also reports that there is an state security operation at the State Employment Agency. Natig Jafarli of REAL calls the statements by the officials about the economic state of affairs- “auto-training”, when they report that it is all right, while the economy is going down. He criticizes Mikail Jabbarov report on economy and that 75% of the budget income is from the private sector. He reiterates, that 49% is from the State Oil Fund, 15% taxes from the oil sector, 10% – is indirect dependence on oil sector, as they are coming as 14% taxes on the state salaries for teachers etc, or as taxes of the bridge building company who received money from the budget.. He also criticizes the lack of logic and justification in imposition of the quarantine and moreover , the plans to develop “domestic tourism”.
The consequences and impact of Constitutional amendments in Russia are also discussed by the activists and journalists. Some stress the danger of the amendments about protection of state sovereignty especially in the limelight of Putin’s last statements about Russia’s territories which FSU republics “took with them” during separation and Russian media mentioning in this context China, Norway and Azerbaijan. Gubadoglu of ADR for instance considers that the number of threats in Azerbaijan neighborhood has increased, especially after the last parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, with Russia becoming more influential, as the official structures now compete for their closeness to Kremlin. Seymur Hezi of PFP considers that with 78% of the population approving the amendments Putin has realized yet another act of self-discrediting. Ramiz Yunus, the activist in exile argues, that after the collapse of the SU, Russia has used the former KGB agents to promote its policies. While Heydar Aliyev tried to balance between Russia and the West, the activities of Russian agents in Azerbaijan government has sharply increased after arrival to power of his son Ilham Aliyev in 2003, which ultimately undermines the basis of state independence.
Corruption of officials is a continuous topic of FB. Habib Muntazir this time discloses that the criminal former head of the Ministry of National Secrity Eldar Mahmudov is not in prison, but is resting in his property on 4 hectares where the villas of himself and his son Anar Mahmudov is located in Badambar district of Baku. The next door villa at the property of 3 hectares with a tennis court and few swimming pools belongs to the chair of the State Security Services Ali Nagiyev. From the top of both these villas there is a beautiful sea view. He asks whether this villas was built only with the salary of the former deputy chair of the main department on fight with corruption Ali Nagiyev.He also reports the property of the president and his head of security service Beylar Eyubov in the old archeological village Khoshbulaq up near the mountain Goshgar, who owns 25 hectares with 5 villas.
The goals and functions of political parties, the relations between them is also important topic on FB. Fuad Gahramanli considers that there is much greater number of dissatisfied social groups, than simply poor and discriminated. He argues that the main function of the parties is the uniting one, for that they should put aside all the ideological and other differences. He claims that PFO and National Council is capable to play that uniting role. He also replies to those who blamed them not to prioritize their ideology. He calls their position – uniting rational pragmatic one. He argues that there are no conditions for the social groups to express their political interests. He confirms it by the example of the social basis of rightist groups, who do not have other basis than the corrupt kleptocratic bureaucrats or dependent on them business.The activists and experts comment on the result of the survey on the attitude to the EU by the Azerbaijani public. Altay Geyushov comment that “while 67% confessed that they were unemployed, 82% – expressed their trust in the government. In fact, they do not, just do not have a courage to say they do not. And that’s why they are unemployed.”
July 3, 2020