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“… The goal of Russia is to create an anti-NATO, anti-West barrier in Azerbaijan …”
The New Year started for the FB community with continuation of the commemoration of the war heroes and martyrs, in particular, of the birthday of General Polad Hashimov, killed in July 2020; growing indignation with the behaviour of the Russian “peacekeepers”, suspecting that it is creating the source of another war; recalling the unique fact of President Elchibey’s making Russia’s troops withdraw in 43 days in 1992; increasing concern by frequent reports of victims of landmines on the liberated territories; a deepening divide in society in the assessment of the results of the war.
Growing dissatisfaction with Russian peacekeeping. Political and civil leaders assess with growing indignation the presence and activities of the Russian peacekeeping force, this time quoting Turkish sources. Ali Karimli of the PFP cites the Turkish newspaper “Yeni Shafag” which reports that initially announced 1,960 wise Russian peacekeeping force with all other personnel has already exceeded 5,000 people. He notes that Azerbaijan is not even capable of double checking it, as does not control the 5 km sovereign territory of the Lachin “corridor” and any number of Armenian forces are able to enter the territory of Azerbaijan. The activists, journalists, and bloggers share with concern the information that the leader of the Karabaghi Armenians is freely checking on trenches, and conclude that the Russian forces are here not to protect the civilians, but to prevent rendering the armed groups of separatists harmless and moreover — to strengthen them. The leader of Musavat, Arif Hajili, lists the main objectives of Russian peacekeepers: to create second Armenian state on the Azerbaijan’s territory, to prevent participation of Turkey as a party in regulation of the conflict and of her influence in the South Caucasus, to prevent the democratic and free development of the countries of the South Caucasus, independent of authoritarian Russia. He concludes that because of the threat which represents Russia’s policy for the whole South Caucasus, Azerbaijani people should not allow the creation of a second state on its territory. Seymur Hezi of the Popular Front Party (PFP) argues that the goal of Russia is to create an anti-NATO and anti-West barrier in Azerbaijan by promoting a permanent source of conflict to extend its own existence. He asserts that Azerbaijan is not the polygon of others’ competition and will never become such. Jamil Hasanli of NCDF asserts that “Russia in Karabagh fulfils an occupying mission, and this is an invited occupation, with Ilham Aliyev as a host”. The FB community shares a comment by another activist, that everyone says Turkey’s troops should come, but nobody says that we need our national army to be as strong as Turkey’s. “We need a strong national army. The “palace” generals should leave and be replaced by a new already formed generation of commanders promoted to leadership positions”. The political commentator in exile, Ramis Yunus, argues that in Karabagh Russia will create a second Donbass, or Crimea. The results of war and attitudes to the Russia’s peacekeeping has deepened the divide between loyalists to the government circles on the one hand, and the opposition and independents on the other. The former argue that the victory is unanimous and there is nothing threatening in Russia’s peacekeeping, while the latter warn of the ongoing and future threats and risks of Russia’s military presence to the whole region. The latter stresses that Russians are training Karabaghi Armenians, providing them with weapons, and the maps still show Lachin region as part of Armenia, all against a background of total silence and absence of reaction of the officials. Some see the withdrawal of Russia’s forces and the arrival of Turkish ones as the only way out. The pro-government circles consider that the opposition overestimates the threats out of political consideration. Ilkin Rustamzade, the youth leader, considers that Russia, by appeasing the Armenian party, is simply disregarding Azerbaijan society.
Commemoration of the birthday of General Hashimov. FB was full of posts and photos devoted to the memory of General Polad Hashimov, killed in July 2020, distinguished by his moral integrity and whose killing played a role in trigging the mobilization of the rallies in July 2020. The activists, journalists and human rights defenders report that he was not only responsible at his duties, but also caring in relation to the soldiers and attentive to their needs. The observers decried the attempt of the mullah, during commemoration at his grave, to bring a political-religious note into the traditional prayer, calling him a Shia martyr, and approved his interruption by the military, who protested against it and continued the speech instead. The military commander said that regardless of their confessional or ethnic background — Shia, Sunni, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Lezghi, or Talysh — all citizens of Azerbaijan played an equal part in fighting the war to defend their common homeland. Some commented that “Iranian agents” had become more active lately. Ali Karimli of the PFP argues that the exceeding popularity of General Polad Hashimov proves that he has turned into an all-national symbol. He argues that this has happened mainly due to his following traits: courage, integrity and down-to-earth personality.
Controversy of New Year celebration. The FB posts reflected a dissatisfaction of many by the petards explosions and loud celebrations of the New Year against the background of few thousands who died in the recent war and the mourning of family members in many families. The blogger and activist Mehman Huseynov describes his visit (which he does on a regular basis — visiting families of the dead or wounded in the war) to the family who lost two sons in one day, and still are not reconciled with this loss. He urges people not to forget the martyrs, and not to be misled by the lies of the government.
Chess victory of Rajabov over Aronyan. The internet media and FB users widely share and cheer the news of the victory of Azerbaijani chess player Teymur Rajabov over the Armenian Levon Aronyan in the Champion Chess Tour final. The winner got a $60,000 prize. Ilkin Rustamzade publishes a joke; the would-be reaction of the media to the victory of the 34-year old Azerbaijani chess player.
BBC: “Teymur brought his pawns from Syria”
Wargonzo: “We are at the event spot. Aronyan is not defeated, the match goes on”
Public TV: “There is also a contribution of Teymur to this victory”
AzTV: “The victory was achieved by the Supreme Commander in Chief.”
Human rights and social issues. The activists keep in the centre of attention the issue of political prisoners. Ali Karimli of PFP reminds people of the fate of Pasha Umudov who has been 15 months behind bars. He was arrested on the eve of the opposition meeting (19th October 2019) under the trumped-up charges of drug dealing. But the true reason is his chairmanship of the Nizami regional branch of the Popular Front Party, and the volunteer driver position for Karimli. Karimli asserts that he is a poet, highly educated and of high integrity, who should not be destroyed by the decisions of bureaucrats, who themselves have committed serious crimes. He calls for the freedom of all political prisoners. The activists also attract attention to another political prisoner, Agil Mahharmali, whose underage twin daughters have not seen their father yet. The issue of child benefits, which were cancelled in 2006, in spite of the inflow of oil revenues, is constantly on the agenda. Ali Karimli compares it to the social benefits which are given to every child born in Upper Karabagh (almost 1,000 manats) and admits he is ashamed for his country. He stresses that the Karabagh War II proved that a significant number of the country’s population is poor. The society, he concludes, should be consistent in demanding a return of the social benefits. On FB, increasingly one can come across complaints of insufficient recognition by officials (awards, compensation) of the contribution of the military to the victory. The issue of restoration of the liberated territories is also discussed in the context of poor governance. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev urges the authorities to delegate these duties to the young cadres — at least to oversee the building of the new complexes, if not Shusha, or Gubadli. He argues it may result in the construction of villages which would attract tourists even better than to Germany or Austria. Alternatively, he argues, the authorities may delegate it to its traditional cadres, and they will buy districts of London instead.
Political parties. The opposition Musavat party published its main directions of activities for 2021. Among them 1) COVID -19: monitoring and reaction to the needs of the population 2) Postwar new realities (problems of sovereignty) – to prevent steps which contradict national interests the party will conduct struggle through attraction to discussion all political institutions, including the government, civil society, media, and if this is not possible — by organizing public protests. It will monitor transparency in spending resources on restoration of the liberated regions, and bringing the situation in Karabagh into accordance with the national Constitution, international norms and principle of territorial integrity 3) Democracy, Freedoms and Human rights: the party considers that there is a greater need and capacity to conduct reforms in the area of democracy and freedoms, in particular in the judiciary, and in the area of free speech and expression, as well as in the others — adoption of legislation to improve the election system, and release of all political prisoners. It plans to make efforts to run a referendum to restore the proportional election system, true local elections, as well to bring the formation of electoral commissions in accordance with international standards 4) Promotion of transparency in the state economy, strengthening monitoring over corruption 5) Party building, which was also weakened by the pandemic, including strengthening of the regional branches, and conduct of life meetings in the regions.6) Strengthening of political relations (including those with opposition parties, academics, NGOs, youth movements, etc.) 7) Traditional and new media – expanding connections to the local and foreign media in publicizing the ideology of Musavat and liberal-democratic values 8) International relations and foreign policy: to strengthen this direction, it prioritizes relations with Musavat members living in post-Soviet space, Turkey, Europe and the EU. It plans to use the possibilities of its membership in ALDE to promote national interests, including protection and development of democratic values, to support the struggle of the post-Soviet states integrating into NATO, to promote Turkey’s joining GUAM, to continue the “Potsdam process” of democratization of the Caucasus, to support the regulation of the current situation in Upper Karabagh according to national interests and international norms, to support the struggle in Southern (Iranian) Azerbaijan for cultural and human rights, to intensify relations with international organizations in the area of human rights and freedoms, to increase international attention to the provision of fundamental rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan, and to support the process of European Integration – will be priority directions of foreign policy of the Musavat party in 2021.
Reference to history. The opposition activists share the interview of the late president Elchibey on how he managed to make Russian troops to withdraw from Azerbaijan. It reveals how motivation, consistency and principled approach of the first democratically elected president Elchibey made Azerbaijan the first country of all 15 former Soviet republics to make Yeltsin to withdraw military bases. He confirms, that Yetlsin was resistant, but facing Elchibey’s insistence, asked at least 1-2 years to do. Azerbaijan’s president responded with the categorical refusal to wait for more than 2-3 months. The decision to make them withdraw was also extended to the taking control over fleet, both civilian (300 units) and military ( 75 ships). Azerbaijan as a result of the distribution received 17 ships. He recalls that in his talks with Yeltsin he often referred to the people’s protests as possible reaction to failure of Russian to withdraw, which apparently Yeltsin was afraid of. The Russians withdrew in 43 days. ( Source: Adalat Tahirzade “13 hours face to face with Elchibey”).
The historian Dr. Irada Baghirova published an article about little known Armenian- Turkish war, which lasted 2 months and resulted in Sovietization of Armenia, as well as by Alexandropulos agreement on the 2 December 1920. The war was announced by Armenia to Turkey because of non-ratification by the National Parliament of the Treaty of Sevres, according to which 4 vilayets of Turkey was supposed to become part of Armenia, with the US as a guarantor, providing her with the access to the sea. Armenian army started advances on the 24th September 1920, but was defeated by Turkish army.
Explosion of landmines. The FB users share and decry the continued explosions of mines and subsequent victims during peacetime within the liberated territories. The most recent case was the death by landmine of Vasif Maharramov in Gantepe of Gubadli region.
Democracy and security. The activists share the quotation from the poet Mubariz Masimoglu who said that “the rescue of Azerbaijan lies through the way of Rasulzade Elchibey – that of democracy. It goes through the way of their follower Ali Karimli. To reach it, one needs a will, and my dream is that people will possess that will in 2021”. Ordukhan Babirov, an activist in exile, states on his timeline:”The state of the nation which leaves unpunished those bureaucrats committing injustice will fail”
Economy. The FB community shares a quotation from the well-known economist Samir Aliyev, who reports poor indicators for the national currencies for the whole post-Soviet space in 2020. The decline of the official rate of national currency to the US dollar in Belarus was 18%, Ukraine — 16.2%, Kirgizstan — 16.1%, etc. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan managed to preserve the rate of national currency.
Relations with the UK. The activist of REAL decribes the current policies of the UK in the historical context of “trade empires”. He argues that Great Britain was more successful compared to the other empires, such as France, Spain or Portugal, because it did not impose its religious institutons and attitudes on the colonized nation, but rather tried to coopt local religious leaders, and were robbing them not by religion and sword, but through a rational approach. According to him, it happened because the English had their own religious ways, and the “first Brexit” took place during Heinrich 8th’s rule when it withdrew from the Vatican. He also stresses the role of women in history, by noting that it happened when he wanted to marry Ann Boleyn, and that this withdrawal from the Vatican laid a basis for the new “trade” culture. He argues that today, the UK by declaring another Brexit, has started to build a new trade world, new alliances. He confirms it by the adoption of the free trade concept at the African continent, agreement in Asia, suggesting that the UK has strongly influenced these processes. He notes that in a recently signed a UK memorandum with Turkey, Ukraine signals the establishment of new rules and new/old power centers in the trade world. It is stressed that in 2019, the UK started signing bilateral agreements with South Korea (22 August), Japan (23 October) and even played a role as an “informal” moderator in the memorandum of understanding between 15 Asia-Pacific Ocean states, signed on 16 Nov 2020. Similarly, the UK was a moderator of the UK-Africa summit on 20 January 2020.