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Center for National and International Studies
“…For many years we as people were paying the bills of the corrupt bureaucrats…We got adjusted to compensating for the losses of the thieves…”
The FB community is concerned with Armenia’s firing into the Agdam region, the ambiguous role of Russia and Azerbaijan’s alleged intention to acquire observer status at the CSTO; continues to discuss the money laundering scandal of the President’s niece and her £4m submission to the British Agency’s Fight with Corruption; analyses SOCAR’s significant losses and debts; decries the Supreme Court’s upholding of the human rights defender Elchin Mammad’s sentence; protests strongly against deforestation of the country and is alerted to the new draft Law on Media.
Post-conflict situation. The FB community interprets the recent exchanges of the landmine maps for the Armenian saboteurs. They note the inconsistency of policies in this regard. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that the sentences given to Armenian captured saboteurs were softened and agreement reached due to external pressure. He stresses that although there is external pressure on Azerbaijani leadership on a wide range of issues, including the restricted freedoms and violation of human rights, Aliyev prioritised a compromise towards the conflict-related issue, rather than in regard to domestic pressure on its opponents. He also considers that by so often repeating that the territorial integrity of the country was fully restored, Aliyev is in fact refusing the old Upper Karabagh. The e-media reports with reference to the Ministry of Defence on the Armenian firing over Agdam on Aliagali village, resulting in the wounding of Azerbaijani sergeant Sakit Dadashov – from territory under the protection of Russian peacekeepers. On the other hand, it reports that Armenpress blames Azerbaijan for violation of the ceasefire in the Gekarkunik, resulting in the wounding of an Armenian soldier. The ruling party MP Aydin Mirza-zade reports on the dire economic situation and huge debts of Armenia, which he considers is a result of their 30-year policy of occupation of Azerbaijan and inability to benefit from cooperation with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Russia’s push for CSTO membership. Tofig Yagublu argues that membership in CSTO was one of the conditions that Russia put before Azerbaijan during the war. People express their protest against Azerbaijan’s possible membership of the CSTO, calling it disrespect to the 3000 victims and martyrs of the war. This is caused by the statement by Leonid Kalashnikov, head of the Committee of the Russian Duma on Eurasian Integration, that Azerbaijan and Pakistan have for a long time been expressing their interest in claiming the status of observers in CSTO. Among the issues which prevent Azerbaijan from becoming the member of this organisation, the journalist in exile Ganimad Zahid lists at least 4: Russia’s ambiguous approach to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity; Azerbaijan being considered a tax-paying country in relation to Russia; Russia giving support to dynastic power in Azerbaijan; Russia views the ‘near abroad’ as her buffer zone, etc. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR stresses that Azerbaijan’s joining any status of CSTO will only serve to strengthen Russia’s position in Upper Karabagh. This will take the country backward, and will isolate it from the civilized world. Meydan TV published experts’ opinions on Russia’s CSTO expansion plans. Shahin Jafarli argues that for Azerbaijan this would mean retreating under Russia’s influence. After the war, Russia has turned from ‘game spoiler’ into the ‘game shaper’ in the region, and hopes to expand CSTO to Iran, Pakistan, Turkey’s membership.
Social problems. The e-media spreads a quotation from the opposition activist Ilham Huseyn that “For a long time we as people were paying the bills of corrupt bureaucrats. They spent billions, while we – by saving gepiks – cover the damage. We got adjusted to compensate for the losses of the thieves…” The FB community continues to share stories of the war handicapped facing bureaucratic inaction, such as the refusal to give the proper category to the person who cannot serve himself, eat or walk. The price rise continues to be at the centre of attention of FB users, and due to its pressing nature, is being raised even in parliament by ‘loyal’ opposition. The activists suggest giving each of the martyr’s families a house in Shusha, and in the liberated territories. Meydan TV reports that the Asian Development Bank is allocating 250m credit for softening the effects of the pandemic in Azerbaijan, questioning its viewers whether they believe the latter can spend it effectively.
Governance, economy, corruption. The FB users comment with indignation that the Minister of Defence, Zakir Hasanov, has awarded the spoiled son of the head of executive power of Sabunchu district the Order of Glory, for alleged support to the army during the 44-day war. The opposition leaders continue to give an assessment of the losses of the main source of revenues in the country, SOCAR. Joining the e-campaign #I protest, Gultakin Hajibeyli argues that in order to pay SOCAR’s 42b manat debt, there will be more price rises in the future. In fact, she argues, by keeping silence in reaction to the construction of the SOCAR’s $billion worth office building, the society has long given away its rights. She also ridicules the comment on the recent price rise, which proclaimed: “Dear Muslims, this country is going into the abyss, the only solution is to emigrate to Europe”. She responds with irony: Why should Muslims go to the infidel Europe, instead of sharia-based Saudi Arabia, Iran or Oman? She argues that the best way forward is to build a just and free society, like in Europe, in one’s own country, rather than emigrate there. Hajibeyli thus strongly protests at this particular choice, to emigrate. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP states that he protests at the situation where people support SOCAR instead of SOCAR supporting the people. He also recalls that the arrested director of the International Bank, Jahangir Hajiyev, told him while in prison in 2016 that only of 30% of all stolen money is known in the country. Gahramanli protests the hidden and open corruption. The academic Jamil Hasanli comments that while SOCAR is drowning in enormous debts reaching 70% of Azerbajan’s annual budget, it is a milking cow for the ruling family. He gives the example of the half a billion worth tourist complex in Montenegro bought by SOCAR for Pasha Holdings (which belongs to the family of the president). At the same time, in spite of these debts, SOCAR built a 40-storey office worth 700m manat. Most probably SOCAR will not be able to repay its debts and that’s why it is turning into more of a budget-oriented organisation, so to pay its debt from the budget and by raising prices on basic items for the population. The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil comments on the restoration works in the Old City. She suggests with irony that Pasha Holdings has cemented part of the old underground path which runs under the Four Seasons Hotel, while the ‘Euro-Remont’ was made on the rest of it. The e-media covers the President’s decree on a new division of the country into economic regions, extending their number from 11 to 14, which includes the liberated territories. Natig Jafarli of REAL argues that this was one of the points of REAL’s 78-page long program issued in 2013. The FB community is shocked by the news that £4m of illegal currency of President Aliyev’s niece was easily submitted by her to the UK’s Agency of Fight with Corruption. The activists comment that unless citizens demand their rights and stolen money be returned to the country according to international norms, the system of money laundering created by Ilham Aliyev will continue to syphon off people’s money. While analysing the remittance of £4m out of £6m to the British agency, Ilgar Mammadov of REAL recalls the story of the Russian poet Mayakovsky, who visited the US and shared with the Americans how Soviets expropriated the riches of private owners. His listeners liked the idea, but said not all funds should be expropriated, $1m should be left for the owner.
LGBT pride parade in Tbilisi. The national media discusses the provocations and violence against the pride parade in Georgia. The journalist Afghan Mukhtarli considers it one in a row of performances that the team of Ivanishvili which lost its reputation is arranging in order to raise it. He lists other populist events serving that goal on the eve of elections: the Svan-Azerbaijani clashes in Bolnisi, deletion of the pandemic fines, and now the LGBT scandal. Mukhtarli does not exclude the possibility that the conflict over David Gareja monastery may be revived again soon.
Ecological issues. The connection between the environmental problems and social injustice is asserted by the journalist Afghan Mukhtarli when he presents the story of contamination of the Tala River in Zagatala region. He argues that being an important source of water for the local population, the Tala River is becoming short of water. Besides that, the filters are not cleaned regularly by the local authorities, which serves the source for melioration of the farms and gardens of the wealthy. The local power neither resolves the problem, nor allows people to do it at their own expense. Mukhtarli explains it by the intention to syphon off the budget money from Baku under the excuse of the improvement of the water supply system in Tala.
Democracy, power-opposition relations. Ali Karimli of PFP discredits the authorities editing videos of his speeches. He posts the original videos and the edited ones to demonstrate how Aliyev’s regime is involved in cyber-criminal activities. He stresses that the authorities will take into account only people who actively protest, claim their rights, and participate in mass actions. He joins the campaign #I protest, decrying lawlessness, injustice and poverty. The group of war heroes has been protesting in front of the Ministry of Defence, demanding their deserved awards, as there was clear injustice in the distribution of awards among the war participants. The activists of EcoFront gathered in front of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources protesting at rampant deforestation in the country. The #I protest e-campaign is getting more popular with people addressing a wider range of pressing issues in the country. The human rights defender Elshan Hasanov protests among other issues the poor flattering the power in the country. The PFP activist Fuad Gahramanli protests at the impunity of the corrupt officials, the deprivation of the present and future of young people. Natig Jafarli considers that for Azerbaijan, confronting entrenched Russia in the region, the only viable way out is cooperation with Turkey, as a NATO member.
Liberal freedoms. The academic and opposition leader Jamil Hasanli has written a commentary on the newly prepared draft Law on Media. He calls it a legal trap for the social media designed by the authorities to kill the freedom of the media. He proves that policies are being directed towards the consistent elimination of the media market, so as to take total control over it through special soft loans to the journalists who have an ID supplied by the state agency. It is clear, he argues, that the president with the help of this IDs choses the reporter who will implement public monitoring mission over the president’s activities. Thus, journalism fails to execute its function of public monitoring.
Human rights. The activists, journalists and bloggers share and comment on the news that Ilham Aliyev was again named among 37 leaders categorized as enemies of the press by the Reporters Without Borders. The e-media continues to cover the torture and violations of human rights during investigation in the Ter-ter case. The media also reports detention by a few people in civilian clothes of another member of the Muslim Unity Movement, Razi Humbatov, while he was walking in the city. The media states that he was taken off in an unknown direction. The FB community is outraged by the decision of the Supreme Court to leave in force the sentence of 4 years in prison for the human rights defender from Sumgayit, Elchin Mammad. His lawyer Fariz Namazli stated that the decisions of the court of first instance and the court of appeal were unjustified and illegal, as the material evidence was planted in the defendant’s office. Despite Elchin Mammad being the father of two underage children, with seriously compromised health, the public prosecutor Rashad Mammadli asked to retain the sentence. His legal defender reported via Turan agency that the complaint on his case had been sent to the European Court for Human Rights. The activists in exile plan to stage a vigil in front of the Swiss Embassy in Germany on 9th July, to protest at the Swiss prosecutor’s opening a criminal case against the Azerbaijani blogger in exile, on the complaint of SOCAR.