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Center for National and International Studies
The dominating topics these few days are killing of the Iranian general Souleymani in Iraq by the US strikes and reaction in Azerbaijani society and worldwide, continuing preparation to the parliamentary elections, and results of the municipal elections.
Jamil Hasanli, the chair of the National Council comments on the death of Souleymani and reaction to it in the society. He considers that this situation is very distressing. The reason of confrontation on this issue in the society is absence of knowledge, lack of education, lack of information. This is the result of the deterioration of the education system, bureaucrats’ usage of personal fortune tellers, corruption of the religion and its usage as a political tool by the kleptocratic authorities. When the believers in our country were going through the laboratory of torture of this government, neither general Souleymani, nor the other high level officials of Iran cared or raised their voice in their defence. The reaction to the death of Souleymani from the side of some religious movements or even some in the democratic camp causes softly speaking a regret. Especially the statement by the organization, which is distinguished by its closeness to the national symbols and attributes — the Unity of Muslims Movement ( their chair Taleh Bagirzade is in prison— L.A.) about Souleymani, who has been threatening Azerbaijan for all these years, has initiated and executed numerous military operations abroad, participated in the coup d’etats in the Middle East, calling him “ beloved of all the freedom lovers, pride and defender of all muslims” etc. is very disappointing. We are against of all type of terror, regardless who is committing it. But we should look both for intention and heroes in our own country. We should stop looking for them abroad. Jalil Mammad Guluzade in 1909 ( the writer of the turn of the 19th century) wrote in the journal Molla Nasreddin, that today the “Kerbala square” ( the sacred place of pilgrimage for shias) is the Azerbaijan patriotism”
He is criticised by Taleh Khasmammadov, who tells that he did not incorporate the views of “substantial” part of Azerbaijani population, who view Souleymani as the leader of all shia. This posting in turn caused debate around Khasmammadov’s criticism with some giving his uspport, while others supporting Jamil Hasanli statement.
Tofig Yagublu of Musavat writes on his timeline: “ Having as a goal to eliminate Israel, Islamic Republic of Iran has complicated relations with most of the Muslim states, but good relations with orthodox Russia, or buddist China or North Korea. Its ideology is based on enemy image of the West and the US, although majority of Iranians migrated to the US after the revolution and live there in prosperity. Most of Azerbaijani political prisoners currently are religious activists. The US and other Western organizations have been defending their rights consistently all these years. So far neither Iran nor any other Muslim state has defended their rights publicly. He parallels Iran’s involvement in other states affairs to the Soviet Union involvement when simply expansionist goals were masked by the ideological slogans. “ There is no doubt, that they only way to defend the rights of believers, as well as all others, is a way of democracy and liberal freedoms”, concludes Yagublu.
The lawyer Aslan Ismayilov comments on his timeline. “ I have been following the media in the country. With great regret I noticed that media expressed interests of all countries, except for Azerbaijan. Some media outlets even openly played the role of the Iran’s herald…”
Two publications are widely shared among FB users- one entitled “ Souleymani called Iranian Azerbaijanis “ the donkeys”, the other “Souleymani betrayed the Azerbaijani army location to the Armenian military”.
The publication in russian in Zerkalo What Does the Death of the General Souleymani Mean for Azerbaijan is also widely shared and discussed. The author stresses that Souleymani on all accounts cannot be considered friend of Azerbaijan due to three reasons. First, because of repressions and ethnic cleansing in Iranian Azerbaijan, especially in Tabriz. Secondly, because of his threats of military offence on the Oil Rocks in Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian, and thirdly because of the training in Lebanese camps of Hezbollah fighters, including Armenians who fought in Karabakh against Azerbaijanis.
The leftist Giyas Ibrahimov, former political prisoner commenting on the US- Iran relzations considers, that there might have been a conspiracy between US and Iran, as both leaders are interested in distraction of their popultions from the domestic issues. He even suggests, that there is probability, that general was not killed after all. He considers that the world is not divided between the empires and those against them. The world is divided between the emperors, who although may seem to be competing, but are always ready cooperate behind the scenes.
Yadigar Sadyghli who is running as a candidate from Lenkoran ( southern regions of Azerbaijan) assesses the killing of Souleymani: Regardless of the relations to Iran or the US, the killing of the general of the country does not promise anything good for the region. For the country which borders Iran, this will mean rising tension and not a temporary one. In addition, the killing of the general of the country, which which one is not in the official state of war, means to ignore an international law.”
Similarly, Natig Jafarli of REAL, describes his vision of the situation as dangerous, especially for the country, which is located like Azerbaijan in not favourable position geographically. He comments, that the classical wars between the states are left in the 20th century, while the hybrid wars are dominating the 21st. That’s why there is little probability of the direct war between the US and Iran, but the greater one- on the territories of Iraq, Syria, or Yemen. In order to be able to survive in this geographical position, one should be flexible, operative and quick in reaction, and for that we need an effective governance system, that’s why the upcoming parliamentary elections are so important.
The journalist Nurlan Libre comments: “ I can only celebrate the death of Souleymani, who is the enemy of human rights and democracy”.
The blogger Ali Inglabci writes: “ Be very careful when you are looking for enemies in my assessing events with Souleymani, — you either blame me as a turanist or as the opposite…You are brainwashed.. and the issue is that the true enemy are Aliyevs and … you are, the sleeping people! If you were not sleeping, then you will not be occupied by the Armenians..Now those who have counter arguments — come on in here!” He further posts the photo of his family and relatives both in Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan,mentioning that majority of them either fought or were killed in the Karabagh war or in the struggle for national rights in Iran. He says, that among all this wave of criticism of the general only 1 percent of his FB friends criticises the “ fascist” current regime of Azerbaijan, which is worse, than the one in Iran, only because they are afraid. “ Why don’t you join public rallies? Why do not you criticise our authorities? Because you do not have guts. If you were a nation, you would be together, and activists like Fuad Ahmadli, Babek Hasanli, Orkhan Bakhishli would not still rot in prison. Do not keep silence, respond! We are losing the country, let’s be and act together..”
Orduxan Temirxan Babirov, the opposition activist in exile writes: “ Why do not you speak about the betrayer of Azerbaijanis Najmaddin Sadikhov, rather than about Souleymani? We have our own mean ones, why do you care about the foreign one? Or Xudayar ( nickname given by Orduxan to Ilham Aliyev -L.A) said, enjoy yourselves and speak about Iranian one? “
Gozel Bayramli, a female deputy chair of Popular Front Party, demands freedom for the activist Pasha Umudov. She writes that in 2019 the government indicted administrative charges to 100 party members, and arrested with falsified charges in connection with the 19 October public rally the chair of Nizami branch of the party Pasha Umudov, while 9 political prisoners still being behind the bars.This will not be left unresponded.Moreover, the authorities should not rely on the power of “ volunteers” (reference to the president’s announcement of the year 2020 as “ the year of volunteers”) who they think may stop thousands of committed to democracy people which promises to be the year of serious changes and development of democracy. She also comments on corruption of officials: “ Whichever stone you lift, there is a corrupt Azerbaijani bureaucrat underneath. Russian journalists discovered property of Novruz Mammadov ( formerly foreign affairs department chief of presidential administration) in Spanish city Alteya, where he is a neighbor of the foreign affairs of Russian Patriarchy Illarion. She stresses that the price of the apartments is near 950,000 euro. and comments: “for years we have been requesting for the child benefits for population and the government was responding that did not have money. Simply looking at the list of property and riches of ordinary heads of local executive power makes one horrified. It is time to think seriously of how to get rid of this regime…”
Ilkin Rustamzade of NIDA youth movement comments on the reaction to the killing of Souleymani: “The supporter of oppressor of Syrian people Saddam Huseyn Iranian general Souleymani was killed by Americans.It may lead to serious clashes in the region. Large scale military escalation between the two states are not excluded either. In connection with the event we saw the horrifying degree of the activity of the Iranian agents and propagators in our country.Now the propaganda machine is not just in the South of the country, but just in the middle of it. We will the scale of those lovers of the Iranian regime, who is ready to bring the medieval darkness in this country under the mask of democracy. Do follow events closely”
“ 2 years ago, when Iranian regime executed Azerbaijani activists, you did not hear them, they were silent. Because human rights, or democracy was not important for them, but what the regime representing synthesis of Persian imperialism with the religious fundamentalism was saying was more important. 99% of them, even when their religious of brethrens were suppressed by the regime in Baku, were keeping silence. Instead, all day today I hear only insults, pressure, curses. No debate culture, no education, no tolerance.Instead there are tens of thousands of brainwashed minds. Even if in Baku hundreds of people are slaughtered, without the command from Qum, they will not say anything. It’s OK, just ignore them, may be when they start to hang you, you will awake?”
“ Before when some opposition activist did a mistake, thousands of people would come out blaming him/her, and defending the “ values”. I was saying, that 90% of them, are trolls. But I was criticized for that. Now everything is clear. Time for FB comments has passed, now it is time to move in action. We need observers, we need help with campaign etc. However, those, who were shouting most of all, now are hiding.”
“ And yes, is this the pure beauty of Islam which is promoted by Iran? I have commented that one cannot call the other whom they have not met with “ you”. Now look at the answer. Look at what a horrible danger is awaiting for us. Look what has been Iran nurturing right inside of us. On the other hand, how would I know, that this is not the government who is releasing trolls on me? In the morning I already appealed to the National Security Agency and Ministry of Interior regarding these threats. The answers will clarify things.”
Tofig Yagublu of Musavat comments: “Let put the debates who is right or who is wrong aside. Iran will never be able to reach the level of power of the USA. The power of Iran and the US are simply incomparable.”
The director of the National Strategic Think Tank, former leader of Musavat party Isa Gambar stated in his interview to the Voice of America that National Security Agency should follow closely events and provide for security in the country. He told, that the action against the US embassy in Iraq and killing of general Souleymani led to the aggravation of the situation between the countries and in the region. This conflict between the bordering neighbor — on the one hand, and the most powerful country — on the other- creates threats for security of Azerbaijan. Which kind of threats is a wide topic, but the attention of the special services and national intelligence should focus on provision of security of Azerbaijani state. He noted with regret, that instead these organs were focusing their attention on domestic political opposition and democratic camp. All the attention of the special services should focus on which countries’ intelligence is working in the country, which steps they are undertaking, representatives of which structures of foreign states are active in Azerbaijan- all this should be investigated and all measures for the provision of national security should be realized.
Altay Geyushov writes about consequences of dictatorship:
“ Dictatorship rotts the society, makes it similar to itself. It is unfair, there is no rule of law, that’s why people also behave in unfair way. It needs uneducated human resources, that’s why those who are formed under dictatorship are also uneducated with narrow world views. To preserve itself dictatorship applies despotic, uncultured methods, that’s why people who grow up under it also behave in despotic and uncultured way. To sustain itself it falsifies, that’s why people who live under dictatorship also falsify. The dictatorship steals from people, that’s why people also either steal from each other, or from the state. It promotes fear and flattery, that’s why people also behave like that. And the longer dictatorship lasts, the deeper these traits are developing in people. Just imagine that it failed and all these uncultured, lying, stealing, uneducated people face the necessity to build a new exemplary society — they would not, as there is no potential. As dictatorship is fighting to suppress freedoms as main way to build the culture of debate, decency, transparency, accountability, education etc, the greatest loser in dictatorship is the society.”
Natig Jafarli continues the topic on his timeline:” The flow of mutual blames, pressures, and even threats yesterday showed what a devastated condition is our country in.. If in 26 years YAP ( the ruling party) was simply stealing resources, destroying economy, it still will be not so scary, as it would be possible to restore economy in a relatively reasonable time frame, but by depriving people of freedoms, and thus of formation of the ideologies, destroying the education system, it did not allow development of a normal society. So instead of people, the fan clubs are formed in the country — like in football, those of Iran, of Saudi Arabia, of Russia, of Turkey, of the US etc. Because YAP did not have an ideological basis, so it created conditions for formation of similar groups in the rest of society. So, dear compatriot if you are shia- look from the Azerbaijan window, not some other country, if you are sunni- try to see the world through the eyes of Azerbaijan, not AKP or Saudi Arabia, if you are leftist- forget about Russia as a role- model, be a leftist of Azerbaijan, if you are liberal- perfect, but be liberal of Azerbaijan, if you are nationalist- do it your own way, not like MHP ( of Turkey). YAP made the country vulnerable and open to many threats, and provocations, and the situation reached a dangerous level. The only way out is to improve education quality, build effective institutions, promote group’s ideologies… We are very late…and will regret a lot…”
The journalist Seymur Hezi comments: “ It is very natural that our citizens are looking outward to the foreign countries.Because this governemnt not only deprives them of their basic rights, but even the right of normally eat. Thats why they go abroad to get the affordable medical treatment, or buy cheaper products. Thats why they like any other country, but not their own. But this will change one day for sure. Regarding religion- this country has been muslim for more than 1000 years and it did not create problmes before it started to be used as a political tool recently and they will get a response from those believers who are closely attached to their country.”
On the other occasion, continuing the topic of Azerbaijan history Altay Geyushov quotes the CIA archives. “ In Azerbaijan 100 thousand were either killed or deported by the Soviets in response to their resistance up to 1925. Overall in the Caucasus in the purges of the 1930s 422 thousands were executed or deported ( mainly intelligentsia).”
Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR explains on his timeline the details and substance of the planned medical insurance for various categories of population. He also presents the political spectrum of the current composition of the European Parliament, asking his followers which party they would vote if there were free and fair elections in Azerbaijan. He brings the respective statistics in EP: “ Of 751 seat Parliament- European People’s Party ( center — right) has 182 seats, Socialist and Democrats -154, Liberals- 108, Greens- 74, Idenity and Democracy- 73, European Reformers and Consservatives -62, Independents-57, and Left- Nordic Green Left -41.
The issue of elections continues to be actively discussed and shared. The blogger and former political prisoner Mehman Huseynov, who was running as a candidate in the local elections, won the votes, but did not find his name in the final list of winners tells the story of him complaining to the CEC. He decribed how tension was increased when he said openly what he thought of the elections and their role in falsification. But the result was that his complaint was satisfied, at least in some polling stations- the results were annuled, the members of commissions were punished by sacking. Huseynov however stated that he will not stop and will continue his struggle. The purpose is to make the overall results of the district voting annuled, and the tabulation to be conducted again. “ They should not think, that they can easily get rid of me!”.
Yadigar Sadyghli of Musavat, who has been collecting signatures for candidacy shares his experience: “For quite some time I have been struggling to get additional sheets from CEC, appealing to various instances- hotlines, local commissions, central comission, their various departments, but got rejected everywhere. So today I submitted 10 sheets of signatures, but they said- did not you ask for teh additional one? Here is one more for you- fill it and then come back”
Natig Jafarli of REAL shares his experience of collecting signatures: “ Together with my team of 10 people we collected 5,000 signatures, during this process we informed the population of the district about extra- parliamentary elections, as many did not know about it. Many in Lokbatan settlement are people distant from politics, experiencing a lot of social problems, including the registration issues ( live in one place, while registered in the other). 26 years of YAP created a misconception of the MPs- they think that MPs make the roads, fix the roof, or else. It is hard to base the ampaign on ideology with such population, where there is more need in populism, but the good news is that 50% of the constituency is the young ( under 35 years) population, which is much more informed and capable.And by the next election- they will be 70% of the population”
Erkin Gadirli of REAL also reported about submission of the signature sheets for the candidacy of the 16 Yasamal electoral district of Baku city.
Ruzgar Movsum writes in his timeline about the contradiction of the Minister of Defence Zakir Hasanov’s statement, that Armenians live in fear of Azerbaijani army and the video of the current New Year celebration in Nagorno-Karabagh, where everything looks peaceful and people are decorating their houses. He also speaks about controversy in living standards of Azerbaijani citizens .. who for 250 manats per capita manages to support family with 4 children, attend wedding parties 3 times a month, get expensive mobile phones or cars with credit, check in in restaurants in the city center and comment “Life is wonderful” on FB…