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Center for National and International Studies
A statement by Azerbaijani intellectuals, civil and political leaders:
Azerbaijani intellectuals condemn political hatred and the government’s repression.
A group of intellectuals have taken an initiative in connection with the recent events in Azerbaijan — a wave of violent repression. Intellectuals and public activists signed a statement calling the repression an unacceptable political incident for the country.
We, the signatories below, endorse this statement with a sense of urgency regarding the current fateful period for our state and our people, where domestic political relations have deteriorated to a dangerous extent, and civil peace is under threat — the period that started with the recent aggression of the Armenian armed forces, which began on July 12 in the direction of Tovuz, and the subsequent events in Baku.
The attack on Tovuz by the Armenian army resulted in the death of 12 Azerbaijani servicemen including Major General Polad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzayev — this naturally angered our nation as a whole. Our nation mourned the martyrdom of our high-ranking officers and soldiers, whilst simultaneously fuming with a sense of revenge towards the enemy in the face of such a gross violation. Our people immediately took up a position of unity and showed full support to our state and army without waiting for any input from the country’s social and political institutions. This was our only consolation in the face of the great loss we have faced, and it was very significant for the future of our people and our state. It would be unfair not to mention the role of the country’s opposition in this, especially that of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, which has always been a strong critic of the government at other ordinary times.
We would like to remind that shortly after the news of the martyrdom of our high-ranking officers, the chairman of the Popular Front Party Ali Karimli sent a very important and positive message to the government in his condolences on his Facebook page: “I am sure of the fact that our army will do what is necessary to deter the attack and protect our land. Our prayers are with our soldiers and officers. We stand with our army. The Azerbaijani government has our full confidence at this time. All the resources of the state must be mobilized to put the enemy in its place. Our criticism of the government at other times is irrelevant at this time. We stand with our state and army.”
This behavior on behalf of a party leader who has been known for his uncompromising stance against the government, and who has been subjected to severe repression for years for taking this position should have been praised and received as a positive response. Ali Karimli demonstrated that he is a very mature, statesman -not just a politician, and without a doubt garnered praise for his position. It is not a coincidence that his statement trended that day in the Azerbaijani social media networks. Ali Karimli deserved a similar magnanimous attitude from the government, but unfortunately we are witnessing the opposite.
The grief that our people expressed over our martyred general and other servicemen by taking to the streets in the thousands on July 14-15, has unfortunately ended badly for our nation as a whole. This great show of patriotism on behalf of our nation was overshadowed by the provocative actions of an unknown group storming the Parliament and turning over two police cars. Unfortunately, the authorities took the opportunity to demonstrate its power to the society and to crush its political opponents. After a group of people entered the Parliament building on the night of the 15th of July, police used excessive force and arrested thousands of civilians (while we strongly condemn the unauthorized entrance to the Parliament, it should be noted that even then there was no purposeful destruction and the building was largely undamaged). A group of those arrested are members of the Popular Front Party, some of whom never went out that night at all.
Unfortunately, President Ilham Aliyev, speaking about the protest at a video conference meeting of his executive cabinet, based his entire speech on an insulting attack against the PPFA and its leadership. The head of state blamed the APFP for the provocation in the Parliament on the night of July 15 without any proof at all. Essentially, he indirectly instructed the law enforcement agencies to target the party. More than 30 APFP activists have been arrested to date. Some of them, including Karabakh veteran Asif Yusifli, who had just completed five years as a political prisoner, were charged with Article 3 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to three months in prison for a preliminary investigation. There are reports that those arrested have been subjected to torture in order obtain statements against the party leadership and Ali Karimli in particular. Whether or not they were successful in eliciting such falsely incriminating statements remains unclear.
The attitude of the APFP leadership [ including the chairman Ali Karimli], to the July 14-15 rally has been clear to the Azerbaijani public. This is a completely healthy position in terms of state interests. As people marched through the streets, Ali Karimli shared the following message on his Facebook page: «Tens of thousands of people in Baku are in the center of the city, in Freedom Square, on the roads to the Alley of Martyrs chanting “Karabakh is ours, it will be ours», “Martyrs do not die, motherland will not be divided. » They are expressing their anger at the Armenian occupiers with slogans, condemning the occupiers of our lands and expressing their readiness to fight for the defense of our homeland, for the liberation of Karabakh. It is proud scene. I hope that marches are able to continue without any problems. The government should not assume that this patriotic explosion is against itself. On the contrary, the fact that our people are so patriotic and ready to fight for the motherland should act as a deterrent to the enemy. This only adds to the government’s power and gives the army the opportunity to act with the knowledge that they have people’s confidence. The government should appreciate people’s support and take decisive action to alter the situation in our frontlines.»
Just like thousands of regular Azerbaijani citizens, several members of the Popular Front Party were also in attendance in the rally. The live broadcasts of some of them, including Karabakh veteran Asif Yusifli, a member of the party’s Presidium, are still available on their pages and prove that these people did not commit any illegal acts. There is no evidence to prove the involvement of APFP members in the provocation in the Parliament. Moreover, several lawyers’ statements show that the courts where Asif Yusifli and others were tried did not discover any evidence of their guilt. Meanwhile, Fuad Gahramanli, whose whereabouts following the arrest is still unknown, alongside many others did not take part in the marches at all.
In this case, the repression towards the opposition party, which the President subjects to out of purely political considerations, damages the image of our state and expands the negative attitude towards the government. The president openly degraded a political party that operates legally and does not go beyond methods of peaceful campaigning using terms such as: «fifth column», «enemy worse than Armenians», «traitor”. It is unfortunate that he used threats such as: «We gave them a lesson, we will give them a lesson … they will be taught a lesson that will be the last lesson they get.” “We must finish this work we started with the ‘fifth column’. ” It is shameful for the state to send a signal of repression to law enforcement agencies with such threats. Luckily the leadership of the Popular Front does not condone actions and statements that would harm the interests of the state even in response to this treatment. Otherwise, it would be a disaster for Azerbaijan. The fact that the PFPA leader preferred to stick to rhetoric that is not unethical and does not incite controversy, and chose to direct towards common good, should be commended.
It is no secret to the Azerbaijani public how the government has been treating the APFP for many years. This party has been gradually deprived of basic opportunities to function over the years. It has been subjected to constant repression, its members have been arrested and 11 of its members are currently political prisoners. The party has been without a headquarters for years and is not even allowed to rent a small office. The party’s chairman, Ali Karimli, has been deprived of his passport for 15 years, and over the years he has been repeatedly tried in various trumped up criminal cases. For the past three months, he has also been deprived of internet access, which means that under the current quarantine regime, it is worse than a house arrest. Such a harsh and intolerant attitude towards a party that does not go beyond the framework of civil political activity is even more extreme on top of the existing difficult conditions for political freedoms in Azerbaijan.
We call on the authorities to put an end to such a hostile attitude towards the PPFA. Everything put aside, we must not forget the historical role of this organization in gaining our state independence, protecting our lands, never going beyond peaceful means in all its activities and acting only in the national interest at all crucial moments in history. The government must take into account that the existence of such a stable organization representing the protesting section of society is beneficial to our nation as a whole. Otherwise, there will always be dissatisfied people within the society either way, and they may find other ways to express discontent — perhaps with violence instead of civil forms offered by the PFPA. In this sense, the government must not forget its responsibility towards our people and the state, and not make the socio-political environment even more unstable.
At the same time, we call on the world’s democratic institutions and international organizations to use all possible means to urge the Azerbaijani government to abandon its policy of oppression towards civil opposition.
Jamil Hasanli, historian and scientist
Jasmine Garagoyunlu, scientist
Vidadi Mirkamal, politician
Rovshan Hajibeyli, journalist
Gullu Cahangir, public figure
Fuad Agayev, lawyer
Khayal Azizov, journalist
Arif Yunus, political scientist
Yalchin Imanov, lawyer
Tural Agayev, lawyer
Hikmet Hajizade, political scientist
Rashid Hajili, lawyer
Alovsat Sadigli, human rights activist
Eldar Abbasov, historian and scientist
Araz Gunduz, literary translator
Zaur Akbar, public activist
Yalcin Gahramanoglu, public figure
Kamil Veli Narimanoglu, professor
Sevinj Mirzayeva, journalist
Rafig Manafli, political figure
Fikret Huseynli, journalist
Dashgyn Agalarli, public figure
Ibrahim Valiyev, PhD in law
Shalala Mammadova, doctor, historian
Mehman Demirli, professor
Vahid Gazi,writer, publicist
Samad Garachop, writer
Ruslan Garayev (Gara), journalist
Alovsat Aliyev, lawyer
Samir Sadagatoglu, writer
Saltanat Veysova, PhD, lecturer
Ilkin Rustamzade, public figure