Center for National and International Studies
“…If this nation, among hundreds of hopeless politicians, managed to produce M.E. Rasulzade, we should believe in its future…”
The FB community is still concerned with the situation in Upper Karabagh, discusses the economy, governance and corruption, the protests of families of war martyrs, reacts to the 100% inflation of water bills, discusses relations with Russia, rallies in support of Navalny and the influence of these events on Azerbaijan, and celebrates the birthday of the founder of Azerbaijan People’s Republic (1918-1920), M.E. Rasulzade.
Situation in Karabagh. The media reports that the IDPs from Lachin region are appealing to Turkey for help. It also reveals that general Muradov – commander of Russian peacekeepers – is promoting the issue of Armenian troops captured in the post-war period. They also continue to keep in the centre of attention the situation with the families of martyrs. The opposition attracts attention to the language which Russian peacekeepers used to spread the statement around the blockage of the trucks with construction materials going to Kalbajar region (used the Armenian toponyms, not Azerbaijani – Magadis, not Sugovushan, etc). and calls it a real challenge to Azerbaijan. The activists also are concerned with the inconsistency of the president, who on the one hand refused to release 62 Armenian fighters arriving in the country after the ceasefire agreement, while on the other had released 5 of them in exchange for one Azerbaijani POW. Arif Hacili, leader of the Musavat opposition party, decries the arbitrariness of the Russian peacekeepers and puts responsibility onto the president, who closes his eyes to it. At the same time the political and civil leaders greet the arrival of the Turkish monitors to Azerbaijan for work at the Joint Monitoring Centre with the Russians. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF, commenting on the arrival of 60 Turkish troops, claims that “even if it’s a weak one – this is a light at the end of the tunnel”. She mentions with indignation the fact of the blockage of roads to Kelbajar and the absence of official reaction to it. The activists also warn that the pressures on Azerbaijan will increase from the international community in connection with the status of Upper Karabagh, so the government should undertake measures to address/prevent it. They exchange the information that a tractor of 33-year-old Elgun Alekberov exploded on a landmine, resulting in the death of the driver, and that 3 more dead bodies of Armenian troops were discovered in the Hojavend direction and were transferred to the other side. Eldar Namazov, former advisor to the late president Heydar Aliyev, gave an interview to the news site haqqin.az about transport infrastructure in the South Caucasus agreement achieved in Moscow. He said that subconsciously in Armenia they treat their own country not as an independent state, but as some geopolitical project which was created deliberately to put pressure on Azerbaijan and Turkey – to occupy their lands, to claim territories, etc. That’s why they perceive so negatively the return by Azerbaijan of its lands, because it deprived them of the power of their project. So there are more opinions in the local Armenia media, that the third Armenian Republic had failed; Namazov comments that with such perception and policies, the fourth Armenian republic will most probably fail too.
Social issues. The media reports that the veteran of the first Karabagh war, the handicapped Ahmadov Rafig, cannot afford the treatment of his child, as all the hospitals (both private and state) are charging him high prices. Suleyman Dadashov, the handicapped from the Karabagh War 2, has started a hunger strike due to the impossibility of getting medical insurance for the wounded in the war. Zamina Asadova, who is sick, cannot get her son – who is the only breadwinner and carer of the family – back from the army, although his term of service has officially ended. She appeals to the people for financial aid through social networks. The lawyer Agil Laij decries the public TV programme which called protesting families of martyrs “provocateurs” and demands that the chair of this programme apologize to them.
Birthday of M.E. Rasulzade. The FB community celebrates the birthday of the founder of the modern Azerbaijan nation state, the first democratic republic – ADR / 1918-1920- Mammad Emin Rasulzade. People share posts, photos and quotations from his speeches, discuss his legacy and role in the history of the nation and state. Many pose in T-shirts displaying his image, produced by Osmangizi TV. Ramis Yunus, activist and commentator in exile, writes on his timeline “January 31st is the birthday of Mammad Emin Rasulzade, the father of the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920). His name is associated with the flag and anthem of modern Azerbaijan, which is his successor and this we must never forget”. İsa Gambar of Musavat quoted Rasulzade on his timeline “İf among thousands of hopeless mirzas (scribes) such a talented Mirza Fatali Akhundov was created, if among thousands of hopeless seyyids such a prominent figure as Seyid Azim Shirvani was born, and among thousands of merchants such satirical poet like Sabir has been produced, then this nation’s light will never go out.” Isa Gambar adds to this idea that “if among hundreds of hopeless politicians M.E. Rasulzade was formed, then we should believe in the dignity and future of this nation”. The activists decry the police blocking access to the only monument to Rasulzade in the village where he was born, Novkhani – to prevent the opposition from visiting his grave. Gultakin Hajibeyli notes that this is an indication of the degree of hatred and envy of the authorities towards him.
Relations with Russia. The media begins to stress the political similarities of the two regimes in Russia and Azerbaijan. Osmangizi TV calls it “Two nations, one corruption” (playing with the expression “One nation – two states” about Azerbaijan and Turkey. It also reports the phone call with Aliyev’s congratulations to Putin in connection with the launch of the Russia- Turkey Joint Monitoring Centre. The media quotes presidential assistant Hikmet Hajiyev positively assessing the work of Russian peacekeepers, calling them professional, and stressing the existence of an open dialogue and communication with them. The opposition activists comment that this is despite the impossibility of Azerbaijanis going to Kelbajar, or from Shusha to Khankendi, or returning to Lachin city. Many interpret the comments by Putin’s close friend Ilham Rahimov: “We need to resolve the issue of the peacekeepers while Putin is in power, otherwise with his replacement it will be harder to do” as a message (“while Putin is in power”) of preparation for power change in Russia. Some find it illogical, as Putin himself has brought these troops which are occupying the region, creating a second Armenian state. Fuad Gahramanli comments with irony that Hikmet Hajiyev expressed satisfaction with the activities of the Russian peacekeepers who are violating the sovereignty of the country and promoting a separatist regime. In this context, people discuss the news about the ex-head of the Army Headquarters, Najmaddin Sadikhov, who was earlier fired and reportedly is now in Moscow. Natig Jafarli writes about the role of Russia in these conflicts, arguing that all the secessionist conflicts in the FSU have been promoted by Russia. He lists Russia’s ambitious plans and achievements in the area of control over the FSU states, completing it by control over 3% of Azerbaijani territory with the help of her peacekeeping troops. He asserts that Russia denies the existence of universal values and argues that only the Russian World concept exists but does not support it by arguments and proofs. He overlooks, however, the new generation emerging in Russia, who cannot be ruled by the old Soviet paradigms. Jafarli thinks that Russia is ready for change, but not so much for the building of any democratic system, but for reducing injustice toward ordinary citizens. He thinks that nobody will benefit from the collapse of Russia, but from its positive transformation and that is what all neighbours, including Azerbaijan, should be prepared for.
Navalny protests. The activists discuss the influence of the protests in Russia on Azerbaijan and near abroad. They consider that Putin by his actions discredited himself, showing that he was cowardly blocking the rallies and he is not different from other dictators, those on the peripheries. FB users share information that the Italian architect of Putin’s palace, portrayed in the film by Navalny, is close to the Azerbaijani president’s family. Arif Shahmarli, the diplomat in exile, comments that both the architectural style and financing schemes are close to those found in Baku.
Economy, governance, corruption. The topic of the lavish spending of millions on the new Central Bank building continues to be heatedly discussed. The political leaders stress that the government, in reacting to the protests of society to this project, instead of cancelling it, have stated that “the Bank will spend its own resources”. Ali Karimli comments that it is not possible to deceive people with such arguments, as they are not naïve. If there is extra money in the bank, they should transfer it to the budget and then spend it on the pressing needs of families of war participants or give child benefits. The activists and journalists call it “the corruption project”, which needs to be stopped. The e-media reports completion of the case of the misappropriation of the half a million dollars by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources during Minister Huseyngulu Bagirov’s time in office. The prosecutor asked a total of 43 years and 6 months sentence for 5 people, an ex-staff of the Ministry charged with corruption. The deputy speaker of the parliament, Adil Aliyev, criticised the renovation works which were done by the new president and ex-head of the presidential administration, Ramiz Mehdiyev. He targeted the transformation of the Academy of Sciences’ odl building into a “Palace of Joy” (the common name of the restaurants for wedding parties in the country – L.A.) and rapid filling of its courtyards with trade and catering objects. The economic expert asks the president three questions related to the economy: 1) why, while in the other post-Soviet state the salaries were raised (Uzbekistan 14.5%, Belarus, 13.4%, Ukraine 10.1%, Armenia 3.9%) in Azerbaijan they decreased by 1.2%? 2) this leads to problems with indexation of pension insurance capital 3) on what legal basis can the budget and state organizations make a transfer from their personnel salaries to various foundations without their knowledge? He comments that he gets daily complaints from citizens about the last circumstance. Altay Geyushov discredits all official arguments for the necessity of construction of the new bank building, calling it simply an excuse for corruption. Isa Gambar of Musavat comments that while Yerevan is preparing for a new war, Azerbaijan is drowning in corruption. The media and FB users share the information from Transparency International that Azerbaijan is leading on the corruption perception index in the region; Georgia’s rating is 45, Armenia 60, Azerbaijan 129 (22 African states are ahead of Azerbaijan). The detail which they find significant is that Azerbaijan is next to Russia in this list.
The e-media reports on the interrogation of the deputy of Ramiz Mehdiyev, Ali Hasanov, in the prosecutor’s office, and according to some reports, that he has already been arrested.
Yadigar Sadighly comments on the length of the terms in office of politicians of different countries, with the most talented, such as Kohl in Germany staying longer (16 years) and contrasts it to the opposite correlation in Azerbaijan – such as the “non-interventionist in politics” singer Zeynab Khanlarova, MP for 35 years, or the ineffective Minister of Health, Ogtay Shiraliyev, for 16 years. The FB community discusses the plan of the authorities to build a $164m building for the water company AZERSU, which they connect directly to the 100% rise of water and sewage bills for customers issued by the Tariffs Council.
Arrest of the businessman. FB users share news about the arrest of the businessman and former close associate of ex-head of presidential administration, currently the president of the Academy of Sciences, Ramiz Mehdiyev. The latter sued the businessman Rasim Mammadov because he took sums of 4m and 3.5m manat from himself and his son and did not return it. The journalists comment that it seems the millions mean nothing for the ruling elite, who totally ignore the ‘conflict of interest’ law. People comment that they are horrified that while some bureaucrats are being cheated with their 4m manat, or plan a bank building worth 435m manat, others cannot afford treatment in hospital, or textbooks for their children.
Human Rights. People discuss the fate of the 62 Armenian POWs who came to fight after the ceasefire agreement was signed. The FB community is concerned at the inconsistency of the government, who announced first that they are not POWS, but citizens of foreign state/terrorists, who came to fight after the ceasefire agreement and should be tried as terrorists – but then released 5 of them last Friday. Seymur Hezi of PFP comments on the release of the captured Armenian military while keeping Azerbaijani opposition activists in jail, describing it as “Ilham Aliyev style of “multiculturalism”. Azerbaijan is also in the first rows of the number of violations of the election law among states – members of the CoE: the ECHR recognized 25 cases of this law violation from Azerbaijan. The e-media reports unprecedented pressure on lawyers in the country calling it, ironically, “progress with the legal reforms”, as the judge of the Binagadi district did not start the court hearings demanding the removal of the legal defender Nemat Karimli from the court room. Meydan TV reports that the opposition leader Tofig Yagublu when preparing for the next court hearing, packed his bag with clothes and other items in case he was sent to prison from the court room. He was released for the provisional sentence after 17 days of hunger strike in prison. Yagublu was arrested on the trumped-up charges of causing the car accident and hooliganism. The situation with the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev continues to be at the centre of attention of the FB community. Jamil Hasanli, scholar and opposition leader, has written a status where he argues that when the human rights defender hit by a car was brought to hospital, he was actively making phone calls, talking with family, etc. so it is due to the delay of the doctors’ engagement at the hospital that he got into a coma and still remains in this condition after a year and a few months. He writes that due to his activities he became a headache for the president, so this might have been an easy way to neutralize him. Hasanli also mentions that delay with the investigation is artificial and is another proof of the political nature of the request in this case.
February 2, 2021