Center for National and International Studies



Corruption in the country is widespread, and effective opposition to the government has been weakened by years of crackdowns on rival politicians and civil society…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

The Baku Court of Appeals dismissed journalist Nargiz Absalamova’s appeal on January 29. The appeal was regarding the prohibition of meetings and telephone conversations with her family members. The court justified the investigative ban by claiming that communication with Absalamova’s family might hinder the exposure of other individuals involved in crimes. The defense argues that these claims lack a solid foundation.

The court concluded the trial of Elvin Mustafayev, a member of the “Workers’ Table” Confederation of Trade Unions, at the Baku Court of Serious Crimes on Wednesday. He faced charges of illegal drug trafficking and was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment. Mustafayev, a young activist, rejected the allegations, attributing them to his involvement in trade union and public activities.

Murad Yariyev, an 18-year-old who regularly advocated for Shia theologian and head of the Muslim Unity Movement, Tale Bagirzade‘s release on social media, has been moved to Specialized Treatment Institution No. 3 (Tubzon). Murad contacted his mother, revealing that he was forcibly transferred to Tubzon, where he faced significant pressure. After receiving a verdict in October of last year, Murad was held in Baku Investigation Detention Center No. 1. The institution’s management informed him two days ago about a change in his placement, leading to his forced transfer to Tubzon. His mother, responding to the call, found out about his transfer and went to Specialized Treatment Institution No. 3 for clarification. The administration of Specialized Treatment Institution No. 3 informed the mother that an illness was identified in her son, and according to the law, he is required to stay there and undergo all the procedural regulations. The mother is anxious about her son’s well-being, with the potential for illnesses in this facility compounding her concerns about her son, who endured severe torture when initially arrested. In October 2022, Murad Yariyev expressed strong objections on social media to the provocative actions taken against Tale Bagirzade. Shortly after his posts, the 18-year-old was apprehended by the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, and a drug-related criminal case was initiated against him. During the court proceedings that commenced in the summer of 2023, he claimed to have endured unimaginable torture in detention and was forced to sign a false statement. Despite these circumstances, on October 4, the Baku Court of Serious Crimes sentenced Murad Yariyev to three years of imprisonment, deeming the drug-related charges justified.

A group of former Azerbaijani political detainees and exiled activists residing in Europe has come together to establish a new entity known as the Coordination Center of Azerbaijani Political Immigrants (ASIMKOM). The primary objective of ASIMKOM, as outlined by its organizers, is “to support the struggle for democracy and freedoms in Azerbaijan and to be the spokesperson in Europe for the democratic movement in the country.” Ganimat Zahid, an exiled journalist and one of the organization’s founders, has announced on social media that they successfully held their inaugural assembly in Strasbourg, where they ratified the organization’s charter. Zayidov posted on social media saying that “mobilizing the resources of migration for the national interests of Azerbaijan is also among their intentions. “We consider dictatorship as the greatest threat to the national interests of Azerbaijan, and we will do everything in our power to eliminate it from our country”, added Zayidov.

Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli commented on the occasion, congratulating the members of the new organization and urging the Azerbaijanis living abroad to join the new organization. Karimli:  “Our political refugees united in a single organization and took the step that was expected of them by raising the flag of the struggle for the liberation of Azerbaijan from the family rule. At this time, when the number of political prisoners in our country has risen to a record level, Aliyev‘s regime is not satisfied with authoritarianism, and is trying to shift to totalitarianism, and our nation is being tested once again. Every Azerbaijani, regardless of where they live, should do everything they can to save the Motherland. Our salvation lies in our unity and collective fight.”

Senator Ben Cardin, Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Azerbaijani authorities to cease the persecution of critics and opposition figures. “Azerbaijan’s assault on journalists, illegal detention of opposition  & alleged use of transnational repression are anti-democratic tactics. Baku must release political prisoners & halt harassment to be part of the international community, ahead of COP29,” the senator wrote on his Twitter (X) page.

Governance and Corruption

Transparency International released the 2023 Corruption Index, with Azerbaijan (with a score of 23/100), ranking at the bottom in the region,  along with Tajikistan (20) and Turkmenistan (18), countries that continue to struggle with severe corruption issues. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2023 reveals the prevalence of corruption worldwide. Assessing 180 countries and territories based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption, the CPI scores on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Georgia ranks 49th, and Armenia holds the 62nd position. Azerbaijan lags behind 36 African countries in this corruption ranking and found its place at 154/100 global ranking. According to Transparency International, “power in Azerbaijan is largely held by the president – who has been in this role since 2003 – and his family. Corruption in the country is widespread, and effective opposition to the government has been weakened by years of crackdowns on rival politicians and civil society.

Director of the Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov commented on the Corruption Index, saying that it was expected considering the current situation in the country. Goyushov: “In fact, there is nothing surprising here. Corruption is the oxygen of this government. Those who oppose corruption are either arrested, mass-slandered like the journalists of Abzas Media, or assaulted like the protestors in Soyudlu village. Corruption is the main reason why the people of this rich country live in poverty. As a result of corruption, a group of thieving officials become fantastically rich, while the vast majority become poorer every day. Corruption means extremely unequal distribution of the country’s wealth.”

Meanwhile, the Munich Prosecutor’s Office of Germany brought charges against former MPs – Axel Fischer and Eduard Lintner. It is reported that they received bribes from the government of Azerbaijan. German prosecutors filed bribery and corruption charges against four individuals, including former lawmakers Axel Fischer and Eduard Lintner. The charges are related to suspicions of receiving bribes from Azerbaijan in exchange for voting favorably for Baku at the Council of Europe. Fischer and Lintner, former members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), were implicated in the Azerbaijan Laundromat scandal, an EU-wide lobbying and money-laundering scheme exposed by OCCRP in 2017. The scheme, known for “caviar diplomacy,” involved Azerbaijan influencing European policy by using a secret $2.9 billion slush fund for various purposes, including offering gifts and trips to European MPs in exchange for favorable votes and positive reports on human rights issues, despite the imprisonment of numerous political dissidents in Azerbaijan.

 140th Anniversary of Rasulzade

January 31 marks the 140th anniversary of Muhammad Amin Rasulzadeh, one of the founding fathers of the first democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. Despite President Ilham Aliyev signing a decree to celebrate the anniversary, no significant official event took place. The lack of substantial commemoration for the national leader’s anniversary draws criticism annually from the opposition, considering it a sign of disrespect to the memory of the founding leader. However, opposition parties Musavat and APFP organized a march to his monument in Novkhani, his birthplace.

Political commentator Arastun Orulu shared his opinion on the lack of interest in the first democratic republic and its founders, saying that the whole idea of democracy is foreign to the current regime. Orujlu: “Because we are talking not only about our founding fathers themselves, their personalities, and their integral role in our history, but also about the political-historical legacy they left for this nation. Denigrating our founding fathers actually aims to discredit the glorious pages of our history and the political legacy they have left behind. This indifference aims to reinforce the narrative that “you have no example to be proud of” for the Azerbaijani people. It is for this reason that the most unbelievable lies, slanders and fabrications are told from time to time against the First Republic and its founders, and many more will be told. Because people cannot be given a positive example, experience, or reference point.”

February 2, 2024