Center for National and International Studies
“Whichever way you look at it, a group of people who rule the country is the winner of this Formula 1 game…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
According to the lawyer Nemat Karimli, Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev will personally supervise the criminal case against the member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Alizamin Salayev, who has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days. The representatives of the Investigation Control Department of the Police Bodies of the Prosecutor General’s Office met with Salayev in the detention center to inform him about the new development.
The Chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli said that Salayev should be released immediately and hospitalized; otherwise, it won’t be possible to save him. Karimli: “This information gives a little hope that there are people in the government who understand the tragic consequences of the killing of Alizamin Salayev in this way. If the authorities really don’t want to be Alizamin Salayev‘s murderer, they should be quick. Alizamin Salayev, who is on the 84th day of hunger, may die at any moment. No one knows how many more days Salayev can endure.”
Azadlig Newspaper reports that a person named Rafael Bayramov was taken to the Ministry of Internal Affairs by civilian police and was threatened that he would be arrested on drug charges if he did not pay them 5000 manats. Bayramov was beaten by the police officers and was released hours later, only after one of his friends paid the requested 5000 manats. Bayramov later shared a social media post denying that he was beaten up and asked everyone to delete his previous post about the incident. Human Rights defenders argued that Bayramov was threatened by the police for publicizing what happened to him, and therefore, he had to deny his previous post.
Governance and Corruption
Formula 1 ® confirmed that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will remain on the calendar until 2026 following the renewal of the contract with Azerbaijan. ” Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1, said that “the Baku City Circuit has become a hugely popular venue for Formula 1, and they are delighted to extend our relationship with the country of Azerbaijan and look forward to continuing our growth together.”
However, the residents of Baku have continuously complained about the paralyzed traffic, deafening noise, and restraints of movement in the center of the capital city due to the international race that Baku hosts every year since 2016.
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli commented on the renewal of the contract, saying that the Formula 1 game only serves the interests of the ruling family while the local population pays the price. Karimli: “This decision of the regime is a demonstrative example of disrespecting the people. The ruling family and the oligarchs around them earn a lot every year from these games, which causes a lot of pain to the residents of Baku. Tens of thousands of rich and middle-class “Formula-1” fans pay for expensive plane tickets, hotels, restaurants, banks, communication, insurance, and transportation companies belonging to the ruling family. Moreover, in preparation for Formula 1, they embezzle a huge amount of public funding yearly with various excuses. In other words, whichever way you look at it, only a group of people who run the country are the winners of these games. The rich increase their money as a result of this game, while ordinary hardworking people suffer year after year. Due to Formula 1, there has been a terrible traffic jam in Baku for several weeks. The routine of the residents is disturbed. Moreover, there is terrible noise in the city center, the historical monuments of Baku are damaged, and it is too costly for the state budget. At every opportunity, the regime shows us that it does not take into account public opinion and the wishes of the people. They abuse the tolerance of our people. Unfortunately, since we are so tolerant and patient, they will continue to conduct many of such experiments on us.”
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADWP) Gubad Ibadoghlu said that the Azerbaijani government paid the record amount of $ 57 million to hist the grand prix. Ibadoghlu: “Azerbaijan was the 1st among 23 countries to pay the maximum amount – 57 million US dollars – to host the Formula 1 race. In order to host the Formula 1 game in 2023, 1 country paid an average of 37 million dollars, while Azerbaijan paid the maximum amount of 57 million dollars among 23 countries. Saudi Arabia and Qatar paid the most – 55 million US dollars – to host this competition. The government that has been paying 80 manats per month to war veterans for four years has taken over the oil and gas revenues to humiliate its own people by paying the highest amount to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix. This is how they eat the share of those who do not eat.”
Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Tofig Yagublu said that the regime demonstrates hostility and disrespect towards the citizens by violating their constitutional rights. Yagublu: “This is “hostility” and “unethical”. The government prohibits the freedom of free assembly of citizens provided by the Constitution of the country under the pretext of “obstructing the movement of pedestrians and cars”. But despite the strong objections of the citizens, it continues to hold Formula 1 races in the center of Baku for years, which seriously hinders the movement of pedestrians and cars while there is no legal obligation or necessity to be held in our country.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeyhun Bayramov praised the role of the United States in the negotiations with Armenia. The minister thanked the USA and said that as a result of Washington’s efforts, Armenia returned to the negotiation process. Meanwhile, in the information released by the US State Department, Secretary of State Blinken said that in his conversation with Ilham Aliyev, he took into account that “the risk of a humanitarian crisis in the Lachin Corridor undermines the prospect of peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli shared his opinion on the statement of the State Department, saying that the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan is also one of the priorities. “As it can be seen in the statement, the USA, unlike Russia, does not demand the removal of the checkpoint set up by Azerbaijan at the border. Therefore, in order to achieve peace, Azerbaijan is asked not to use this border crossing point to create a humanitarian crisis. The US wants to get a guarantee that conditions will be created for “people’s movement and commercial activity” in the Lachin corridor after the operation of the Azerbaijani border control and that there will be no danger of any humanitarian crisis. This guarantee is considered a necessary condition for the Armenian side to agree to a peace treaty. In a telephone conversation, Ilham Aliyev said that this post was established to prevent the use of the Lachin corridor for military purposes and that there was no risk of a humanitarian crisis. Another interesting point is that the State Department stated that Blinken also discussed human rights problems in Azerbaijan during his conversation with Ilham Aliyev. However, the Azerbaijani media purposefully ignored this aspect of the telephone conversation. Blinken’s insistence on this issue shows that despite the security issues on the agenda, the United States is paying attention to the increasingly serious problems in the field of human rights in Azerbaijan. It has become a tradition to discuss issues related to human rights and democratic freedoms, and by doing so, the United States shows that democratic values in the relations between the two countries are as important as national security.”
May 2, 2023