Center for National and International Studies
“Hundreds of patriotic young people are subjected to cruel torture in Aliyev‘s prisons on false charges.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
A group of writers and poets appealed to President Ilham Aliyev regarding Alizamin Salayev, a member of the opposition party who has been on a hunger strike for more than 114 days protesting against his illegal arrest. Azadlig newspaper shared the letter: “As a result of the hunger strike, he fell into a coma several times. Yesterday, doctors warned him that he would die if he did not stop his hunger. Salayev was arrested on charges of hooliganism, and the Garadagh court sentenced him to four years in prison. He considers his arrest and the decision unfair, saying that all the evidence proves his innocence. Therefore, he declares that he will not stop his hunger, even if it may end his life. We believe that you would not give consent to the death of an activist of the opposition party of the country as a result of a hunger strike. We, the undersigned writers, ask that you order his house arrest and reconsideration of his case.”
Alzamin Salayev stopped his hunger on the 115th day. Salayev was promised that his case would be considered objectively in the Court of Appeal. Salayev told his lawyer that if justice was not served this time, then he would choose death by dry hunger.
Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Jamil Hasanli said that he had attended the trial of political prisoner Abbas Huseyn, one of the leaders of the Muslim Union Movement. Hasanli: Judge Ilgar Murguzov did not conduct such an investigation when he said there was a judicial investigation. He simply upheld the unlawful verdict of the district court. Abbas was chained to an iron pole in the courtyard of the penitentiary institution when the degree was above 42 Celcius. In January 2023, the European Court of Human Rights confirmed that Abbas Huseyn was tortured in prison and ordered the government to pay compensation. However, the government has not paid anything yet. Abbas is a very honest, patriotic, and faithful young man. His main “sin” is protesting against injustice. Hundreds of patriotic young people like him are subjected to cruel torture in Aliyev‘s prisons on false charges.”
Governance and Corruption
Azadlig newspaper reports that US President Biden sent a letter to president Ilham Aliyev on the occasion of the International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition in Baku. According to the letter, The United States will stand with Azerbaijan as it undertakes reforms that will promote the rule of law and advance opportunities for the Azerbaijani people. In addition, Biden also mentions that his administration will continue to support a sustainable and just peace in the region –which will help promote security and prosperity across the South Caucasus for generations to come.
Radio Liberty reports that there are concerns and dissatisfaction among the leaders of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called “Lachin Yolu Eco Activists.” Tahira Mammadova, one of the activists, expressed disappointment that a promised 15,000 manats were not allocated for her project. Instead, only 6,000 manats were given for a documentary film about the Shusha martyr, which Mammadova considered to be an insult. Rade Abbas, the head of the “Social Assistance to Women Veterans” organization, also shared her dissatisfaction. She mentioned that her organization had meticulously calculated and proposed a project worth 15,000 manats. However, they were only provided with 7,000 manats for their annual activities, along with demanding a high level of work. Rade Abbas believes that this amount is inadequate and insufficient, as it wouldn’t even cover her taxi expenses.
The Lachin Corridor, which is an important land route connecting the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Armenia, has been inaccessible to civilian and commercial traffic for over four months as reportedly Azerbaijani protesters, purportedly supported by the government, have blockaded the corridor. According to the local Armenians, the blockading of the Lachin Corridor had severe consequences for the people living in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, as it cut off their connection to Armenia and the outside world and it disrupted the flow of essential goods, humanitarian aid, and other supplies. The alleged involvement of Azerbaijani protesters, who were the NGO representatives claiming that the Armenian side damaged the environment, suggested that it was a deliberate action to exert pressure on the region.
The visit of the President of Israel, who visited Azerbaijan for the first time, “is of great importance in terms of the development of relations between the two countries,” said the member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Part (APFP) Fuad Gahramanli. “Because today, the relations between the two countries have reached such a level that Israel is considered not only an ally for Azerbaijan but also an important partner and security guarantee against the threat posed by Iran. Azerbaijan accounts for 17% of Israel’s arms exports, underscoring the depth of their military cooperation. In return, Azerbaijan satisfies 69% of its weapon requirements through Israeli sources, demonstrating the mutual dependency between the two countries. Furthermore, Israel actively contributes to the development of Azerbaijan’s military industry, and their intelligence agencies maintain close collaboration. Cybersecurity has emerged as another important area of cooperation between the two nations. Notably, the President of Israel, in a strong statement, depicted Iran as a common threat to Azerbaijan and accused it of engaging in acts of terrorism. This portrayal highlights the shared perspective and concerns of both countries towards Iran, solidifying the notion that Iran poses a collective threat to their interests.”
The Minister of Digital Development and Transport delivered an interview addressing the challenges within the taxi service industry. The interview focused on the concerns about the financial well-being of taxi drivers and gave signals of future reform. However, the minister’s interview brings forth concerns regarding possible increases in the prices of taxi services. Experts believe that given past experiences of consolidating sectors of the economy under the ruling family’s monopoly in the guise of reforms, the cost of taxi services will be increased.
On June 1st, Azerbaijan commemorated International Children’s Day. Despite having ratified several international conventions to safeguard children’s rights, approximately 2.5 million Azerbaijani infants are denied child benefits. Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Jamil Hasanli commented on the occasion, saying that, unlike neighboring countries like Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, and other Central Asian republics Azerbaijani government refuse to pay child benefit. Hasanli: In 2006, Ilham Aliyev decided to cut off the social benefits for children who received child support even during the country’s most challenging times. They cited a decline in poverty levels to 5 percent as a justification for the cancellation of child benefits. Child benefit is provided in Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, and other Central Asian republics bordering Azerbaijan. In this region, Azerbaijan is like an island that does not pay child benefits. Tragically, the consequences of this decision manifest in approximately 100,000 children missing out on education due to inadequate nutrition and the inability to afford proper clothing. Moreover, in numerous regions of the country, girls are being excluded from schools. Ironically, while the government neglects the needs of Azerbaijani children, Ilham Aliyev and his government members amass wealth for their own children, investing in properties worth millions of dollars across European capitals and Dubai.”
The Ministry of Finance made a statement regarding the changes to the 2023 state budget. According to the statement, the revenues of the 2023 state budget will be increased by 3 billion 5 million manats to 33 billion 779 million manats. Budget expenses are predicted to be 36 billion 568 million manats, which is 3 billion 215 million manats more than the approved indicator. A large part of the increase of 3 billion 215 million manats, namely 2 billion 260 million manats or more than 70 percent, will be directed to the construction, restoration, and reconstruction works carried out opaquely in the liberated territories. The rest of the increase will be divided between the costs of strengthening the country’s defense and economy.
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADWP) Gubad Ibadoghlu said that the new amendments to the state budget once again prove that the government has no intention to increase wages. Ibadoghlu: The wages, pensions, social benefits, and support for war veterans and martyr families have yet to see an allocation increase. Unfortunately, this lack of attention to vital areas coincides with rising prices, burdening the population, particularly those in the low-income bracket, with the costs of inflation. The recent proposal sent to parliament by the government regarding changes to the 2023 state budget further reaffirms that enhancing the people’s welfare is not the primary focus of the Aliyev regime. Instead, it highlights a concerning priority: the appropriation of budget funds through corruption.”
June 2, 2023