Center for National and International Studies
“The military assistance of the United States to Azerbaijan suggests that the process of agreeing on the military plans of the unofficial military coalition against Iran is underway…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Gultekin Hajibeyli, a member of the Coordination Center of the National Council, was detained at the Baku airport while returning to the country from abroad. According to Hajibeyli, she was told that a criminal case was opened against her on October 27 under article 147.2 of the Criminal Code. However, Hajibeyli did not receive any prior notice about the charges. She was released after being detained at the police station for several hours, but the criminal charge against her was not dropped.
Taleh Bagirzadeh, the chairperson of the Muslim Union Movement, has been on a hunger strike for five days. The Muslim Union Movement held a press conference on November 30. Baghirzade was transferred from the closed prison in Gobustan to penitentiary number 12 as the term of the 7-years strict prison regime has expired. According to his family, Baghirzade was subjected to psychological and physical violence from the moment he entered the penal institution.
Governance and Corruption
In the Parliament of Azerbaijan, it was proposed to change the name of the country. At the plenary session of the Milli Majlis, MP Gudrat Hasanguliyev suggested that the name of the country should be changed to North Azerbaijan. MP: “I think we should draft a new constitution. First, we need to change the name of our country. The name of our country should be North Azerbaijan. The whole world should know that 200 years ago, the lands of Azerbaijan were occupied by the Iranian regime. Just as there are North Korea and South Korea in the world, let it be the same with us. Azerbaijan was divided into regions by two empires 200 years ago. This step will also be an incentive for South Azerbaijanis.”
What is happening in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic?
The State Customs Committee of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was abolished. President Ilham Aliyev signed an order establishing a new General Customs Department of Nakhchivan, which will be included in the structure of the State Customs Committee. The order follows the corruption scandal in the Autonomous Republic. Only a few days ago, the Minister of Finance of Nakhchivan AR, Rafael Aliyev, and the head of the department of the customs committee of Nakhchivan AR, Mansur Asgarov were accused of abusing their power and misappropriation of state funds. Commenting on the new developments in the autonomous republic, the chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that these two cases demonstrate the scale of corruption in the country. Ibadoghlu wrote: “The non-subsidy budget of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (AR) in 2021 was 145 million 38 thousand manats. The Minister of Finance of Nakhchivan AR, Rafael Aliyev, is accused of abuse of power and misappropriation of 144 million manats of state funds, which is the 1-year budget of Nakhchivan. Mansur Asgarov, head of the department of the canceled customs committee of Nakhchivan AR, was also accused of embezzling 132 million manats. Thus, two people together stole funds that are almost equal to the budget of Nakhchivan for 2021 and 2022 combined. If there was so much money in Nakhchivan, then why has Nakhchivan been subsidized by the state budget of Azerbaijan for 30 years? If they had directed the money stolen by only two people to the budget, the budget of Nakhchivan would have been overflowing. Now imagine how much did Vasif Talibov, who led Nakhchivan for 27 years, steal?”
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that the public should not be indifferent to corruption cases and be more active in demanding accountability. Hajiyev’s Facebook post: “The recent arrests in Nakhchivan have once again shown that the Azerbaijani authorities are similar to the society they built. In another country, if the news came out about the embezzlement of 130-140 million manats (perhaps dollars) by two officials from one region in one day, the society would have called that government to resign, would have taken it to the streets, held rallies asking why have they robbed their wealth. But our society reacts to such news by laughing and mocking. It’s as if these millions and billions were stolen from someone else’s pocket in another country, not from their tax money.”
Member of REAL Party Natig Jafarli argued that the reason for strong authoritarianism both in the Nakhchivan AR and the whole country is the ineffectiveness of the current Constitution. Jafarli: “It is the laws and the Constitution that created favorable conditions for authoritarianism. Therefore, there is an urgent need to revise the supreme law of the country, establish its logical sequence, ensure the independence of the branches of government, create administrative-territorial units according to the new conditions and the principle of strengthening local self-government, and cancel the status of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. To this end, without delay, a new constitutional referendum should be announced in Azerbaijan, and our Constitution should be rewritten in accordance with modern standards and adopted by a national vote. There is simply no other way…”
According to the activist Nigar Hezi, president Aliyev should resign immediately after all these scandals. Hezi wrote: “They try to convince the people that the main reason for the arrests in Nakhchivan in the last few days is embezzlement of the state funds. Two officials who were recently appointed misappropriated separately more than a hundred million manats within only two years. If Ilham Aliyev loots the state budget, why not provide this opportunity to the officials he appointed in the political system created by his father? Because any officials who support Aliyev‘s political course (whether in Nakhchivan or other regions) are Ilham Aliyev‘s main pillars in the country. This principle is “I rob the budget, and I create this opportunity for you too.” Ilham Aliyev arrested the officials as if he did not know about them and intervened as soon as he knew about it. Everyone in the country knows that such arrests are calculated for other gains. It’s not about exposing corruption at all. They will arrest those who eat too much and then release them after taking their shares. If it is about embezzlement, the portion Ilham Aliyev stole amounts to billions. If he wants to ensure justice, he should start with his resignation.”
A new stage of the relations with the USA
The First Deputy Minister of Defense – Chief of the General Staff of the Azerbaijan Army, Colonel General Karim Valiyev met with the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admiral, Christopher Grady at the Pentagon. According to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence, “the prospects for military cooperation between Azerbaijan and the USA, as well as regional security issues were discussed at the meeting.”
Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli said that the meeting could indicate future joint operations against Iran. Gahramanli wrote: This meeting is considered to be the highest-level military contact between the two countries in recent years. It is reported that the prospects of military cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United States and regional security issues were discussed at this meeting. Before that meeting, the visit of Israeli Defense Minister Benn Gantz to our country and now this meeting show that when we talk about regional security issues, we mean first of all the situation with Iran and future joint plans. At approximately the same time, Philip Ricker, the State Department’s special representative for the Caucasus, visited Baku. During this visit, issues related to the Brussels process and the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia were discussed. Karim Valiyev represents the army, and the discussion of political issues is not part of his mandate. For this reason, it seems realistic to discuss the issue of Iran with him during his visit to the United States. This possibility is also confirmed by the presence of a phrase that has not been used in the official news for many years. It is reported that the development of military cooperation between the USA and Azerbaijan was also discussed at the meeting. It is clear that this cooperation means US military aid to Azerbaijan. This aid cannot be related to the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Because the US is against the use of military force in this matter and tries to remain neutral. Then, according to the logical conclusion of this statement, the military assistance of the United States to our country may be related to the support and security guarantees to be provided to Azerbaijan within the framework of plans related to Iran. This also suggests that the process of agreeing on the military plans of the unofficial military coalition against Iran is underway. From this point of view, it is not accidental that Blinken said that we are with Azerbaijan in the tension between Azerbaijan and Iran.”
Contradictory Law on Political Parties
Milli Majlis adopted the draft “Law on Political Parties” in the first hearing despite all the objections by the opposition Parties. Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli said that the new law promise only future political chaos. “The adoption of this reactionary bill yesterday in the first reading in the Milli Majlis shows that a very dark and dangerous situation has arisen regarding the future of the country. As a society, we are facing an incorrigible regime that cannot adequately react to the situation in the country and what is happening in the world and does not think to give up its reactionary views and violent politics. In the changing geopolitical conditions, taking to the streets will become a path without an alternative for the opposition and society, where all avenues of democratic struggle are blocked. Therefore, the proposed law on political parties will only lead the country to conflict.”
In a joint statement, civil society activists strongly condemned the new law “On Political Parties”. They called on the Milli Majlis to abandon this “reactionary law.” The joint statement of well-known lawyers, human rights defenders, and civil society representatives say: “We, the signatories of this document, consider the draft law “On Political Parties” submitted for discussion by the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan to be a reactionary document containing provisions that limit the right to participate in the political life of the country and freedom of association. At the same time, we consider the adoption of such a reactionary project as the next political act aimed at stifling the free political will of the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan. We believe that in the new draft law, the establishment, registration, financing, monitoring of the activity, suspension or termination of the political party, etc., are unacceptable for a country whose opportunities for political activity are limited year by year. At the same time, we declare that the draft law “On Political Parties” does not meet the basic principles of the Council of Europe, of which our country is a member, including the requirements of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We regard the refusal of the Azerbaijani authorities to receive the opinion of the Council of Europe Commission on Democracy (Venice) in order to determine the compliance of the draft law with European standards as a rejection of democracy.”
December 2, 2022