Center for National and International Studies



“Azerbaijani public is growing quieter and more submissive as the regime strengthens its grip…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Orkhan Hajili, the son of Musavat Party leader Arif Hajili, has been detained. Hajili’s arrest is connected to a car accident. The accident occurred 20 days ago, and there were no reported injuries in either of the vehicles involved. However, 20 days after the incident, a victim has surfaced, claiming to have been harmed in the accident. A video recording of the traffic incident was circulated on social media, and Mr. Arif Hajili himself shared the video on his Facebook page, which clearly indicates that no one was injured as a result of the accident. Many opposition leaders condemned the arrest as politically motivated and demanded Hajili’s release.

Party Leader Arif Hajili informed his followers on Facebook regarding the incident: “They found a new “victim” after 20 days have passed since their attempts to document the injuries of the people in the car that collided in the reported accident failed. They argue that “someone” was injured while crossing the road as a result of this accident. However, it is clear in the video released by the traffic police that there is no one else there. I have said it before and repeat it again: Fight with us if you have to. Threatening us with our family members and children is unethical.”

Opposition leader Isa Gambar commented on Hajili’s arrest, calling him a political prisoner. “The arrest of Orkhan Hajili appears to be a tactic to exert pressure on Arif Hajili and the Musavat Party. Rather than releasing all political prisoners, the authorities are intensifying their repression. This unlawful and misguided trend must be halted. It is alleged that someone was injured while crossing the road during this accident. However, it is evident from the video they have released that no one else was present at the scene.”

Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov shared a similar opinion, saying that the political inclination of individuals decides the result of the court decisions in Azerbaijan. “This is the current reality of Azerbaijan: If you are an official or a family member of an official, or if you are his mistress, and you have caused a car accident or killed a person, the country’s law enforcement agencies and courts will work diligently to absolve you of responsibility, perhaps even shifting the blame onto the deceased. However, if you are an opposition member and are in a non-injury accident, they might arrest you for injuring an innocent bystander who was not even there in the first place. If you are an ordinary Azerbaijani, and you have caused an accident, the government will exploit the situation, ripping you off, regardless of whether anyone was injured or not. The police, the court, the prosecutor will receive more “compensation” than the victims themselves or their families.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Nemat Karimli was denied meeting Orkhan Hajibeyli, who is being held at the Yasamal Police Station. This incident further underscores the suspicion that the arrest was motivated by the intention to put pressure on Arif Hajili for his political activity. There should be no hindrance to a lawyer’s visit for individuals detained due to a car accident, according to the law.  

Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli argued that president Aliyev himself is responsible for creating such a state of lawlessness. “Ilham is seeking vengeance against Orkhan for his father’s activism.  This is not an isolated incident. Even prior to Orkhan’s case, countless citizens faced repercussions because of their oppositional family ties. Ilham ascended to power in the 90s, shaped by the culture of Soviet bazaars. The government operates under bazaar laws and favors the merchants. While in the past, he may have employed thugs against his market rivals, the government now deploys the police, State Security Service, and the prosecutor’s office to an even greater extent. They engage in abductions of those abroad, dispatch terrorists to assassinate and intimidate them.”

Human Rights defender Rufat Safarov shared a rather pessimist opinion warning that this arrest might be a signal of future repressions. “It seems that arrests will continue, critics will be eliminated one by one, even more deplorable conditions will arise, repressive measures will become extreme, and the arbitrariness of the administration will know no bounds. Because officials and cabinet leaders have become “saints” to a great extent, they have become “untouchable”, and just because that they raised a flag in Khankendi, it is forbidden to criticize them, their work, or their activities. They have acquired the privilege to get away with anything acting the way they want.”

Activist Ilkin Muradov reports that war veteran Babayev Ramil Kamil oghlu committed suicide due to financial challenges and the lack of response to his appeals from official institutions. “A person does not resort to such a tragic act over minor issues. Why did he make this choice? Such cases have sadly become all too common. Human life is undervalued in our country. The importance of listening to people, offering support, has been overshadowed. Everyone seems to evade their responsibilities, and it’s even more tragic when this happens within official institutions. No one seems to learn from these tragic incidents. We’re losing our children who were sent off to war with enthusiasm.”

It has been more than a hundred days since Gubad Ibadoglu, a professor of London School of Economics, was unjustly arrested on fabricated charges. Meanwhile, the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan claimed that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Four years since the attempted assassination of Oktay Gulaliyev, which left him in a coma. Oktay Gulaliyev, a member of the National Council of Democratic Forces and a human rights advocate, was the first to uncover crimes in Tartar. He faced repeated threats because of his revelations, both unofficially and officially, even from law enforcement agencies, demanding his silence. Gulaliyev, however, refused to stay silent despite these threats and continued to courageously expose crimes and criminals. Ultimately, a mysterious car accident occurred. According to Turkish doctors’ official confirmation, Gulaliyev fell into a coma due to the lack of timely medical intervention.

Governance and Corruption

Various assessments by the experts and social media users suggest that subway fares may see an increase. Hidayat Mammadov, the Deputy Chairman of Baku Metro CJSC, recently conducted an interview with AZERTAC. He mentioned that in the previous year, the cost of transporting a single passenger amounted to 68 kopecks. In 2023, tariff revisions were made, setting the fare at 40 kopecks. The main topic of discussion in the interview was the impact of the pandemic on subway operations. Interviews of this nature are typically published just before fare increases.

In light of the deteriorating economy and the increasingly oppressive political climate, Altay Goyushov remarked that the Azerbaijani public is growing quieter and more submissive as the regime strengthens its grip. Goyushov: “So, in the past, our people used to deposit their money in the banks. As expected, the bank would go bankrupt, and the money would be lost. However, some of them still could claim for refund and manage to receive at least part of their funds back. Now they don’t even say a single word when the bank goes bankrupt. Because they know that the police would make things more complicated and eventually they would lose even more money. Similarly, in the past, those who didn’t accept the compensation or the rates offered to them for the demolished apartments would protest and eventually could get some money to rebuy new flats. Now they authorities demolish the whole block of apartments, and no one could dare to say anything against it. In the past, when a war veteran committed suicide or attempted suicide due to financial problems, the public would react to it, and as a result, the problem of some veteran, maybe not all of them would be solved. Now a veteran sets himself on fire protesting social problems, and no one cares anymore. The government could easily arrest anyone safe in the knowledge that there will be zero reaction from the public. In short, the desired political stability is fully established.”

November 3, 2023