Center for National and International Studies



Do you know why the police tie the detainees’ hands and eyes when they beat them? Because they are afraid. They are afraid that one day the time will come and they will pay for what they have done…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties

On Wednesday, more than 40 people were detained during a rally in Fountain Square in Baku. The peaceful protestors were demanding the release of political prisoner Saleh Rustamli, who has been on a hunger strike for 25 days. Activist Ilkin Rustamzadeh, one of the organizers of the rally, and Ramiz Jafarov, a member of the Popular Front Party, who wanted to take part in the rally, were detained before the rally and were forcefully taken to Khizi, a district 100 km far from Baku. Saleh Rustamli‘s sister was also among the detained. Azadlig newspaper reports that an elderly woman has faced police brutality during the rally. A former political prisoner himself, member of NCDF, Tofig Yagublu was first abducted by the police and then was brutally beaten. Yagublu’s photo in which his face was almost unrecognizable due to torture caused widespread outrage.

The National Council of Democratic Forces released a statement strongly condemning the government’s use of violence and torture against those at the rally. The statement reads: The desire to intimidate and silence the society with such cruelty drags the country into a much more dangerous situation. Authorities must fear the growing anger and the hatred of society. Those who took part in the violence against Tofig Yagublu and other protesters must be punished. If Ilham Aliyev is not a direct orderer of this violence, he must ensure that all perpetrators are found and punished. Otherwise, the responsibility will fall on him.”

One of the rally participants, young activist Rustam Ismayilbeyli was taken by the police, and neither of the state agencies has issued a statement on Rustam Ismayilbeyli’s whereabouts.

Gultakin Hajibeyli compared the way the Azerbaijani government treats the opposition members with the methods used by the Nazi government. Hajibeyli wrote: They treat us as if we were captives in the occupied territories. Not every aggressor treats their captives in this way. They treat us the same way the Nazis treated the Jews. If they were not afraid of international pressure, especially from the United States, they would strangle Tofig Yagublu in a gas chamber.”

Journalist Ganimat Zayid wrote that “the torture Tofig Yagublu was subjected to is a blow to the conscience and dignity of Azerbaijanis.”

Fuad Gahramanli of APFP shared a similar opinion arguing that what happened to Tofig Yagublu is not just an act of torture but also a clear indication of the government’s commitment to democratic values, human dignity, and the laws of the country as a whole.

Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reacted to the police brutality and violence at the rally, saying that the government should bring the perpetrators to justice. Hajibeyli wrote: If the president uses every chance to express his hatred of the opposition, say it at the opening of a private station, water canal, or schoolyard, then there is no doubt that behind closed doors, he orders brutal treatment of opposition activists. If such a decision was made without Aliyev‘s permission, Aliyev should dismiss those police officers people who committed the crime,  bring them to justice, and call Yagublu’s family to express regret over what had happened.”

Former political prisoner Mehman Huseynov also expressed solidarity with the tortured opposition politician. Huseynov wrote: I myself was repeatedly tortured in police stations, handcuffed, blindfolded, and beaten. Tofig Bey also said that his hands and eyes were tied when he was beaten. Do you know why the police tie the detainees’ hands and eyes when they beat them? Because they are afraid. They are afraid that one day the time will come and they will pay for what they have done, and even worse will be done to them… Nothing is forgotten!”

After receiving the first medical treatment, Tofig Yagublu, in his FB post, addressed his followers that he was not going to stop fighting for Saleh Rustamli’s release. Yagublu also added: There is no stop until Ilham Aliyev resigns. Resign! By the way, Vilayat Eyvazov showed my photo to Ilham Aliyev and reported that he has fulfilled his task with an outstanding result.”

Governance, corruption, transparency

One of the two major highlights of the week was a tragic helicopter crash. Azerbaijani military helicopter crashed on Tuesday, killing 14 officers and wounding two. According to the official information, a military helicopter of the State Border Service crashed during a training flight at the Garaheybat airfield in the Khizi region. While official sources deny the possibility of any external reason, many speculations have been shared on social media about the cause of the incident. Investigative journalist Mehman Huseynov argued that “the identity of those who bought these old, useless equipment under the name of “new” and handed it over to the army should be investigated.” Huseynov also added that “billions of dollars are being allocated from the budget for this useless equipment.” According to the journalist, lack of transparency will add more to the baseless speculations, and the government should inform the public about every detail of the investigation.

December 2, 2021

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