Center for National and International Studies
“Even if the Azerbaijanis don’t want to get involved in politics, the anti-human politics of one-man regime will continue to involve them, make them poorer, and punish them for not getting involved in politics.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
The chairman of the Muslim Union Movement, theologian Haji Tale Baghirzade, was put in a solitary confinement cell in prison, according to his family. His family told Azadlig newspaper that Baghirzade had not contacted them on the day that he would normally call. During his call last week, the theologian informed them about the challenges he faced in prison, saying that he was involved in a provoked conflict. Baghirzade said that he had informed the authorities of the prison about the situation. The theologian’s family also added that even though all other prisoners are allowed to have video calls with their families, only Tale Bagirzade is deprived of this right.
Meydan TV interviewed a transgender woman who said that she was sexually harassed by police officers during her confinement in Baku. Transgender woman Anna Taghiyeva was involved in an argument in one of the beauty salons, after which she was detained and insulted at the police station during interrogation. “The policemen used swear words, beat me, lifted my skirt, and rubbed my legs. Later it turned out that they spent all the money on my bank card in restaurants. They charged me with the allegations of using drugs. By the court’s decision, I was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Despite my objections, they put me in a cell where there were male prisoners. In prison, I was raped and humiliated on a daily base.” Taghiyeva, who was acquitted eleven months later, moved abroad. However, despite the court decision, an International Search warrant was issued about her, and she said she is afraid to return to the country.
Governance and Corruption
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli, commented on the economic situation and monopoly in the country, saying that the companies belonging to the ruling family created unfair competition. “If Pasha Holding has focused its attention on some area, what should the government under the control of the holding do? Of course, it must fulfill its duty and eliminate Pasha Holding‘s rivals. Therefore, the dark days of taxi service companies will begin in the coming months. Those dark days have already been announced at the ministerial level. Taxi prices will also increase. Azerbaijanis will also know their place, they will not go everywhere by taxi like “white people”. Thus, millions of Azerbaijani families who do not get involved in politics will become even poorer due to the greed of the government. Even if they don’t get involved in politics, the anti-human politics of one-man rule will continue to involve them, make them poorer, punish them for not getting involved in politics. The only way to get rid of this lawless and poor situation is for all of us – those involved in politics and those not involved – to demand rights, freedom, and justice for our country and to take back ownership of the country.”
Azadlig newspaper shared the Global Slavery Index prepared by Walk Free, an international human rights group focused on the eradication of modern slavery. According to the report, some “50 million people around the world are living in modern slavery, with a reported 28 million in forced labor, 22 million in forced marriage, and 12 million in child labour.” This means that almost one out of every 150 people in the world is a modern slave. As for Azerbaijan, the estimated number of modern slaves is 107,000 people. According to Walk Free, “the 23 indicators of vulnerability were selected based on alignment with relevant theories and retained after further analysis, and the indicators are organized into five major dimensions of vulnerability to modern slavery.” Modern slavery is an umbrella term, “which encompasses several types of exploitation, including forced labour, human trafficking, and forced marriage” says the webpage of the organization. According to the index, Azerbaijan has a higher score of 57 (out of 100), which reflects greater vulnerability. The percentage of government response against modern slavery is 59, meaning that the government should take more action “to ensure health care schemes are in place that allow everyone in the population to access affordable health care regardless of gender, ethnicity, religious background, or geographic region.”
Political commentator Arastun Orujlu also commented on the monopoly in the country, expressing his concerns about the future of taxi drivers. “I thought that after Pasha Holding’s company signed a contract with the Ukrainian company, they would attack Bolt and Uber through social media trolls and affiliate media. But this time, trolling was entrusted directly to the minister himself. There are 15-17 thousand drivers who work for “Bolt” alone, or rather, try to earn bread for their families in return for slave labor. This means about 50-55 thousand people are half-starved, living in extreme poverty. What is left in Azerbaijan that is not monopolized by Pasha Holding? Probably street begging, public sidewalks, and anything that you might know…”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan (MFA) warns the Azerbaijani citizens to refrain from visiting Iran. In the travel warning issued by the Ministry on June 3, it is noted that the terrorist act committed against the Azerbaijani embassy and the limited diplomatic representation in Iran as a result should be taken into account, and one should not visit Iran unless necessary. “Travelers are strongly advised to exercise extreme caution”, said the statement from the Ministry. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that Iran is a completely safe and attractive place for tourists.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani media reported that Farid Safarli, an Azerbaijani citizen whose whereabouts were unknown after he went to Iran, has been jailed. Safarli’s mother Dilara Asgarova told Meydan TV that she received an official letter about her son’s arrest in Iran.
In the letter, it was stated that Farid Safarli was arrested in Iran on charges of espionage. Asgarova then contacted the Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz, and they confirmed Safarli’s arrest adding that his conditions were good. Asgarova rejects the accusation against her son, saying that he is a victim of the tension between Azerbaijan and Iran. Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan say that given the situation of human rights in Iranian jails, they are worried about Safarli’s health, and the Azerbaijani government must immediately start negotiations to release Safarli.
Economist Rovhsan Aghayev told Azadliq newspaper that the government is planning to hold a referendum in the autumn. “In the budget amendments presented to the Parliament, the expenses related to the elections were increased by almost 50% and reached 46.7 million manats. For information, I must say that 53 million manats were spent on presidential elections in 2018, 41 million manats for municipal elections in 2019, and 50 million manats were spent on parliamentary elections in 2020. For comparison, in 2021, when there were no elections, the expenses of the budget related to election commissions were around 13 million manats. The likely election that is expected to be held is most probably a referendum that would be scheduled for autumn of this year.
June 6, 2023