Center for National and International Studies
“In Azerbaijan’s budget for the upcoming year, there is a 27% reduction in socio-economic development expenses, indicating a decrease in funds allocated for people’s livelihoods…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms
Elkhan Aliyev, an activist from the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, had a heart attack while in prison. Prior to his arrest, he had been struggling with severe health issues, having suffered two strokes. His life was constantly at risk due to his precarious health. The opposition members and independent journalists believe that Aliyev’s detention was politically motivated, and now he teeters on the brink of a heart attack and potential fatality. A Father of two young children and a hardworking activist have long been persecuted for expressing his political views. Opposition leader and chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces Jamil Hasanli said that the responsibility for any tragic outcome that might befall Elkhan Aliyev falls on the authorities, especially those who arrested him on baseless allegations.
Opposition leader and Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), Ali Karimli, has stated that the regime has intensified its repressive policies since the recent military operations in Karabakh. In a Facebook post, Karimli expressed his concerns, saying, “After our flag was raised in Khankendi, the government launched an offensive operation against its own citizens to maintain their support for the victorious military outcome and to prevent them from demanding real changes. Starting from January 1 of the next year, preparations are being made to increase taxes for small entrepreneurs by four times. Discussions are underway about raising subway fares, and excise duties on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages are also set to increase. The government and parliament are considering extending the preferential retirement age for military personnel by five years. The regime is employing a strategy to divert our attention from the military victory and return us to the status quo, as evidenced by the recent arrest of 23 social media activists within the past month under various pretexts. The regime’s efforts to increase prices, taxes, excise duties, and carry out political arrests began soon after the end of the Second Karabakh War. It is essential that we become aware and voice our opposition to these developments to prevent the recurrence of mass arrests, price hikes, and increased taxes and excise duties in the aftermath of the anti-terror operation.”
Galib Toghrul, the brother of the jailed academician and Chairman of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party, Gubad Ibadoghlu, has stated that the Chief Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice is withholding Professor Gubad Ibadoglu‘s medical test results from his family. Toghrul alleges that they provide numerous excuses to avoid releasing the CDs, likely because they fabricated misleading assessments of Gubad Bey’s health. These false reports were presented to Ibadoghlu‘s family, Azerbaijani society, as well as international organizations, including the European Court of Human Rights, the EU, and the Council of Europe. Providing the CDs that hold real test results would reveal the urgent need for Gubad Bey’s treatment. Toghrul goes on to mention that his brother has type II diabetes, and since being transferred to the Baku Pre-trial Detention Center, his blood sugar has not returned to normal. His blood sugar levels have been consistently 3-3.5 times higher than normal. Even after the endocrinologist from the General Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice increased the insulin dose by nearly two times within 20 days, there was no improvement. Toghrul believes that the stressful and inactive environment in the detention center prevents his brother’s blood sugar from normalizing, making it impossible to lower his sugar levels. Toghrul emphasized that his brother’s health issues cannot be adequately addressed in prison. Therefore, he urged authorities to take one of two actions: either drop the charges against his brother and release him or grant him house arrest during the investigation and trial period. This way, Ibadoghlu can access the necessary treatment and medical examinations.
Governance and Corruption
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, the Turkish embassy in Azerbaijan conspicuously excluded opposition party leaders, as well as independent pro-opposition political commentators, from their event. This event, held at the Heydar Aliyev Center on October 29, did not extend invitations to key figures in the opposition, including leadership from the Musavat Party and the National Council. Arif Hajılı, the head of the Musavat Party, confirmed that they were not invited to the Turkish embassy’s event and noted that this is the second year in a row they have been left out. Jamil Hasanli, the Chairman of the National Council, also affirmed that they had not received invitations to the embassy’s events for the past two years. Hasanli believes that this exclusion may be linked to the Turkish embassy aligning itself with the Azerbaijani authorities’ protocols. However, he also speculates that the directive not to invite representatives of opposition parties and organizations to embassy events may stem from Ankara.
During the discussion of the draft law “On the state budget of the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2024″ in the Milli Majlis, MP Gudret Hesenguliyev brought up concerns about the salaries of policemen. He noted that while authorities claimed policemen were satisfied with their pay, secret surveys revealed significant dissatisfaction among them. Hesenguliyev also stressed the importance of fair wages for judges, emphasizing that their salaries should not be less than 10,000 manats per month. He expressed concerns about the justice system’s integrity, pointing out that inadequate salaries could hinder its functioning effectively. Additionally, Hesenguliyev mentioned conversations with Supreme Court judges, where they highlighted disparities in travel arrangements between them and the head of the presidential apparatus, with implications that further discussions ensued. In the midst of these discussions, Hesenguliyev’s suggestion to increase the Supreme Court judges’ salaries to 10,000 manats per month prompted debates, especially considering that the average monthly salary in Azerbaijan is only 500 manats.
Ali Karimli, the Chairperson of the APFP, noted in his Facebook post that even though oil and gas prices remained high this year, the benefits didn’t reach the people. Price increases and inflation persist and are expected to continue. Regrettably, the upcoming year’s state budget does not allocate for substantial increases in salaries, pensions, and allowances, with child allowances not even being considered.
Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council of Democratic Forces, expressed his concerns about the budget discussions in parliament, emphasizing the government’s lack of interest in improving living standards. He pointed out that in the upcoming year’s budget, there is a 27% reduction in socio-economic development expenses, indicating a decrease in funds allocated for people’s livelihoods. Despite this reduction, a significant amount of 12.1 million manats will be allocated to the Shahdag Tourism Center. This center, built with state funds, primarily benefits the ruling family and annually receives 12-13 million manats from the budget. Yagublu questioned whether the government’s priorities should be focused on providing high pensions, salaries, and essential healthcare to the citizens or on funding the Shahdag Tourism Center, which mainly caters to the children of corrupt officials. He also highlighted that the tourist center is reported to operate at a loss, enabling the ruling family to receive additional funds from the budget.
November 7, 2023