Center for National and International Studies
“…Our state is held captive by a group of people and its mechanism serves their enrichment and hegemony…”
The FB community is shaken by the landmine explosion which killed journalists on the liberated lands, disappointed with the reaction of the West, puzzled by new facts of Shusha “conspiracy”, and discusses consequences of the coup d’etat which ousted former president Elchibey 27 years ago. It decries the release of the policeman who killed an Azerbaijani driver in Russia, demanding that official Baku react to this, attracts attention to the desperate health condition of political prisoners Afghan Sadigov and Elchin Mammad, continues to discredit corrupt bureaucrats, follows events in Armenia and Belarus, and is shocked by the excess of schools with education in the Russian language medium throughout the country.
Post-war situation. The FB community is shocked by and mourns the journalists – victims of a large explosion of landmines in the liberated territory – Susuzlug village of Kelbajar region. – correspondent of AZERTAC informational agency Maharram Ibrahimov and cameraman of the AZTV channel Siraj Abishov, along with the deputy head of executive power Arif Aliyev and 4 others were seriously wounded. Ali Karimli and other activists demand of the authorities – and urge the society to join them in demanding – that a serious international campaign be initiated to make Armenia supply maps of mines in the occupied territories. He stresses that in the liberated regions there are roads which not only the head of state is using but other citizens too, and they should be all thoroughly cleaned. The activists also connect the incident with the capture of Armenian troops a week ago in this region and urge the eradication of the roots of terrorism. Arif Hajiyev of Musavat states that the government and President Aliyev bear personal responsibility for the death of the journalists, as this is the result of his erroneous policy. The official party’s MPs argue that unfortunately there are still states which defend Armenia, in spite of these acts of terror. “Unlike Armenia, we do not respond to acts of terror by terror, to mines by mines: we are a civilised country and we respond to Armenia by becoming a stronger country”, comments Aydin Mirzazade, MP from YAP. The human rights organisation “Line of defence” issued of statement urging to put an end to deaths of civilians, especially in regions not part of the battle areas. They demand Armenian and Russian authorities and international organisations to immediately release maps of the landmines to Azerbaijan. The political commentator in the US, Ramis Yunus, comments on the total lack of reaction of the West to the tragedy: “The death of Azerbaijani journalists and the silence on this topic in the Western media suggests that after the Second Karabakh War, the West with its institutions is slowly degrading.” One of the activists notes: “What are we waiting for from the international organizations, or the governments? What are we hoping for? Did not we witness how they reacted during and after the war? We should take our fate into our own hands.” The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil comments on her timeline: “The silence of international organisations (except a couple of toothless sentences from one or two) to this tragic incident is yet another proof that war crimes are a matter of concern for them when people of the “right” colour/religion/ethnicity suffer”. The lawyer Alasgar Ahmadoglu comments on the tragic video of the journalists which reflected the moment of explosion and stresses that cars were passing this way many times before and this is proof that these lands had been mined recently. Many conclude that the explosion proved that the Russian ‘peacekeepers’ are not fit for their duties and such events might only protract the conflict. The journalist Shamshad Aga argues that either Russia should withdraw from the conflict zone – which is impossible – or the peacekeepers of the US or UK should be invited on the basis of a UNSC resolution.
The activists, civil and political leaders, and journalists share news of yet another attempt of suicide of the war-handicapped and video of appeal to President Aliyev of other victims of the insupportable indifference of the bureaucrats. “Is this the care of the state to the wounded you promised? I have 30 bullets in my leg and have not received any handicapped registration, so almost crawling, I’m trying to earn 5-6 manats daily.” Moreover, the media reports a case of employees of the Geranboy region’s executive office beating up the war-handicapped. The e-media comments on the developing situation with agriculture in Azerbaijani regions: “The Aliyevs, together with Russia government, are eliminating the Azerbaijani villages – now it is the turn is of the liberated territories in the robbing process”. The economists note the demographic tendency in Armenia’s population growth rate: the highest was in 1995-99 when the occupied territories – Kelbajar, Lachin and Gubadli, and some – in Fizuli, Jabrayil and Agdam were settled by the Armenians from abroad, while in 2012-14 there was a negative rate. It is suggested that the growth rate in 2015 most probably reflects natural demographic changes. The youth leader Ilkin Rustamzade shares the photo of a storage refrigerator with plastic bags apparently with dead bodies of soldiers and comments: “All the horrors of war are in this photo. These are the dead bodies of soldiers, regardless of whether they are Azerbaijanis or Armenians”.
Natig Jafarli of REAL comments that “In November, the Azerbaijani side had expressed humanitarianism towards the Armenians by extending the timeline for withdrawal, but they burned houses and forests, cut and took away the trees, and mined the Kelbajar region like savages; as a result, tragedies are taking place, alas we will still have to live with landmines for some time more”. Many civil society activists – Zohrab Ismayil, Khadija Ismayil, etc – argue that the lands were in fact mined recently, when the authorities reported capture of the group of saboteurs a week ago. Zohrab Ismayil suggests that the government should increase its defens e and monitoring over those lands and create groups of volunteers of 45-55 years with respective training with the purpose of assistance in provision of security in these areas. The activist of NCDF Gultakin Hajibeyli confirms that as a result of the extension of deadline for the withdrawal as a sign of humane decision-making: the Armenian army obtained additional time to mine the lands, so the recent victims – the journalists – could be called victims of extreme humanitarianism. The FB community shares and praises reports of a statement of the international ‘Committee for Protection of Journalists’. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev argues that the 10th November trilateral agreement was not signed overnight, it was coordinated at least on the 19-20th October. He lists the cost of the extension of the deadline for withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories: 1) the houses in Kelbajar were totally destroyed, and whatever was possible was taken away, 2) the remains of the houses were burnt, 3) the trees were cut and taken away in trucks, 4) the rest of the trees were burnt, 4) the de-occupied lands – front line, civilian areas – were all mined and 5) the parts of the Zod gold deposit which belonged to Azerbaijan were intensely developed and removed. He notes that the Armenian party is now refusing or delaying the opening of the Zangezur corridor and concludes that this is the result of so-called humanistic compromises. The explosion of a truck due to a landmine with a few victims a week ago in Baganis Ayrum, village of Kelbajar, was followed by another explosion of a car and death of journalists on 4th June. Azerbaijani officials confirmed the possibility of return of Armenian and Azerbaijan IDPs to Karabagh, but that it would take no less than 5-10 years due to the de-mining works. 70% of the 750,000 Azerbaijani IDPs expressed their wish to return home. The FB community actively discusses the reported interview of Putin on 17th November 2020 where he discloses the agreement of Ilham Aliyev on 19-20 October to retain Shusha under the control of Armenians. Putin asserted that the only condition of Ilham Aliyev was to return the Azerbaijani IDPs to Shusha. This was rejected by Pashinian, who claimed the threats to the security of Karabaghis in such a case, and readiness to fight to the end. Putin also stated that they were close to ceasing fighting, but Pashinian did not agree. This was followed by the return of Shusha by Azerbaijanis who were close to retaining control over Khankendi. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev notes that official Baku did not refute the information that Aliyev agreed in leaving Shusha under control of Armenians. He urges the citizens of the country to demand that Ilham Aliyev give an explanation on this subject. There are numerous interpretations of and emerging questions related to this information, mainly due to the absence of official statements.
Elections in Armenia. The FB community discusses the election campaign and predicts the outcome of elections in Armenia. Natig Jafarli assumes a few scenarios of the elections: 1) none of the parties win, the attempt of the coalition of first three fails, and new elections are appointed for the autumn 2) the team of Pashinian wins the elections, forms a coalition with a few smaller parties and forms a government 3) right after the elections, the band of Kocharian goes into the streets declaring a falsification of the elections, asks help from Russia, makes a coup and comes to power. He argues that the last scenario seems to be the most probable and that Azerbaijan society should be prepared for that. The highly probable instability in Armenia will also be accompanied by provocations in Karabagh territories still under Russian-Armenian occupation. This means that there might be the necessity to give an adequate response to the attacks on the state borders and in Khankendi, and that will question the presence of Russian peacekeepers.
Democracy and power-society relations. The activists discuss the issue of whether the positive changes can come to the country while the current government is in power, with the majority convinced that it is possible only in a post-Aliyev period. G.Ibadoglu of ADR considers that if the authorities wanted a change, they should answer the question whether by now they have fulfilled the following: 1) in 6 parliamentary elections, have the authorities created the conditions for the establishment of a parliament, which would demand accountability, transparency and openness from the government? 2) have they created an independent judiciary, a fair justice system which would punish the corrupt and criminal bureaucrats or conduct just court proceedings? 3) have they created an independent Central Bank and Ministry of Finance, which would prevent taking billions of budget money abroad? 4) an anti-monopoly mechanism? 5) an independent and strong civil society, which would promote open governance and implement public monitoring? After the crackdown on civil society in 2014, only GoNGos were left. He concludes that if such institutes do not exist in the society, it is useless to expect any positive changes with the current power structure: either power changes should take place, or at least those 5 institutions should be built.
Ousting of President Elchibey. The activists commemorate the day of the coup d’etat against democratically-elected President Elchibey, when Colonel Surat Huseynov united with the ex-KGB boss Heydar Aliyev in ousting the Elchibey government in 1993. They post the speech of Elchibey on 7th June 1993 at the state meeting on the situation in Ganja. He argues that this rebellion took place when Azerbaijan started its successful integration into the international community and its purpose of building democracy was recognised by the foreign-developed democratic states – he reports receiving a few letters of support from Bill Clinton. He states that certain forces prepared this rebellion and that he had sent a few delegations to talk to Suret Huseynov, but in spite of reaching a solution, Huseynov always returned, which meant that he got involved and could not extricate himself. He refuted the rumours the rebels were spreading about himself and his decisions, arguing that he would never allow bloodshed and civilian war, calling this “the chess game of the imperial politicians”. Elchibey urges the avoidance of bloodshed and to do the utmost to resolve the issue in peaceful way. He also stresses that he can forgive the treason toward himself, but not the betrayal of the 73-year long dream of this people of an independent Azerbaijan. He asserts his high objective – to build a democratic Azerbaijan and sacrifice himself for this purpose. He rejects the suggestion to restore the old Supreme Soviet and proposes instead to run free and fair elections in October 1993. Fuad Gahramanli of Popular Front party stresses that 28 years ago the democratically elected president of Azerbaijan Elchibey was ousted, and “as a result, the building of the republic was arrested, and based on monarchic principles, a kleptocratic regime was built, democratic values suffocated and our country plunged into a whirlpool of national decline”. The popular journalist Mehriban Vezir wrote an essay on her timeline referring to the contemporary controversial assessments of the reaction of Elchibey to the coup d’etat – specifically those who blame him for giving power to Aliyev without resistance. She likens it to the reaction to the policies of the founder of first democratic republic of Azerbaijan in 1918-20, Rasulzade, who was also blamed for “weakness” vis-à-vis the Red Army, when in fact he was avoiding civil war and bloodshed. She argues that eventually, time would judge the importance and correctness of the policies of Elchibey, the same way it did with Rasulzade. Dashgin Aghalarli argues that during 4th June events, besides Aliyev and the former communists, Russia and Iran were also winners.
Ali Karimli of the PFP describes the scale of the losses which the people have experienced as a result of the coup in 1993 and argues that once people become aware of it, they will rebel. He writes that on 4th June 1993, Russian secret agents, criminal groups with power ambitions, driven by the passion of revanche former communists, and opportunist politicians united to overthrow Elchibey. As a result, dynastic rule was established in the country, and billions of oil revenues stolen and saved in offshore accounts. Those who were nobody, society’s residues – became multibillionaire and oligarchs, while the decent and those with principles – suffered, and thousands of people lived the lives of political prisoners. After Heydar Aliyev dismantled 33 battalions of volunteers, 6 regions were occupied in the first Karabagh war, while thousands were subject to repression. The politics, economics, elections, rule of law, freedoms, and democracy had been eliminated in the country during the 28 years of their rule. He concludes nevertheless that the moment of justice would inevitably come.
Human rights. The FB community met with uproar the shooting in the head of the young Azerbaijani driver Vekil Abdullayev by a policeman in Russian Novosibirsk, and on top of that the release of this officer from prison by decision of the head of the Russian Investigation Committee, A.Bastrikhin, based on the appeal of his wife. The civil and political activists and journalists agree that while the driver was not killed because of his nationality, but that if it had been someone else, the police officer would never have been released. Gubad Ibadoglu reports that the same day, the police arrested two other young Azerbaijani people, who were at the place of the incident, by planting drugs to them. Many parallel this case to the case of George Floyd in the US and contrast the reaction of state structures of both countries.
Ali Karimli of PFP argues that he ultimately rejects the idea that the driver was killed because he was Azerbaijani, as like in Azerbaijan, violence penetrates many state institutions, but he questions the effectiveness of the Diaspora organisations, or the government in Azerbaijan, who were not immediately alerted to respond to the murder. He also is indignant at the fact of the release of the police officer who killed the driver, despite the video which was viewed by hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani citizens. He argues that root cause of the problem is that Azerbaijanis do not have a state, which can protect them both at home and abroad. “Our state is held captive by a group of people and the whole state mechanism serves their enrichment and hegemony”. He concludes “The way out is to return the state to the people.” He continues the topic by decrying the murder of the detained Yashar Ramazanov by local police in the Tovuz region, with practically no reaction from the side of the state institutions, despite protests of the activists and community.
The activists and journalists attract attention to the desperate and life-threatening condition of the journalist Afghan Sadigov who has been on lasting hunger strike in prison. His wife reports a serious worsening of his health, loss of weight and problems in his lungs and liver. They demand his immediate release from prison, where he was put on trumped-up charges. Rahila Mammadli, the mother of imprisoned on trumped-up charges Elchin Mammad, the human rights defender from Sumgayit, has written a powerful letter of appeal to President Ilham Aliyev. She reports that her son has protected the rights of hundreds of people and has been their representative at court hearings, many of which were successful. She mentions that since he started his human rights work, he has been a subject of pressure and was called into the prosecutors’ and police offices. In the end of 2019, he received life threats in connection with his activities. In spite of the complaints, the police did not investigate the issue and did not punish the culprits, instead they arrested him with the help of a fake plaintiff and charged him with possession and storage of weapons. She concludes her appeal by stressing that the slandering and imprisonment of the activists in the country which calls itself democratic and based on rule of law is absolutely unacceptable, and urges him to intervene and resolve the issue. She reminds him that her son is a father of two underage children and he should not rot in the prison for 4 years due to the interests of some oligarch.
The feminist activist Rabiyya Mammadova reports that there was an attempt to break in to the flat of two homosexuals in the Yasamal district of Baku by neighbours who threatened them and commented that they would not let them live in their house, because it would spoil the morals of their children. Rabiyya Mammadova observes the recent – last two weeks – trend in the streets of harassment of LGBT. She reports that the police office #28 is aware and expresses the hope that they will investigate and protect the citizens. The activists of the Popular Front Party report the application of the principle of collective responsibility by the authorities on their family members. Goshgar Imanov, the brother of the PFP activist and member of the Supervisory Board Bakhtiyar Imanov reported it on his timeline. He argues that he was fired from his job because of his brother’s opposition activities in 2018, so he had to start his own small farming business. But they are creating obstacles even now – by cutting water to his specific allotment, while preserving the water supply to his neighbours. He views it as an open pressure on him and appeals on his timeline to President Aliyev. He points to the minister-oligarch – Head of Irrigation System Department, Adalat Babayev, as a source of the problem, who is planning to buy a 4th house in Istanbul.
Governance, economy, corruption. The activists praise the memorandum signed by President Biden on the international fight on corruption, assessing it as a threat to US security. Tofig Yagublu calls the beginning of the Formula-1 race the beginning of an event “which humiliates and scoffs at the people – but brings the enjoyment to the President’s family”. The experts contrast the self-immolation of the war-handicapped to the ruling elite’s conduct of the Formula-1 race in Baku. Natig Jafarli of REAL notes with concern the rapid price rise, not only of food products, but of spare parts for automobiles, etc. He was informed by a gas station employee that the problem was the Customs Committee fees. Jafarli also recalled that just yesterday the Customs Committee distributed certificates for the volunteers, which he called the triumph of absurdity, because this is not social work, or a health sector, where there is a need for volunteers. The blogger Mehman Huseynov continues to discredit the illegal property of the bureaucrats. He comments that after the decree on prohibition of the usage of drones, he is now forced to personally visit villas and properties of the oligarchs. This time the subject of his video is the 10m manat villa in London of the poorest minister, Ismet Abbasov, whose son’s sole company’s capital is 30m manat. He stresses that while the corrupt bureaucrats make their millions in Azerbaijan, they invest them abroad, and their children take citizenship of these countries – mainly the UK, refusing the Azerbaijani one. He also notices that while in power, they suck people’s blood, but once they retire, they become religious and try to wash away their sins. The Alliance for the Freedom of Political Prisoners published an updated list of political prisoners in the country with a total of 121 people. The coordinator of the alliance, Elchin Hasanov, reported to the ‘Voice of America’ on the7 groups of the political prisoners; journalists and bloggers – 7, opposition and movement activists – 6, the 14 July (Karabagh) rally participants – 3, religious groups – 19, Ter-ter case – 27, Ganja case – 45, life sentences – 14. In April, the list had 111 people – as 10 more people were added from 3 cases. Hasanov argued that for such a small country as Azerbaijan, 121 prisoners is a big number. In turn, official Baku claims that there are no political prisoners in the country. The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has a rapporteur on the political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Social issues. The war-handicapped staged another protest, trying to attract attention to their problems by lying down on the monument of Heydar Aliyev. The Line of Defence human rights organisation reports that police violence being applied to the participants – both war-handicapped and families of the war killed – during their action of protest, was turning into a daily routine. The leader of the organisation, Rufat Safarov, warns about immorality and risks related to such a reaction of the state to the needs of the war heroes.
Relations with Turkey. FB users continue to discuss the discord between Turkey’s opposition leader Bahcheli and Azerbaijan on the issue of the musical school to be built in Shusha, and on military cooperation between the two states. The FB community continues to follow the revelations of the Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker, whose next story will be about Azerbaijan. The e-media reports that the new episode of the relations between Ottomans and Iran led by Shah Gajar in the serial “Paytaht Abdulahamit” was added after the refusal of Aliyev to build the musical school proposed by Turkish MHP leader Bahcheli. The opinion that Turkish authorities will send messages to Aliyev via this movie is shared by some FB users.
Relations with Russia. Fuad Gahramanli reveals shocking statistics on schools in Azerbaijan – 350 schools – where the education is predominantly in the Russian language. The absolute majority of pupils who are studying there are not ethnically Russian, but Azerbaijani. He questions the necessity of such a number of schools conducting lessons in Russian and the purpose of it. He responds that this is only for the satisfaction of the Russian imperial ambitions and to cultivate generations of pro-Russian citizens in Azerbaijan. By these anti-national policies, the current authorities aim at showing how close they are to Russia, he continues, and asserts that instead they are destroying national culture and identity – that’s why today Russia occupies not only Karabagh but the education and conscience of the younger generations (occupation by ‘soft power’) He appeals to the people to protest at both kinds of Russian occupation. The activists also welcome the decision of Kazakhstan leadership to decline Russia’s proposal to give a “united response to Western sanctions”.
Relations with France. Meydan TV covers the problem of Azerbaijan relations with France. It says that France is distinguished among the states which issued strict statements during and after the 2nd Karabagh War against Azerbaijan. This made her known to the Azerbaijan public as a “pro-Armenian state”. Since the outbreak of the 2nd Karabagh war, France totally ignored her duty to be neutral as a mediator in the Karabagh talks under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk group and has openly supported Armenia. One can say that the political elite at all levels was united by this position. The last statement of Macron in connection with the Garagol incident “France has always been and always will be with the Armenian people” and other similar ones question her neutrality.
Events in Belarus. FB users continue to discuss the “state terror act” by Lukashenka of Belarus, who forced a Ryanair plane with the political opponent Roman Protasevich, the founder of Nehta, to divert and land in Minsk. The historian and opposition leader Jamil Hasanli comments that the most favoured activities for dictators is interviewing their political opponents in prison. He notes the contradiction between the prohibition of meetings of the prisoners with family members, or with their legal defenders – on the one hand, but allowing cameramen and journalists – on the other. He concludes that both Aliyev and Lukashenka can run a webinar training on this matter, as recently a similar video was arranged by the former with the prisoner Polad Hashimov, the chair of the PFP Nizami district branch, who “confessed” on the camera that he was a “drug baron”.
June 8, 2021