Center for National and International Studies



“A group of villaagers asks the president to help them to get their money back. This is the clearest example of the country becoming the property of one person. It is an indication of the absence of the institutions of the state, or rather, the fact that one person is the state…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Lawyer Zaur Mammadov tragically took his own life through self-immolation in front of the Bar Association, and despite efforts, his life could not be saved. The incident underscores a connection between Zaur Mammadov’s suicide and the challenges, injustice, and helplessness he experienced in his legal profession. Following this shocking event, a criminal case has been initiated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan. The investigation is currently underway at the Narimanov District Prosecutor’s Office, focusing on Article 125 (incitement to suicide) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. Swift investigative measures are being implemented to shed light on the circumstances surrounding lawyer Zaur Mammadov’s tragic death.

Ali Karimli, the Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, responded to Mammadov’s unfortunate demise by placing blame on the government, accusing it of contributing to the creation of a despairing situation in the country. Karimli’s post: Ilham Aliyev’s rule created such a state of lawlessness and helplessness in the country that even a highly educated lawyer who has been practicing law for five years could not find a normal, legal way out of what happened to him and was brought to the point of killing himself. Dear compatriots, finally, it is crucial to acknowledge that we live in a country where lawyers burn themselves out of sheer desperation. Nobody but us can change this terrible situation in the country. To bring about change, we must cast aside indifference and overcome fear.”

Journalist Seymur Hezi said that the year 2023, which is already behind us, will go down in history as the year of repressions. Despite Ilham Aliyev‘s proclamation of this year as the “Heydar Aliyev year” through a decree, journalist Hezi highlighted that, the number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has reached its highest point during the rule of Ilham Aliyev. According to Voice of America, as of December 1, 2023, there were 254 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, but by the end of December, the arrests peaked with at least two prominent opposition leaders Tofig Yagublu and Gubad Ibadoghlu being jailed. Presently, the reported number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has risen to 258.

The family members of Hasan Ismayilov, one of the soldiers who lost their lives in a road accident in the mountainous area of Lachin region on January 4, express their dissatisfaction with what they perceive as indifference. They claim that Niyazi Bayramov, the executive head of Ganja, where they reside, along with other high-ranking officials, has not shown them the respect they believe they deserve. Elza Amirova, Hasan Ismayilov’s sister, conveyed to Meydan TV that her brother was posthumously honored as a martyr and laid to rest in the Alley of Martyrs in Ganja. However, she laments the absence of the respect and attention befitting a martyr. Elza mentioned that the executive head handed a flag to her father and promptly departed. Neither did they attend any mourning ceremony or the funeral, nor did they express any concern for the grieving family. The grave of the fallen soldier lacks even a simple flag, and no official gesture of respect has been extended. The family took it upon themselves to have a picture of Hasan placed on the grave, covering the expenses independently. Typically, martyrs receive a ceremonial procession to their final resting place, but this was not accorded to Hasan Ismayilov. Notably, one of the veterans Kamal, and not the officials, purchased the four flags present at the funeral.

Director of Baku Research Institute (BRI) Altay Goyushov shared a complaint by the residents of a village highlighting the officials’ disregard for the concerns of the citizens. Goyushov’s post on social media: So, yesterday, a group of residents gathered in one of the villages and appealed to the president that they sold potatoes to someone but that person is refusing to pay them. In their appeal they ask the president  to help them to get their money back. This is the clearest example of the country becoming the property of one person. It is an indication of the absence of the institutions of the state, or rather, the fact that one person is the state. There is one man, he solves all disputes, and that’s it. We complain that the people do not vote. They do, but they do rather differently by leaving the country. Ten years ago, when I visited European cities, I could hardly meet any Azerbaijanis. Now Prague, Warsaw, Budapest and others are full of Azerbaijanis who have come to work and live here. There are already so many of them in Germany that they gather in each region of Germany to hold their events. There are no reliable statistics in the country to determine how many people have left the country. They say that the population of the country is 10 million. I can say with certainty that based on the most optimistic estimates, the actual figure could be as low as 7 million. The people are drowning in problems, turning to the sole man in the country they believe can address their issues. However, when they see that this individual fails to resolve their problems or become even wiser and understand that the problem itself lies with that person, they opt to pack up and relocate abroad.”

Chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli stated in a social media post that although over the years Ilham Aliyev was in power,  the country received more than 250 billion dollars in oil and gas revenue, the Aliyev government could not even solve the two important problems of Baku.  Firsty, the outdated sewer system in Baku struggles to accommodate a city of 3 million people, resulting in significant issues when it rains or snows, effectively turning Baku into a large lake. Secondly, the escalating traffic congestion problem in Baku is officially disrupting and detrimentally affecting people’s lives. Reflecting on this, one might question whether those entrusted with 250 billion dollars and two decades can truly develop the country when unable to address fundamental challenges like Baku’s road and sewage issues.

Journalist Seymur Hezi offered insights into President Aliyev‘s decision to conduct snap elections next month, describing it as a strategic move given the current economic challenges in the country and potential political shifts in the broader region. While discussions were underway about parliamentary and municipal elections, Aliyev surprised many by calling for a sudden presidential election without consulting his own party, which would normally nominate him. According to Hezi, several factors suggest the rationale behind this decision. It appears that Aliyev might have received information about heightened tensions with the West, possibly linked to declarations about Putin‘s illegitimacy before the March elections. This raises the question of whether Aliyev is concerned about his own legitimacy. He might not be, understanding the challenges faced by those who collaborated with Putin, now facing an international arrest warrant and being declared illegitimate. This creates a second circle around Putin, making it challenging to gather support from CIS states. Those expected to attend such meetings are already taking action. Moreover, with pessimistic economic forecasts and a weak social package, predicting developments until 2025 becomes uncertain.

January 9, 2024