Center for National and International Studies
“…The victory of one woman in one village…”
The FB community remains strongly concerned with the indicators of Russia’s intention to increase its military presence in Karabagh; with the deplorable social conditions of the war veterans; follows meetings in Moscow of the officials of Russia and Armenia; tries to figure out the truth behind the story with ballistic rockets Iskander-M, is puzzled by the national policies towards the pandemic, continue to share and decry the reports of the persecution of activists, the poor business environment; continue to keenly advocate for child benefits and praise the victories of activists such as that by Vafa Nagi.
Post-war situation. The FB community views with intense concern the building of military towns in Karabagh as a signal of increasing Russia’s peacekeeping troops in the future. Ali Karimli suggests that based on the quantity of such towns, their number will be increased from 2 to 6,000. FB users continue to share and attract attention to the situation of the war veterans, who, like Ilkin from Shamkir region, have serious wounds, cannot afford the medical treatment, but do not get aid and support from the state either. People share reports about 3 soldiers who were blown up on land mines in the Zangilan region. The experts and journalists debate the prospects of the conflict with Russia’s presence in the country. Beydulla Manafov, a popular blogger, argues in his interview with Osmangizi TV that Russia will not return Karabagh to Azerbaijan even after 50 years. Academic in exile Arif Yunus on the same TV programme argues that there are no Russia-Azerbaijan relations, but only Putin-Aliyev ones. The issue of Russia’s Iskander-M ballistic rockets used by Armenia against Azerbaijan remains a popular topic in social networks and was discussed with the US expert Paul Goble by Sevinj Osmangizi. Ali Karimli of PFP comments that stating that “The Upper Karabagh problem is resolved” (the president’s quote) at a time when Russia is trying to build a second Armenia state in an attempt to deceive people. The local media quotes Robert Kocharian’s idea in his interview to Vladimir Pozner on TV channel Russia-1 that “if Putin did not interfere, Azerbaijan would regain control over Karabagh”. They also quote the Russia president’s assistant Vladimir Medinski’s statement to the senators at the meeting of the Federation Council, that Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan belonged to Velikoross. The FB community discusses Putin’s promise to Pashinian of military cooperation, the silence in Moscow in regards Iskanders-M, Kocharian’s meetings in Moscow and his message of revanche. The community shares the reports that Pashinian said the Karabagh conflict is not resolved, there are many questions related to its future, and that Azerbaijan violated the 9th November agreement, first of all relating to the POWS. The e-media discusses the role of Turkey and her full political support to Azerbaijan throughout the crisis. FB users share the video appeal to the president of the citizens of village Kabirli of Beylagan region, who lost 30 people to the war, and have built a monument, but cannot get help in its lighting. They have appealed to all the local and regional authorities, but in vain.
Human rights. The leader of Musavat party Arif Hajili reports the arrest of its member Nizameli Suleymanoov, who together with his nephew Akif Suleymanov, were imprisoned for 20 days. For a long time, the Nizami district police have been putting pressure on Suleymanov for arranging meetings with his colleagues in his private flat where the portrait of M.E. Rasulzade (the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic of 1918-20) was put on the wall. The police have also been pressuring him to quit party membership by threat of imprisoning. Arif Hajili demands freedom for all political prisoners. The activists continue to follow and decry the court processes on political prisoners, including the PFP member and bodyguard of the party’s leader Ruslan Amirov, who was arrested in connection with the July 2020 Karabagh rally. The fake witnesses and “victims” spoke at the court hearing on April 6th with the next one scheduled on April 22nd. One of the NCDF leaders Gultakin Hajibeyli argues that all known means of pressure and slander campaigns and blackmails have one source – the national security services. She reminds the readers of the pressure on the journalist Perviz Hashimli, whom they wanted to admit to testifying against other activists, or blackmail by Jamil Hasani’s daughter’s videos, or the campaign against herself. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov reacted to the official response to his organization’s statement in support of Lachin Veliyev, who was forced to choose between the intimate video of his and his wife’s private life being publicized or confess the fake drug charges. The head of the press department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Elshad Veliyev, denied it and confirmed the discovery of 4,791 metamphetamin and 6,474g heroin and the confession of the activist. In his response letter, the human rights defender Rufat Safarov stresses a few inconsistencies in the process: 1) How come that the witness Zaur who testified against Lachin Veliyev when he was first accused of fraud and then released, remained in the same status when they submitted new accusations of the drug possession to Veliyev? 2) The “discrediting” videos “confirming” the accused are usually made and spread immediately to support the accusations, but in this case, it was done only 16 days afterwards. 3) Why was Veliyev given tortures after he was detained at the Sabunchu district police office #12 4) If the guilt of Veliyev was proved by all evidence, why he was blackmailed by the intimate video of his family? The journalist Nurlan Libre reports that the Lenkoran City Police Office is putting pressure on the journalist Elmaddin Shamilzade, who lives in Baku and has posted a critical comment on the Lenkoran Executive Powers on his FB timeline, by calling his father, who lives in Lenkoran, and keeping him there for hours. Although the father was eventually released, the police continue to call and bother him. The activists and journalists decry the recent incident of the sexual abuse of the 13-year- old and the prosecutor’s opening of a criminal case based on the Criminal Code article 152.1, which is not about abuse, but about consensual relations. People ridicule the statement by the YAP MP Siyavush Novruzov that the video of Jamil Hasanli’s daughter was recorded not by national authorities, but by those close to Jamil Hasanli in European and Armenian circles. Khadija Ismayil recalls the similar way of blackmail conducted against herself and last year’s decision of the ECHR demanding a re-opening of the investigation into her case and payment of the fine by the authorities. The latter did not re-open the case, but paid the fine, putting the blame on Ramiz Mehdiyev. But now the story repeats itself, although Ramiz Mehdiyev is now fired, which means that it is the president himself who has ordered recordings, she concludes.
Governance. FB discusses reports of the arrest of two generals of the former National Security Ministry, who were close to the former Minister Eldar Mahmudov – Nizami Shiriyev (Head of Counter-Intelligence) and Movlam Shikhaliyev (Head of Investigation Department). Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR comments on the new appointment of President Aliyev – an executive director of the supermarket network Bravo as chair of the Melioration and Water Management state company. He writes that it indicates that the cadres are appointed not according to their professional profile, but to the group interests, and one should expect that billions will be allocated to this field. It may also mean that the price of water for the agricultural purposes will be increased. He concludes that this proves that the purpose of the government is not resolution of the problems, but to continue to misappropriate the budgetary funds. He also discredits the plans of the Minister of Agriculture Inam Kerimov to plant a hazelnut tree orchard on the lands – which are not suitable for this purpose – in Bideyiz village in the Shaki region. He explains the scheme of misappropriation of the subsidies, which are given by the Subsidies Council chaired by the minister himself. He calculates that the subsidies for the planting the garden would reach 1m 641,600 manats. In turn, the eco-activist Javid Gara reports that in order to plant the garden, old and valuable trees were cut down by the company. The Chamber of Accounts has submitted its report on the shortcomings in the work of the state structures, in particular the financial violations at the Committee of Refugees and IDPs, the Agency of the Agrarian Credit and Development, the Fund for State Support for the Mass Media and National Academy of Science to the General Prosecutor’s office. It is reported that the criminal case was already opened on financial violations within the Academy of Sciences. Meydan TV reports closure of 124 book shops during Ali Hasanov’s (ex-head of the social-political department of the presidential administration) time in office. It informs that he entrusted control over the book shop company AzerKitab to his relative who was previously in charge of the “meat-sausage” sales, hence the result. The economic expert Samir Aiyev analyses the data of the World Bank and the Pew Research Centre related to the consequences of COVID-19 for the economy and social situation in the world and in Azerbaijan. He reports that as a result of the pandemic, poverty has increased, and the middle class has shrunk.
Corruption. The list of illegal property of the Absheron head of executive power Irada Gulmammadova, registered in the name of her husband, has been publicized. It includes 4 medical clinics, 14 pharmaceutical, tourist and other companies. Ganimad Zahid mentions that she owes her government career to doctor Afig Huseynova, who is particularly close to the “ruling” family. Altay Geyushov comments on the employment of young people, who return after the Western in education home and contrasts it to the quotation from the film “Social Networks” – that the Harvard graduate does not look for the job, he/she creates one. He regrets that the Western-educated young professionals, upon their return, either become subservient to the oligarchs, or become a fake MP, or a minister with such skills of flattery that makes people prefer the older minister with local education… The opposition activist Tofig Yagublu shares the news about discussion on Ilham Aliyev’s system of bribery in Europe on German ZDF TV with participation of the ESI reporter Gerald Knaus. FB decries the decision of the Serious Crimes Court to release under conventional sentencing five bureaucrats of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, for misappropriation of large amounts of budget funds. The same court considers the case of Niyameddin Ahmadov of the PFP, for carrying small amounts of aid collected from party members to the families of political prisoners. Altay Geyushov has the following comment on corruption: “There are corrupt people all over the world, of course, in Italy, Malta, Germany, Canada, Austria, etc. – that’s why our government has found people to bribe in all these states. The difference is that in each of them, when the fact of bribery is revealed, the culprits are fired, tried in the court, and put in prison. In our country they are awarded by the Glory order.” The media reports the arrest of another bureaucrat – Eldar Mirzayev, ex-deputy head of the Baku department of the Agency on Property under the Ministry of Economy. He is the nephew of the former head of this Agency, Hikmet Mustafayev. He was also known to be a crony of Karem Hasanov, head of the department of Issues of the State Control at the Presidential administration.
Business environment. The activists and journalists in exile share news about the arrest of the owner of the network shops IDEAL Ilgar Ismayilov, who has been complaining for a while already about the pressure on him. He was offered to sell 50% of the company to Premium Bank, then they took 25%, and eventually made him sell this company worth 57m for 800,000 manat. He was complaining at this injustice to the state structures but was now under arrest. Azer Mehdiyev comments that the eventual arrest of the businessman Ismayilov, who has been struggling and demanding his rights for years reflects the business environment in the country. People discuss the continued revelations of corruption within the state companies, such as AZAL, which has the highest prices on flight tickets. FB recalls that the 71-year-old chair has been in this position for 25 years and the whole property extends to Azerbaijan and other countries abroad. It is also known of taking away by pressure of the property of other business owners, but he himself was neither fired, nor arrested. The popular democracy activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has posted an essay-parody under the title “The famous businessman was arrested” imitating the stories about the current Azerbaijan oligarchs and replacing them by Elon Musk and his company space-X, showing the absurdity of the relations between power and business in the country. He comments with irony: “Thank God the reforms are going on”.
Democracy and power/society relations. The social networks spread the videos of the clashes between the police and the animal rights protesters in Baku city. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev wonders if there is another UN member state where these three things are present: 1) the current first person in the country is the son of the previous 2) the second person in the country is not elected or approved by the parliament, or by people, but is a family member of the first person. 3) neither the first, nor the second person’s terms are limited by the Constitution. So far, he comments, there are two states with such traits – Azerbaijan and North Korea. The journalist Shamshad Aga argues that any concepts that “this bureaucrat is pro-Russian, the other pro-Western” are all fairy tales. The autocratic governance in essence is pro-Russian, while within the government – all are pro-Ilham. The blogger Mehman Huseynov jokingly comments on the publications on the appointment of the former director of Bravo markets, which belong to Pasha Holdings, as chair of the State Company on Melioration and Water Management. He wonders why is it surprising for the public. He argues that when his father becomes president, then Mehman himself would be appointed to a position like this, otherwise even the position of the municipality member was found to be too high for him (he hints on the falsified local elections, when he was not given a mandate, in spite of the highest number of earned votes – L.A). Isa Gambar of the Musavat party, in his interview to the Voice of America, argues that the quality of conduct of elections in Azerbaijan has been increasingly deteriorating during Aliyev’s regime. And the last 2020 parliamentary elections, with their particular discrimination of the true opposition, including the Musavat party, was proof of that. He considers that the reason for the poor quality of the elections is the absence of the political will of the authorities to have them made free and fair. He argues that the common feature of all elections is their total falsification. The difference is the worsening of their quality, such as limitation on the free-of-charge TV broadcasting time for each candidate, restricting access to parties who have their candidates in less than 60 election districts at the last elections. Responding to the question about reforms of the elections, he argues that this is possible if there is the political will; the changes are made to the composition of the election commissions at all levels, to include representatives of all leading political forces, and truly independent representatives, (not those ones in the understanding of Aliyev), the system of registration of candidates is changed, the system of observation of elections is improved, etc. He also stresses that along with the conduct of elections, the national Constitution has also been altered to become worse. Since the adoption of the new one in 1995, the Musavat party has voiced its criticism of the changes, but instead of improving it was worsening. On the one hand, the separation of powers has been reduced, while the powers of the president have been increased at the expense of the other branches of power, so this also affects the quality of elections. He also stresses the importance of party democracy, first of all in internal party elections, as they take place within the Musavat party, as a factor in positively influencing the political culture of elections. He praised parts of the report of the US State Department on Azerbaijan, commenting that other parts, especially in how it covers the 44-day war could be improved. However, he is interested in how influential and effective these reports are, published for more than 20 years, and whether US policy takes these findings into consideration, and if the situation regarding democracy in these countries has been improving. The eco-activist Javid Gara posted a video of when he and his team during inspection of the Shaki village area were attacked by local women, organized and headed by the representative of the company starting the hazelnut gardens. FB users commented: “What a desperate condition people are in, if for 5-10 manats they are forced to commit such acts…” Samir Kazimli has written an essay entitled “The election victory of one woman in one village” about Vafa Nagi, who won local elections in her home village Kholgaragashli of Neftchala region on 23 December 2019. She returned to her home village after graduation in Turkey to promote its development and first help women to produce income by creating various small businesses, and then joining as a candidate for the local elections. This decision resulted in consistent pressure on her by the local head of municipality, Alibala Salimov, to withdraw her candidacy, which she did not do. She also managed to help to protect the votes of her constituency and is probably the only woman who was elected (not appointed) in the local organs. She was under permanent pressure, as she never stopped discrediting the violations in the work of the local organs; she was blackmailed, and the citizens who supported her were pressured at the police office, etc. Samir Kazimli reports they say that Aibala Salimov will be fired soon. He concludes with words of gratitude to Vafa Nagi, who by her resistance has created an example for the history, for today and for the future. Shamshad Aga comments “Vafa has defeated a small dictator – the head of the municipality, and if each of us could defeat whoever each of us have forces for, the country would be different by now”.
Social issues. The problem of child benefits is getting hotter. The views of the majority of the opposition promoting the issue clashes with REAL party’s statement denying a necessity of child benefits. Gultakin Hajibeyli stresses that the US State Department on human rights also mentions the violations of children’s rights, their exploitation, and comments that it is simply shameful for a country rich in oil and other resources, which she urges to reintroduce child benefits. Fuad Gahramanli stresses the importance of distribution of child benefits before the remaining $52b in SOFAZ (State Oil Fund) is misspent.
Gubad Ibadoglu argues that 1) Child benefits are not about state care, but about children’s rights, based on articles 16 and 38 of the National Constitution and on the UN Convention of Children’s Rights, which the country joined on 21 July 1992. 2) Child benefits are an ideological issue, as the Constitution’s 15 article part 2 asserts that the state creates conditions for social prosperity based on market conditions. 3) This is also an issue of demography, as the state statistics show the decrease of the number of children under 17 by 236,200 in the last 20 years. 4) 85% of children are not covered by any social protection framework. 5) Every child is eligible to state aid, according to article 2 of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights. 6) The problem with the budget is not lack of funds, but insufficient transparency. 7) The amount of child benefits should be calculated on the basis of the family’s income. 8) A Child Fund should be created. 9) Payment of child benefits will stimulate budget income growth. 10) It may compensate the difference in income of generations. 11) It will strengthen state-family relations by increasing trust of families in the state. He shares the desperate letter from a family of 3 underage children who live with the unemployed and divorced mother without alimonies, and in a rented flat. They have applied to numerous administrative agencies for state aid, but to no avail. Nahid Jafarov told Meydan TV that people should not be dependent on state aid but should demand the opening up of jobs instead.
FB shares the data that the average salary in the country has decreased by 54 manats in 10 months. The economic expert Azer Mehdiyev shares the research by Rovahsan Agayev who reports that there is a big difference between Baku and Ganja, the first and second largest cities in the country (the capital Baku is 7-10 times more in population size), GDP (55 times smaller in Ganja), share of Baku in the national GDP (65%, while Ganja’s is only 1.2%) – and its influence on the country’s development.
Reference to history. FB users share facts from the Russian Azerbaijan relations of the 19th century, posted by the prominent historian Elmira Muradaliyeva. She reminds her followers that Russia has signed a Kurakchay agreement with the head of the Karabagh khanate on 14 May 1804, according to which Ibrahim Khalil Khan was preserving the autonomy of the internal governance, but submitting the foreign policy to Russia, as well as contributing 8 thousand Chervonets to the Tsar’s budget. In turn the Tsar took an obligation to provide for integrity of the khanate for him and his heirs. Soon after Russia started to violate the agreement by killing Javad Khan of Ganja and locating 500 troops headed by Lisanevich near to Shusha. A year after these troops killed 80-year-old Khan and 22 members of his family. Thus, in brutal violation of the 1804 agreement, Russia had eliminated Kharabagh khanate by 1822. The story proves that Russia historically has hardly been loyal to its agreements.
The wife of the famous musician Ramish – the guitarist who was awarded the title of People’s Artist – denied that he died of coronavirus, opposing the statement of the Health Ministry, commenting that the simply failed to treat him from the other illness, but called it COVID-19. Seymur Hezi mentioned the official statistics falsify the number of infected reducing them. If this is so, he is not surprised, as the COVID policies are absurd: people are obliged to wear masks in the open air, while buses are overcrowded. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev argues that the problem is that people wear masks in the open air, not because they care about their health, but because are wary of police fines, while police demand them to be worn, because they are primarily interested in levying fines on the citizens, not because they care about their health. He shares his experience of being in the closed premises recently where in 100 square metres there were nearly 200 people without masks, but once they were outside they all put on their masks, because there was police there watching. He regrets the meaningless measures of the government.
April 9, 2021