Center for National and International Studies
“The Real Victory Day will be celebrated after the liberation of Azerbaijan from the occupation of the Aliyevs…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms
The health condition of Elkhan Aliyev, a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) and a political prisoner, has significantly worsened. Lawyer Nemat Karimli visited Elkhan Aliyev at the pretrial detention center where he is held. On November 3, Elkhan Aliyev experienced intense pain in the upper back and his left chest. Following an examination, a black-red spot resembling a burn mark was discovered on his left upper back, and he was informed by a doctor that he had suffered a myocardial infarction. Subsequent examinations by another doctor confirmed the diagnosis. However, after this information circulated on social media, Elkhan Aliyev was taken to the medical department, where an echocardiogram indicated no heart attack. Presently, Elkhan Aliyev is grappling with high blood pressure and severe headaches, yet the doctor has refrained from recommending further examination despite the apparent need.
Jailed activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev is facing another charge, this time under Article 213.1 (tax evasion) of the Criminal Code. Elchin Sadigov, his lawyer, shared this information with Meydan TV. Hajiyev, consistent with his stance on previous accusations, vehemently denies the tax evasion charge, considering it baseless. Sadigov points out that the legal investigation period for Bakhtiyar Hajiyev‘s case has already elapsed, yet a new charge has been levied against him. The lawyer maintains that the accusation of tax evasion lacks a solid foundation.
A group of nine congressmen and one senator from New Jersey has reached out to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, expressing concern over the arrest of Azerbaijani oppositionist and economist Gubad Ibadoglu. According to Galib Bayramov, the opposition leader’s brother, the appeal urges the use of all diplomatic channels and collaboration with international partners to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the former Rutger University professor. The lawmakers have also requested a report from the State Department detailing efforts toward Ibadoglu‘s release. Bayramov emphasized that Ibadoglu‘s health continues to deteriorate, with an increase in illnesses, and he is not receiving effective medical assistance.
Fuad Gahramanli, a member of the APFP, highlighted the rights violations faced by construction workers in Karabakh. He expressed concern, stating that workers often find themselves in a regrettable situation after spending months laboring in the liberated territories, only to return without receiving their rightful wages. Gahramanli emphasized the need for strict oversight in this regard. According to him, contractor companies frequently hire workers for short durations, withholding monthly payments with promises of eventual compensation, only for the workers to realize they have been deceived. The companies then replace them with new hires. Gahramanli pointed out that the salaries offered are significantly lower, ranging from 6-7 times less than the amounts outlined in the project estimates. For instance, if the project estimates allocate 25 manats for 1 square meter, workers are only paid 4 manats.
Governance and Corruption
November 8 marks Victory Day in Azerbaijan, commemorating a victory after 44 days war with Armenia. On this day in 2020, the Azerbaijani army liberated the city of Shusha from long-term Armenian occupation. To honor this achievement, a Victory Parade was scheduled to take place in Khankendi, the former capital of the dissolved Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
While victory celebrations unfolded, another corruption scandal cast a shadow over the proceedings. The “Karabakh Revival Fund” entered a 1.2 million manat contract with the Dubai-registered company “Media Prima Advertising” to produce the book “Karabagh Revival: From Tragedy to Victory.” Critics, including activists and the opposition, highlighted the stark disparity between the meager pensions received by veterans, who played a crucial role in liberating the land from occupation, and the substantial funds allocated for the book’s publication. Veterans receive a mere 80 manats per month, underscoring the discrepancy. The book’s author, Graeme H. Wilson, has previously written about Ilham Aliyev and former president Heydar Aliyev. Notably, the advisor and editor for these works is Rahman Hajiyev, who also serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Karabakh Revival Fund.
Activist Nigar Hezi also provided her opinion on the mentioned book, stating that the amount spent on it should have been allocated to address the challenges that veterans are currently grappling with. Her post: Had the 1.2 million manats spent by the Karabakh Revival Fund for the book “From Tragedy to Victory” been directed towards veterans and the families of martyrs who secured our victory, the distressing news of veterans resorting to suicide might not be a daily occurrence. While the people celebrated the liberation of Karabakh, the Aliyev regime seemed even more jubilant, foreseeing ample opportunities for corruption. This is just the expenditure on a single book, imagine the extent of funds pilfered from the construction of houses for residents in Karabakh. Those who shamefully allocate a mere 80 manats monthly to veterans profit in the millions from the victories these veterans achieved. It is a disgrace that the liberation of Karabakh from occupation coincided with the era of Ilham Aliyev. As long as Aliyev remains in power, Karabakh will continue to endure occupation.”
In a social media post, activist Ulvi Hasanli addressed the water outage in Baku on Victory Day. He expressed frustration, stating, “This is Victory Day. You wake up in the morning, and there’s no water in the center of the capital. Can life go on without water? Despite the government spending billions over 15-20 years to ‘improve’ water supply, nothing has changed; in fact, it has regressed. Most of the billions were stolen. Why did they think it wise to forcibly remove water tanks from apartment buildings? Now, there’s no reserve water, and there is no tap water. Is this a victory? If we can’t lead a dignified life, what kind of victory are we celebrating?”
Member of the APFP on the other hand, said that despite everything Victory day should be celebrated. Fuad Gahramanli’s post: Celebrating the Victory Day is our national right. The existence of this regime should not under any circumstances overshadow the pride and sense of pride of this great day, which we as a nation have won at the expense of our own blood. Because the authors of this victory are Azerbaijani soldiers from simple, poor families. Today, we share with them the feeling of joy and triumph of the victory and triumph of the Azerbaijani soldier, who was neglected after the war and did not see the value he deserved. This regime will become history one day, but the integrity of Karabakh and Northern Azerbaijan will remain forever. Therefore, we deeply feel the satisfaction of leaving a Motherland with full territorial integrity as a legacy to future generations.”
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli also commented on the occasion, saying that the real Victory day will be when Aliyev regime is over. He emphasized that the real heroes of Karabakh are the people of Azerbaijan who bravely sacrificed their lives on the battlefields. Mukhtarli criticized Ilham Aliyev, who presided over the parade in Khankendi with Russian approval, as the usurper of victory. He questioned why the people, veterans, and war heroes are not participating in the parade, emphasizing that Khankendi has no mines. Mukhtarli contended that the genuine Victory Day for the people of Azerbaijan will be when the Aliyev regime is ousted. “The people of Azerbaijan will celebrate the real Victory Day when the Aliyev regime is overthrown. The Victory Day will be celebrated after the liberation of the Karabakh lands from the occupation of the Aliyevs. Victory Day will be celebrated when refugees return to their homeland, and when the last destroyed house is rebuilt. Victory Day will be celebrated with the laughter of babies born in Karabakh. For now, one invader has been replaced by another in Karabakh. Pashinyan went and Pashaholding took over.”
In an interview with Toplum TV, chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli talked about the risks of the Russian army remaining in Azerbaijan. He said that the Russian army should be withdrawn from Azerbaijan immediately. “The Russian army was actually brought to Azerbaijan illegally 3 years ago and now there is no excuse for them to stay in Azerbaijan”, Karimli added.
Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council of Democratic Forces, critiqued President Aliyev‘s speech in Khankendi, deeming it absurd for the president to claim he fulfilled a promise made two decades ago. Yagublu stated, “Speaking at a military parade in Khankendi, Ilham Aliyev mentioned that 20 years ago, when I assumed office, I promised the people that I would liberate our lands. You made this promise in the context of a 5-year presidential term. How did you anticipate remaining in power for 20 years, especially considering the 2018 rise of democrat Pashinyan to power in Armenia, and Putin‘s utilization of your position to overthrow him?” Yagublu extended congratulations to the people on Victory Day, emphasizing that the victory was achieved through the blood and resilience of the impoverished soldiers.
November 10, 2023