Center for National and International Studies
“In Azerbaijan, not only the political power is concentrated in the hands of one person, the entire economy, its import, export, production, and trade are under the monopoly of one person…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Political prisoner Alzamin Salayev has been on hunger strike for over 60 days. Former political prisoner Ilkin Rustamzade called on authorities to release Salayev, adding that every minute plays a crucial role. Rustamzade: “As someone who has been a political prisoner for six years, I can say that if he was not on hunger strike, the authorities who are watching him would have shared photo-proof materials and exposed him… Our society is politically ignorant. And the ignorant individuals of this ignorant society write with ignorant self-confidence and shamelessly that how can a person stay hungry for 60 days? Alzamin is on hunger strike for 60 days.” Meanwhile, in the Baku Court of Appeal, a hearing was held on the appeal of Salayev. Despite the growing demands from human rights organizations, the court did not grant Salayev’s lawyer’s request for release.
Nijat Ali oghlu Jabbarov, a resident of Aghdam, who participated in the Second Karabakh War, complains that he was denied to receive veteran status. Jabbarov told Meydan TV that he went to military service in June 2020: “Two months after joining the army – in September, the war started. I was sent to the battlefield and participated in the battles for Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Shusha, and I have medals. I have a document confirming my participation in the battles.”
A fatal accident occurred at the construction site of the “Baku Residence” residential complex in the Khatai district of Baku. Majnun Bayramov fell from the 20th floor and died due to severe injuries. Failure of construction companies to follow the rules of technical safety causes frequent accidents at construction sites. According to independent researchers, the government’s negligence regarding safety measures leads to such tragedies.
Azadliq newspaper reports that Guba resident Shahin Gafarov was brutally beaten by employees of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources for exposing deforestation. Employees of the Ministry Taleh Abdullayev and Azad Heydarov used physical violence against Gafraov, who shared a video on social networks criticizing the illegal logging in the forest. Commenting on the issue, member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Fuad Gahramanli said that the current state of lawlessness paves the way to such violent actions. Gahramanli: “Since the laws limiting the power have already become a tool to control and whip the oppressed in the hands of the ruling class, the ordinary people who are used to living in these conditions try to oppress each other as much as possible to release the shame and anger caused by state repression. In such environments, gangsters who rely on their violence can be found everywhere, not only in the state apparatus.”
Governance and Corruption
President Ilham Aliyev‘s press briefing with the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Gebele and the meeting with the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier led to debates on the nature of the authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan. The fact that Azerbaijani officials carefully wrote down the words of the president during both meetings was criticized by the opposition. While many compared the Azerbaijani officials note taking with the state meetings in Turkmenistan, some argued that the relaxed behavior of Georgian and German officials, unlike their Azerbaijani counterparts, testifies to the scale of dictatorship. Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces Tofig Yagublu said that both meetings showed president Aliyev’s “despotic mentality”. Yagublu: “Why should one want to be like Berdymohammedov? Does he not see that there would not be such shameful scenes in countries with normal governance? Don’t look at the fact that he speaks English or wears trainers, he has a typical oriental despot mentality.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov said that the political power is concentrated in the hands of one person, and the whole country is ruled by an absolute monarchy. “History has not seen such an authoritarianism and absolute monarchy as in Azerbaijan. Here, not only the political power is concentrated in the hands of one person, the entire economy, import, export, production, and trade of the country are under the monopoly of one person. Azerbaijan is not a state, it is the property of one person. Those who live here are the employees of that property who have no rights.”
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADWP) Gubad Ibadoghlu shared information about reconstruction works in Karabagh. According to Ibadoghlu, in addition to the huge corruption in the construction projects in the liberated territories and lack of control and transparency, there are also reports about the removal of the history of the local population. The party chairman said that by the decree of the president, many villages in the region are canceled as administrative units meaning that refugees from those villages will be able to return to their homelands. Ibadoghlu’s Facebook post: “According to the return plan, the number of settlements to be built in the liberated territories of Karabakh will be reduced from 936 to 316. The largest decrease will be in Gubadli – only 24 of the previous 91 settlements will be retained. The numbers of the villages in Jabrail are reduced from 89 to 25, 71 to 22 in Zangilan, 76 to 27 in Fuzuli, 115 to 48 in Aghdam, 145 to 63 in Kalbajar, and 124 to 45 in Lachin. So far, 6 billion 488 million 600 thousand manats have been spent on the reconstruction of Karabakh from the state budget (for 2021-22). Seventy-six percent of the spent funds or 4 billion 936 million 800 thousand manats were used in the design and construction of highways. As can be seen, up to 5 billion manats were spent on road construction in Karabakh in the last two years in an opaque and unreported manner. Karabakh has become a closed and convenient place for writing off the budget money.”
Member of the NCDF Tofig Yagublu also commented on the corruption cases in the region, saying that in new arrangements of the settlement, the opinion of the local population was not taken into consideration. “To make such a decision about the people who have fled from those places without consulting and informing them means to humiliate them and destroy them morally. There is no room for the excuse of “lack of money”. Even if this is the case, there should be no distinction between the villages. On the other hand, there is money, a lot of it, as long as Ilham Aliyev and his officials do not steal the money allocated under the name of “construction and improvement works” in Karabakh.”
Reacting to the controversial construction works in the Karabakh region, member of the NCDF Gultakin Hajibeyli said that the massive construction projects are only new methods for the authorities to embezzle the state budget. Hajibeyli: “Hundreds of families have not yet been relocated to Karabakh, villages have not been rebuilt, but 5 billion manats have already been spent on road construction. Rather, it was not spent, and you know very well what happened to that money. Five billion manat! With this money, it would be possible to pay for childcare in the whole country for two years! A modern city could be built with this money.”
April 11, 2023