Center for National and International Studies
“…Alas, the West prefers to discuss the Karabagh issue with Russians…”
The FB community expresses growing frustration with Western actors discussing matters of national interest and Azerbaijan’s sovereignty with Russia without its participation, demands clarity and transparency in the developments on state borders and in Karabagh, and follows the election environment in Armenia, together with the agenda of high-level meetings of NATO, the G7 and Biden–Putin Summits. It continues to closely follow human rights issues and alerts the society in connection with the aggravated health in prison of human rights defender Elchin Mammad, the hunger strike of ex-political prisoner Aliabbas Rustamov, denounces the bureaucratic corruption turned into a routine, calls for resistance to the normalisation of authoritarian repression – and is amused by the slap to Emmanuel Macron’s face, supporting his reaction to it.
Post-war situation. The FB community has been discussing with concern Russia’s recent meetings on the Karabagh issue without Azerbaijan’s participation. They stress Putin’s discussions on Karabagh with Charles Michelle, the head of the EU Council, or Foreign Minister Lavrov with his German and French colleagues, while earlier – Putin’s discussion on Karabagh with the presidents of France and Turkey, and Lavrov’s with the Iranian foreign minister Zarif. Putin even discussed the topic with the Armenian opposition leader Robert Kocharian and eight times at the National Security Council of Russia. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that Russia’s behaviour is as an owner of Karabagh, and such discussion without Azerbaijan’s participation makes him feel insulted: he sees the contradiction between President’s Aliyev declaration that the conflict is resolved – on the one hand and Russia’s hegemony over Karabagh – on the other. He reminds his followers that Azerbaijan was the first nation with a mass protest against the Soviet empire and the first to achieve full withdrawal of Soviet bases, contrasting this with the current dependency on Russia’s peacekeepers.
The FB community shares the recent statement by the Ministry of Defence about group of Armenian saboteurs who penetrated Lachin region from the state border with the purpose of mining, and their leader Arthur Kartanyan being captured. It notes the contradictory statement on this matter by the Armenian Defence Ministry that Kartanyan got lost due to the smoggy weather. According to the third version – the Azerbaijani side released the rest out of humanitarian considerations. The pubic discusses the statement by an Armenian colonel, that in Kelbajar and Lachin they laid 17 trucks of landmines. Some interpret this action as an attempt to block or delay the development of the rich natural resources on these territories, but others urge to take this statement seriously. They also argue that with the weak reaction to the explosion, the international organisations display double standards. Seymur Hezi comments that if there was a foreign journalist in this car, the foreign reaction would be immediate – “Russia cannot provide for stability in the region!” He also touches upon the silence of the French president, as this event does not bear any impact on the elections. However, would the reaction be the same if there was a France24 correspondent in this car? Seymur Hezi points to the differentiation between the attitude to acts of terror, committed against “ours” as opposed to “others”. FB users discuss and comment on the suggestion of the resigned PM of Armenia Nikol Pashinian to exchange his son for all the captured Armenians in Azerbaijan, as well as his ironically delegating the talks on their return to prior leaders Kocharian and Sargsian, as to the “experts in human trafficking”. Osmangizi TV expert – diplomat Isfandiyar Vahabzade argues that confrontation in the region has reached its peak and characterises the situation as a calm before the storm.
International relations. The activists note a number of important meetings and events in the international arena, such as Biden’s meeting with Erdogan at the NATO Summit in Brussels on 14th and his meeting with Putin on 15th June, or the elections in Iran on 18th and in Armenia on 20th June, which may have an impact on the situation in the region and in Azerbaijan. However, they stress with regret that recently the West prefers to discuss the situation in Karabagh with Russia, while she in turn – with Armenia. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR stresses that this leaves Azerbaijan with only one option of influencing the decisions on Karabagh – by means of Turkey. However, he notes the Turkish context, shaken by revelations of the mafia head Sedat Peker, including those related to Azerbaijan. In this regard, he considers it necessary to make business relations between the two states as transparent as possible and to make sure any selection of companies is based on fair competition. Some observe that the scandalous revelations of the mafia head Sedat Peker are taking place just before the meeting of Biden and Erdogan. The court decision to give up Can Dundar with a red notice for search at Interpol is perceived by the Azeraijani activist community as evidence of a collapse of the judiciary under President Erdogan and that it does not differ from the system in Azerbaijan. The FB community shares information about the official meeting of President Erdogan in Baku and Shusha on 16th June after his visit to Brussels. Ramis Yunus, activist in exile comments on the outcome of the upcoming meeting of Biden and Putin: “The main subject for the Biden–Putin meeting will be the issue of Ukraine and Georgia receiving the status of ‘Major non-NATO ally’. If Ukraine and Georgia receive this status in the near future, there will be an intensification in the confrontation between the United States and Russia for post-Soviet space. If these countries do not receive this status, this means that the United States will not be contesting Russia’s potential superiority in post-Soviet space, which will undoubtedly lead to greater strengthening and expansion of Russia’s influence”.
Relations with Russia. FB users continue to decry and discuss the killing by the Russian police officer of the young Azerbaijani. The FB community notes that there is no adequate reaction to the killing of the young Azerbaijani man in Russia by official Baku and concludes that Aliyev’s regime cannot protect “state dignity”. The activists comment that one cannot expect any such reaction, if the authorities do the same with their own citizens in the country. They say that this happened because the policeman viewed the young driver as a second-class human being, so he did not hesitate to kill him. Tofig Yagublu makes a parallel to the shooting of people in the 2003 post-election protest on Freedom Square by the special forces of the Ministry of Interior – also because the deputy minister at that time, Vilayet Eyvazov, treated them as second-class citizens and was later promoted to a ministerial position. Obviously, concludes Yagublu, one cannot expect a protest of such officials against the murder in Russia. Natig Jafarli analyses Putin’s interview with the Russian TV channels about the upcoming US-Russia Summit in Switzerland, which he mainly devoted to Ukraine drawing the red lines. He argued that he is against Ukraine’s membership of NATO, because rockets can easily reach Moscow from Kharkov in 12-15 minutes. Jafarli comments that Putin has always underestimated the intellect of the Russian people, so his argument about rockets is another proof of that, because NATO has already been close to Russian borders for many years – the Baltic states, Norway, Turkey, etc. He concludes that Putin did not comment on why Slavic people want to become NATO members, while this is a direct result of Russia’s foreign policy and these states want to defend themselves from Russia. Natig Jafarli also considers that high prices on energy resources makes all sanctions meaningless, as the export of Russian gas to EU states, in spite of EU sanctions, increased in the first quarter of this year. He reminds his followers that 65% of Russian Urals oil is sold to Europe and the US, with Russia being the second exporter of oil to the US in the first quarter of this year. The academic Jamil Hasanli argues that Ilham Aliyev has turned Azerbaijan into a hostage of Russia.
Human rights. The ex-political prisoner Aliabbas Rustamov started a hunger strike in protest at his illegal imprisonment for 6 years in 2014 (he was released after 5 years 4m) and the absence of response of the respective state organs to his appeals in connection with the arrest and followed elimination of the documents related to his case. The witnesses continue to describe their tortures during investigation of the Ter-ter case. One of them reports that on the floor where he was being kept, there were 20 interrogation rooms and it was impossible to sustain the screams of the victims – they had melted plastic poured over their bodies and were given electrical shocks. He reports that by the time he was brought there, there were already three of them who died from torture. People continue to attract attention to the aggravated state of health of the political prisoner, human rights defender Elchin Mammad from Sumgayit, who fainted as a result of hyper blood pressure. The FB community is united in denouncement of the authorities’ new attack on prominent opposition activist Tofig Yagublu. The government argues that his income was insufficient to purchase the car he owns. The journalists note that the conclusion of the PACEs discussion of the situation in Azerbaijan is that it is “tragically bad”. Ganimat Zahid, journalist in exile, comments that “it seems the caviar diplomacy is over”, because the Cabinet of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a very strict document, including the issue of the execution of ECtHR decisions. Ali Karimli of the PFP decries the threats against the activists – the most recent ones against Bakhtiyar Hajiyev preceded by those on Ilkin Rustamzade, and earlier – on human rights defender Rufat Safarov. He argues that undoubtedly it is the government behind them and that everyone should unite to stop these attacks against people who tell the truth and fight for justice.
Democracy and power-society relations. The activists discuss the attempts of Ilham Aliyev to blacken the democratic forces, especially the history of the PFP and Musavat, by spreading the fake news that they had come to power as a result of the coup. They argue that even the father of current president, Heydar Aliyev, congratulated Elchibey in 1992 with his victory in the first democratic elections with 59%, first of all – with the highest vote collected in Nakhichevan republic. They refute the attempt of the current authorities to call the election falsification and corruption a trait of the national mentality, recalling that the first democratic elections were conducted without OSCE or other international organisations and they would be again. People recall – by sharing videos and comment with indignation – one of the worst crimes of the current regime – the attack a year ago by special forces detachments on civilians in Yasamal district of Baku, taking them out of their beds to the police station, brutally treating them for “violations of the quarantine rules”. The human rights defenders (Rasul Jafarov, Gunel Safarova, Anar Mammadli) report on their meeting with Philip Ricker, US State Secretary on European and Eurasian affairs, where the issues of the role of civil society in the post-war period, the situation in the area of human rights and freedoms were debated. Osmangizi TV reports that the main slogan of the current regime is “Steal, eat, destroy, but be loyal to us!” Ali Karimli attracts attention to the inappropriate sentences given by the judge to the PFP members in connection with the Karabagh rally – Fuad Gahramanli, Mammad Ibrahim, Ayaz Maharramli and Bakhtiyar Imanov – a provisional 4-4.5 years and this is in spite of the absence of any proof of their guilt. He urges society not to reconcile with the “repressive standards of the authorities, injustice should not be normalised”, and assured readers that they will fight for their rehabilitation to the end.
Governance, economy, corruption. The FB community widely discusses the inappropriate official reaction to the two students who stole books from a bookstore. The Ministry of Internal Affairs tried to turn the two students into the objects of a public “naming and shaming” campaign by posting their photo and videos on social networks, but because it caused the opposite effect, they removed them. The activists and journalists commented that “they detain those who stole two books, while award the ones, who stole 2 billion”; “I wish all the thieves would rather steal the books in this country, than anything else…” The blogger Mehman Huseynov comments: “The big thieves are left alone, while the police reports catching book thieves! The country rolls into an abyss… For this government, young people reading books are more dangerous than corrupt bureaucrats!” Gubad Ibadoglu sees the small theft statistics increase as an indicator of the decline of the living standards of the population and of unemployment. The e-media describes how COVID has turned into a source of income for the government. MP Fazil Mustafa spoke against the prohibition of wedding parties in Azerbaijan for more than a year, calling it unjustified.” It is understandable when Armenians detonate landmines trying to reduce the number of Azerbaijanis, but it is not when the government achieves the same reduction of numbers of Azerbaijanis by prohibiting weddings.” Natig Jafarli of REAL attracts attention to corruption becoming a routine in perception of the official elite in Azerbaijan. He quotes two cases proving it. The businessman nicknamed “Isfandiyar from Sharur” – the plaintiff in the case of ex-MP Rafael Jabrailov – testified that Jabrayilov took his 200,000 manat under the excuse to build a house for the speaker of the parliament, Ogtay Asadov, and never returned this. The victim in the other case of ex-chief doctor of the skin-venereal hospital reports that the accused took 280,000 manats to replace himself by the plaintiff – in fact, selling his position – but never fulfilled the agreement. None of the victims even questioned the legality of such a significant amount of money being in the possession of the accused officials and the deals themselves. The FB community continues to decry the official refusal for the local population to at least visit the liberated territories under the excuse of security concerns related to landmines, but allowing the official elite or oligarchs to visit, or take herds to pasture. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports that the Ministry of Agriculture’s company sells 1 kilo of cucumbers for 4 manats to the hospitals and kindergartens, while their market price is from 50 qepiks to 1 manat, which means personal enrichment from cutting funding for and stealing from the children. He later reports that the story of a handicapped man trying to renew his driving licence submitted by the female journalist Elgunesh has had its effect and that the chief doctor of the hospital was fired, with the state structure TABIB encouraging society to publicise such problems. On the issue of selling cucumbers 4 times more expensively to the hospitals – while the investigation has been started, the Ministry of Agriculture has produced no result nor any official reaction. The activists and journalists continue to discuss whether reforms can be possible under this regime. Vahid Maharramli, one of the Board of members of the PFP, was quoted by the Azadlyg newspaper as saying that the Azerbaijan’s development is possible only after a regime/power change. The judge obliged the ex-rector of the State University, Abel Maharramov, to pay to the construction workers at his properties and businesses 810,000 manats. Natig Jafarli of REAL comments that the price rise of 1000 dcm of gas to $357 and 1 barrel of oil to $70-72 is good news for the Azerbaijani government, as it means an increase of influx of foreign currency, lowering the risks of devaluation. However, as usual with the rising price of hydrocarbon resources, the word “reforms” starts to disappear from the rhetoric of the officials. They have already had 2 chances to make reforms: now it is the third one and if they lose it too – it will result in a graver economic situation, he argues.
Social issues. Meydan TV posts a video showing another protest of the handicapped in front of the office of the Republican Centre for Rehabilitation of Handicapped. The FB community decries the fact of refusal to give the category of handicapped to human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, who was hit by a car and subsequently in coma in hospital for more than a year after serious brain surgery. Jamil Hasanli comments that the authorities using various excuses are cutting 120-130 manats (around $70) from monthly benefits to hundreds of thousands, some of which are Karabagh war veterans. The popular female journalist Aynur Elgunesh wrote a devastating story of a handicapped man, who simply tried to renew his driving license – the story of bureaucratic obstacles, indifference, humiliation even from the side of the medical commission. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF voices her protest against the unjust system of income distribution and appeals to people not to keep silence. She lists the categories of socially vulnerable groups within the population, who were recently deprived of their state benefits and compensation under various legal and illegal excuses. She argues that the money, cut from support for war veterans, families of war victims, the handicapped, pensioners, diabetics, and children with heart diseases – is being spent to double the salaries of police, prosecutors, judges – or the repressive apparatus of the regime. The confrontation between the bureaucrats and the war victims’ families and handicapped is aggravating – the e-media reports the father of the war hero kicking the head of local executive power out of the village, throwing at him the money which the latter gave to the family. FB users share with indignation the information about war-handicapped Adem Mammadzade from Kolani village of Hajigabul region who has had 11 surgeries, but has still not recovered. The activists decry the government’s declining to send him abroad for treatment, while spending millions on Formula-1 races.
Relations with France. FB users share the news that a French citizen slapped Emmanuel Macron in the face during his meeting outside with the public, but that he continued his walk after releasing himself from his security staff.
June 11, 2021