Center for National and International Studies



“Engaging in opposition politics and independent journalism in the so-called Republic of Azerbaijan is considered a crime. These two facts alone are sufficient to reveal the authoritarian, and even increasingly totalitarian, nature of the state…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Alasgar Mammadli, the co-founder of Toplum TV, was apprehended by individuals donning black masks on March 8. Reports indicate that the detention occurred after he left a medical examination, with the incident captured on video. The masked individuals allegedly took Mammadli in an undisclosed direction. Additionally, it has been reported that Ruslan Izzetli, a member of the Third Republic Platform, was also detained today. The recent arrests have increased the total number of individuals facing charges related to Toplum TV to nine. Two of them have been put under house arrest.

Lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova expressed concern about the serious illness of Alasgar Mammadli, emphasizing the need for immediate medical intervention and treatment. She stressed that time is of the essence, especially in cancer cases, and early intervention increases the chances of survival. “Unfortunately, Alesger was arrested today, and his health deteriorated during the house search, with a rise in blood pressure and general discomfort. Currently, he is under police control instead of receiving the necessary medical supervision.”

Ilkin Emrahov, an employee of ToplumTV, has been subjected to a 4-month arrest, allegedly for possessing 2300 euros at his residence. However, his parents strongly deny this claim, asserting that they barely have enough to afford basic necessities like food. Ilkin Emrahov’s father expressed his dismay, stating, “For several years, he has been studying, working hard, and it ends like this. They (police) brought money, put it in our place, and then they took our child away. My other son is diagnosed with schizophrenia in the army. I take him everywhere with me, but the state is not interested. I mean, they are not interested in him, yet they still take my other son. What else can I say? Everything is in plain sight. I have been registered as unemployed in the employment office. His mother also does not work. Ilkin is the only healthy one among us. I am also sick.” Ilkin Emrahov’s mother added, “What sin did my child commit? My child has never seen a single euro. Look at the house and life of someone with that amount of money. What is this, and what justice is this? In which state do we live? Who do I ask for help? Who do I appeal to? Go search our house; we don’t even have a piece of bread.”

Rubabe Guliyeva, the wife of the imprisoned activist and editor-in-chief of Abzas Media, Ulvi Hasanli, expressed her frustration with the prison administration for creating difficulties by preventing her one-year-old daughter from meeting her father. In her statement, she described the experience: “I woke up Suad (my daughter) in the morning and took her to the detention center. After waiting in the cold with the baby for an hour, they told us that Ulvi would be seeing us. From the moment we entered the detention center, my daughter became extremely anxious and started crying. The reason was that an unfamiliar man (supervisor) was constantly checking her clothes and seemed to be trying to find something. This only increased my daughter’s cries. I understand it’s a procedure, but they are so unprofessional that they think I might hide something under the clothes of a 1-year-old baby. When Ulvi arrived, they told us that we wouldn’t be allowed a one-on-one meeting. They told me, ‘Give the child, we’ll take her to show Ulvi. Then we’ll bring her back.’ Of course, I would never give my child to them, and naturally, I refused. After two hours of torture, we could only see Ulvi for a minute. My little daughter had to be traumatized to see her father for one minute.”

Raids were carried out at the Third Republic Platform’s office and spokesperson Akif Gurbanov’s residence. Severe procedural violations marked the operations, alleging the discovery of thirty thousand euros in the platform’s office. Those detained on March 6 now face strict measures with charges of ‘smuggling. Third Republic Platform issued a statement denying all the accusations against its members. It states: While not doubting that the money was placed by those who claimed to find it, it is essential to note that keeping foreign currency at home cannot be a basis for criminal prosecution, especially not for the charge of ‘smuggling.’ There is no doubt that what is happening is aimed at the complete destruction of civil society resistance in Azerbaijan. Immediately after the arrests, the seizure of Toplum TV‘s Youtube and Instagram accounts, with the deletion of videos, also proves that the cause of the repression is by no means smuggling. One of the main targets of the recent wave of repression is the Third Republic Platform. The creation of a new opposition organization during a period when the dictatorship considers itself most powerful and setting quite sophisticated goals has created hope in society. This contradicts the regime’s goals and the direction it is pushing society towards.”

Ruslan Izzetli, a member of the Third Republic Platform’s founding board, was arrested, with searches conducted in his home. Mushfig Jabbar, one of the apprehended colleagues of Toplum TV, faces charges of smuggling. It is reported that investigators allegedly “found” 8,120 manats on Mushfig Jabbar and 2,000 euros at his residence.”

Gunel Manaflı, the wife of jailed journalist Ruslan Izzetli, expresses her sentiments in a touching post: “My son asks about his father. How do I convey to him that despite being on the right side, his father has been unjustly accused and arrested for his political involvement? How can I explain that my concern for his father surpasses any other sorrow I may feel? How can I describe to him the reality of living in a country dominated by injustice, malice, and false accusations? How do I narrate the story of your separation once, when they took your father to the military in a sick state… and now you are torn apart again, this time through malicious slander! Life, indeed, behaves like a boomerang. One won’t experience death until they have the taste of what they made others to live through.”

On March 8, the Feminist Movement organized a picket titled ‘8 MARCH – We Showcase Resistance’ in the heart of Baku. The feminists voiced their objections to recent developments in the country concerning women’s rights. Their protest covered issues such as climate change, unjust labor practices, early marriages, domestic violence, the infringed rights of LGBTQI+ citizens, and the discrimination they endure.

The Popular Front Party (AXCP) issued a statement regarding the arrests, saying that it is part of the ongoing repression against opposition and independent journalism in Azerbaijan. The statement says: This new wave of repression, which started with the arrest of prominent figures such as economist and ADR Party leader Gubad Ibadoglu and well-known businessman and economist, former deputy Nazim Beyemirli, has continued with the arrest of Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council Coordination Center, and eight journalists, along with several other public and political activists. Without counting the recent arrests, the number of political prisoners in the country has increased by more than twice in this past year, reaching close to 260 individuals. The AXCP calls on the international community to take more concrete steps to hold the Azerbaijani government accountable to its people. The Azerbaijani people, in turn, must recognize the nature of the process, actively protest, and increasingly support democratic forces facing arrests.”

The National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF)  as well issued a statement regarding the ongoing arrests. “This wave of repression, symbolized by Toplum TV, is an attempt to close the last remnants of independent media in Azerbaijan, which were already on the verge of extinction. The arrest of the leaders of the Third Republic Platform exposes the horrifying reality of the political landscape in Azerbaijan, which is at least as dire as the state of the media. Engaging in opposition politics and independent journalism in the so-called Republic of Azerbaijan is considered a crime. These two facts alone are sufficient to reveal the authoritarian, and even increasingly totalitarian, nature of the state.”

March 12, 2024