Center for National and International Studies



“It appears as though the children of this nation sacrificed their lives so that those who dispatched them to death could effortlessly capitalize on the liberated lands at the expense of these young lives…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Jailed activist Ulvi Hasanli was denied access to his legal representation, as reported by his attorney Zibeyda Sadigov. Furthermore, attempts to send books to Hasanli were rejected. Hasanli voiced his grievances in a meeting with Ombudsman representatives, who acknowledged the situation. Those implicated in the “Abzas Media” case are prohibited from communicating with their families. Hasanli’s wife Rubaba Guliyeva expressed concern over the lack of contact: “Ulvi is not permitted family visits or phone calls. Our worry deepens with the silence. Updates on his well-being only come through his lawyer. Meeting and conversing would provide much-needed reassurance,” Guliyeva stated. Lawyer Elchin Sadigov contended that the investigative body’s three-month ban on calls and meetings is unjust, asserting that such measures are typically employed to prevent criminal activities, a rationale he deems inapplicable to this case. He emphasized the unjust prohibition even extends to telephone communication with legal counsel.

Farida Beydamirli, the spouse of Nazim Beydamirli, a political prisoner, recently posted on Facebook, shedding light on the distressing conditions prevailing in Kurdakhani prison. In her post, she expressed: “For 158 days Nazim Beydamirli has endured unwarranted vilification, languishing in prison without any crime, guilt, or wrongdoing. Today, on our designated phone conversation day, he called, and we spoke for 10 minutes. However, I noticed a troubling tone in his voice, prompting me to worry. Without notifying him, I hurried to Kurdakhani to meet him. Kurdakhani is not only a prison for the countless black-clad, pallid-faced youths but also a confinement for mothers seeking to reunite with their children and young women enduring the cold while cradling babies. It had been a while since my last visit, and today’s return only intensified the familiar pain and sorrow. The haunting scenes continue to weigh on my heart, leaving me in sadness for several days.”

Another activist faces drug charges for painting the statue of the former president and father of the current president, Heydar Aliyev. Elbeyi Karimli, a member of the Absheron branch of the APFP, is set to be tried in Nasimi court. Notably, Karimli is labeled a “statue prisoner.” During his testimony, he revealed that his arrest is politically motivated and resulted from painting the Heydar Aliyev statue, leading to the initiation of a drug-related criminal case against him.

Governance and Corruption

The special quarantine regime in Azerbaijan has been prolonged until April 2 of the upcoming year. The decision, as conveyed by the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers, is driven by “the objective of averting the spread of the COVID-19 virus and potential repercussions”. Since March 2020, Azerbaijan implemented border closures and quarantine measures to counter the pandemic. While air travel with various countries has been gradually reinstated, the government maintains the closure of land borders with neighboring nations, namely Iran, Russia, and Georgia, except for the Sadarak-Diluju border crossing point between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the conclusion of the global emergency related to COVID-19 in May of this year, precautionary measures persist in Azerbaijan.

A consensus has been reached between Azerbaijan and Armenia regarding the reciprocal release of servicemen. Azerbaijan has agreed to release 32 servicemen of Armenian origin, while Armenia has committed to releasing two Azerbaijani servicemen, namely Babirov Agshin and Akhundov Huseyn, who were held as prisoners. Official announcements from both Azerbaijan’s Presidential Administration and Armenia’s Prime Minister’s Office confirm the agreement on the release of military personnel detained in each other’s territories. In a joint statement, they expressed a commitment to humanistic values, characterizing the releases as goodwill gestures.

On December 7, 2023, marking the 105th anniversary of parliamentarianism in Azerbaijan, a group of public and political figures established the Third Republic Platform. The Platform’s regulations have been formally adopted, and a Founding Board has been selected from the founding members to oversee the Platform’s activities. Subsequently, the Constituent Board convened for its inaugural meeting. Akif Gurbanov was elected as the Speaker by the Founding Board for a term of one year, tasked with representing the Platform and coordinating the implementation of decisions. Responsibilities have been allocated among the other members of the Founding Board, which comprises a total of seven individuals.

The Musavat Party has released a statement addressing the announcement of early presidential elections in Azerbaijan. The statement asserts that none of the national elections and referendums conducted in Azerbaijan since 1993 have adhered to the fundamental conditions of democratic elections. It contends that democratic prerequisites for free and fair elections have been consistently lacking, citing issues such as non-compliance of election legislation with democratic standards, government control over election commissions, unequal opportunities for propaganda during election campaigns, and significant violations of the law and widespread fraud in the voting and counting processes. Despite these ongoing concerns, the statement notes that in recent years, the authorities have employed the practice of early elections without providing explanations to the public. The decree signed by president Ilham Aliyev, on February 7, 2024, calling for extraordinary presidential elections, is highlighted as an example. The Musavat Party contends that such decisions limit the preparation time for political opposition, change-seekers, and potential observer missions. Consequently, the party calls upon Azerbaijani authorities to establish a democratic environment for elections, release all political prisoners, guarantee free assembly, freedom of speech and expression, and ensure representation of claimant parties in election commissions.

In the upcoming years, Azerbaijan is expected to experience the most challenging economic conditions in the South Caucasus, as indicated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF’s “World Economic Landscape” magazine published an article that presented economic forecasts for countries worldwide, encompassing three South Caucasus nations, over the next five years. According to the information, Azerbaijan is expected to have the lowest real GDP growth rate in 2028 at 2.5%, while Georgia is anticipated to have the highest at 5.2%. Armenia is projected to experience a growth rate of 4.5%.

The pricing established for New Year celebrations in hotels in Shusha has sparked significant controversy. These prices, starkly contrasting with the monthly incomes in the country, have generated widespread anger on social media. Those who want to welcome the New Year in Shusha will have to spend 2500-3500 manats for a package for 2 people. The package includes 2 nights and 3 days stay at a Shusha hotel, New Year party, various music and show programs, a fireworks display, and more. The companies sharing the announcement added that the issue of permission to enter the territories freed from occupation will be resolved for those who purchase this package.

Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli commented on the excessively high-priced celebrations, asserting that the ruling family is solely focused on expanding their business interests. Karimli: Those who organize a “magnificent New Year’s Eve” in Shusha for 2500-3500 manats per night are telling our people that both Shusha and Karabakh will be claimed by us, but the privileges and enjoyment will be reserved for a select few. Only 1.7 million people have permanent jobs in Azerbaijan of 10 million people. Half of them still have a salary below 480 manats. Who would spend 2,500-3,500 for a 2-night New Year’s party among the poor people? Of course, the corrupt and those who make money under the patronage of the regime. Did those who gave monthly allowances of 80 manats to the veterans who conquered Shusha have no conscience when they organized a show for corrupt people in Shusha for 2,500-3,500 manats? The stark contrast is evident when considering the regime’s meager monthly allowances of 80 manats to veterans who played a crucial role in liberating Shusha. The irony of these organizers showing a lavish display for the corrupt elite in Shusha, charging exorbitant amounts, while our heroic veterans, who sacrificed their health and parts of their bodies during the liberation of Shusha and other Karabakh lands, face poverty, helplessness, and neglect to the extent of mass suicides. It prompts reflection on the conscience of those seeking personal gain and amassing billions at the expense of the newly liberated Shusha and Karabakh.”

Political commentator Arastun Orujlu also commented on the controversial New Year celebration in Shusha, adding that it is it is profoundly disrespectful to the martyrs and veterans. Orujlu: The prices set for the New Year celebration in hotels in Shusha are an insult to us as a nation. Comparable prices may be encountered in certain New York hotels, but the core issue lies not in the costs but in the absence of respect for any values within the country. It is widely acknowledged that the hotels in Shusha are not owned by entrepreneurs who earned their way up. The construction of such establishments is sanctioned at the highest echelons, reflecting a simultaneous lack of respect for the people. It appears as though the children of this nation sacrificed their lives so that those who dispatched them to death could effortlessly capitalize on the liberated lands at the expense of these young lives. This is a genuine tragedy for those who comprehend the depth of the situation. The statement “The package includes an entry permit to Shusha” constitutes a genuine insult to us.”

December 12, 2023