Center for National and International Studies
“Bakhtiyar Hajiyev‘s case is no longer only political, but a human tragedy caused by violence, cruelty, and lawlessness carried out in the name of the state…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who has been on hunger strike for 35 days in protest against his illegal arrest, told his lawyer Agil Layij that he was forcibly transferred to the Treatment Facility of the Penitentiary Service against his will. He said that he would continue his hunger strike until justice is restored. Hajiyev also noted that the employees of the prison have taken some of his personal belongings, including his notes, a directory of phone numbers of his close ones, and some other documents, and have not returned them yet. Moreover, Hajiyev’s lawyer said that the activist had lost more than 15 kilos since he started the hunger strike. Hajiyev also shared a letter with the public expressing his sympathy for the victims of the earthquake in Turkey. “I’m following what is happening in Turkey, I want to sit alone and cry, but I don’t have tears in my eyes. Unfortunately, I am not free, I cannot help our Turkish compatriots in such a difficult and tragic situation to the best of my ability. As for me, I will continue the hunger until the end. I will not go to any hospital, clinic, or treatment facility. Maybe my corpse will come out of here, but I will not stop the hunger. My right to freedom should be recognized. They wanted to inject serum to support my body, but I refused!” Hajiyev thanked everyone who supported him. Hajiyev’s mother, Solida Movlayeva, said in an interview that if something happens to her son, the president and the interior minister will be personally responsible.
The chairperson of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli said that the regime shows its desperation by sentencing activists on trumped-up charges. Karimli’s Facebook post: “The danger to Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s life is real. The authorities should understand that condemning a political activist to gradual death, abusing his rights, and imprisoning him shows the regime’s weakness, not its strength. Self-confident and self-reliant politicians and statesmen would not be cruel. Cruelty, if any, is necessarily the result of fear and weakness. Do not destroy Bakhtiyar Bey and harm this nation or yourself personally. Release Bakhtiyar Hajiyev immediately!”
The US State Department, the European Union, and the European Commissioner for Human Rights also called the Azerbaijani authorities to release Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. Human Rights lawyers and independent journalists have repeatedly urged the government as the activist’s health is deteriorating even more, every single day.
Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Tofig Yagublu said that under current circumstances, the political prisoners have no option other than a hunger strike to protest against their illegal imprisonment. Yagublu: “These people, whom Ilham Aliyev personally slandered and imprisoned, have no legal means to protect their rights. If law enforcement agencies and courts act as the king’s punitive apparatus, those people have no choice but to go on a hunger strike to demand their rights to freedom. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev for 35 days, Elnur Hasanov for 11 days, and Alizamin Salayev have been on hunger strike in prison for eight days because Ilham Aliyev did not give them any chance to fight for their rights.”
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli said that by not releasing Hajiyev, the regime aims to intimidate the public and suppress independent voices. “Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s hunger strike is an event that reveals the essence of the government. Bakhtiyar‘s case is no longer only political but a human drama caused by violence, cruelty, and lawlessness carried out in the name of the state. They force the man to death, and they want him to die. Because they think that if he dies, more people will be afraid and keep quiet. They think that if they let him go, they would be retreating, which means they don’t have the power to crush him until he dies. One of the things they need most today is a lie, and the other is to trample humanity and scare more people and convince them of their ruthlessness. Today, this dangerous mentality has captured not only Bakhtiyar but also our future and condemned it to futility. Your silent behavior every day leading to Bakhtiyar‘s death feeds the regime’s politics of fear.”
In Berlin, a group of political immigrants demanded freedom for Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and all political prisoners in front of the office of the German Foreign Ministry and Amnesty International.
Activist Ilkin Rustamzadeh said that the regime uses the current situation for its own interest as the public is now more concerned with the earthquake and rescue works in Turkey. “The government, seeing that the world and the society are focused on Turkey, arrested Elzamin Salayev, a member of the APFP on trumped charges. Maybe you could raise your voice against this? I have not seen a single person who says it is not the right time to talk politics would raise his voice against injustice even in normal times.”
According to the latest report by Reporters Without Borders, Azerbaijan ranks 154th in the Media Freedom Index, while neighboring Armenia ranks 51st. Activist Shemshad Aghayev said that with such a record and under current circumstances, the government would not be able to convince the international community that it would respect the rights of Armenians in Karabakh. “How can you explain to the world that we will recognize the rights and freedoms of Karabakh Armenians? The mentality that brought the country to such a disgraceful state does not even want to think about it…”
The earthquake in Turkey raises questions about building standards in Azerbaijan
According to the Ministry of Emergencies, Azerbaijani rescuers have rescued 45 people from the ruins. Meanwhile, there are some suggestions in the media and social networks that the government should re-inspect the buildings in Baku. Member of the REAL Party Natig Jafarli, however, said that reinspection of the buildings would not change anything if it is done by the same people who had to inspect when those buildings were built. “I think it is an illogical suggestion. By law in Azerbaijan, buildings must be handed over after inspection. If these inspections were carried out normally, if there was no corruption and bribery during the process, everything should be in order. Therefore, taking into account the reality of Azerbaijan, if it is decided that there will be additional inspections, I do not think that the situation can be improved. If these institutions are entrusted with these inspections, they will solve the issue in the same way – bribery and corruption, and this decision will have no practical significance. In addition, there are hundreds of buildings in Baku alone that do not have handover deeds, where citizens have been living there for years, receiving utility services from the state and paying for them. In other words, the state has already indirectly recognized the ownership right to the place where those people live by providing services and receiving money, but they cannot get “kupcha” (a certificate of the property) because the building has not been handed over. Well, if the deed is not issued because the building is unfit for living, why do people live there? If it is fit for living, why are they not given the handover deed?! Is it because construction companies don’t pay bribes, so they can’t get the deed?!”
Chairperson of Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party Gubad Ibadoghlu said that the government should ensure that the construction companies comply with the building standards especially considering the seismic activities in the region. “I believe that residents of high-rise multi-apartment buildings in Azerbaijan have the right to receive information about the earthquake resistance, compliance with standards, and commissioning of their houses. Such certificates obtained from the relevant authorities should be placed at the entrance of the buildings. There is no doubt that they were given by the state authorities in exchange for bribes from the construction companies, but still, the residents knew which state authority and with whose signature such documents were submitted. Another option is for the government to hire a company from Japan to inspect all high-rise buildings and give an opinion. Finally, I think that the legal responsibility related to poor construction should be increased. Punishments should also be made tougher by making appropriate changes in the criminal code. Let’s not forget that the construction tycoon who confessed that he can neither read nor write in Azerbaijani is still engaged in construction work.”
February 14, 2023