Center for National and International Studies
“Iran sees Azerbaijan as Israel’s main partner in the region, and Tehran has repeatedly stated that Azerbaijan-Israel cooperation is a threat to the Islamic Republic…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Freedom House shared its annual world report, which said that Global freedom declined for the 17th consecutive year. According to the report, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have imposed additional restrictions on media organizations and journalists, and new legislation requires foreign online platforms to register as local legal entities. Azerbaijan is on the list of the “worst of the worst” countries that have the worst aggregate scores for political rights and civil liberties. “Power in Azerbaijan’s authoritarian regime remains heavily concentrated in the hands of Ilham Aliyev, who has served as president since 2003, and his extended family. Corruption is rampant, and the formal political opposition has been weakened by years of persecution. The authorities have carried out an extensive crackdown on civil liberties in recent years, leaving little room for independent expression or activism. Azerbaijan won control of a third of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh along with some adjacent land during a weeks-long conflict with Armenia in 2020, at the cost of over 2,700 soldiers.”
Jailed activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev commented on the leaked private messages saying that the alleged correspondence happened at least ten years ago, and many of them were forged. His lawyers are investigating the originality of the exchanged texts and photos that were shared on social networks.
Member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Alizamin Salayev, who has been on hunger strike for 33 days, has not been hospitalized despite his deteriorated health and his lawyer’s request for medical treatment. Chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli said that the regime is responsible for Salayev’s health and should release him immediately. “Ilham Aliyev is personally responsible for Alizamin Bey’s life. However, this fact does not exempt us from responsibility. Let’s not forget that the regime declared Bey Alizamin an unofficial enemy precisely because he tried to protect the honor of a helpless Azerbaijani woman in Salyan. Alizamin Bey was accused and arrested two times on criminal charges and countless times with administrative violations precisely because of his activism. Alizamin Bey is one of the brave fighters who fight for the rights of our people at every opportunity. And now it is the turn of our people to defend their brave son Alizamin Bey.”
In less than ten days, around a hundred suspected persons have been arrested in connection with their alleged relations with the Iranian government. Ten people were arrested for visiting the grave of the political prisoner Sabuhi Salimov, who passed away after 50 days of hunger strike in prison. The authorities did not allow Sabuhi Salimov’s funeral to be held.
Most of those arrested were charged with using and selling drugs. Activists and human rights defenders argue that the arrested people were accused of spying for Iran, and there has not been any formal investigation or court order.
Governance and Corruption
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Azerbaijan issued a joint statement saying that on March 11, from 09:44 to 10:26, a military plane belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran flew continuously along the Azerbaijan-Iran state border from Zangilan district to Bilasuvar district.
It was reported that the plane flew between the two countries at a distance of 3-5 km from the state border, and in some cases, over the state border. “Contrary to the internationally accepted practice of warning the neighboring state in advance about the approach of military aircraft to the state border, the military aircraft of the Islamic Republic of Iran so close to the state border between the two countries and flying over the border line threatens the safety of civil aviation and the relations between the two countries”, said the statement. The statement called the incident “a provocation and unfriendly behavior” and called on the Iranian side to provide an appropriate explanation and “refrain from such provocative steps in the future.” Iran conducted large-scale military exercises along the Araz River near the borders of Azerbaijan last year. In the statement, it was also mentioned that Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Seyid Abbas Mousavi was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli commented on the statement saying that news about the increase in military consultations between the United States and Israel and the preparation of a military action plan against Iran is increasing Tehran’s anxiety. Gahramanli’s Facebook post: “The purpose of the military plane’s flying along our state border is to threaten the state of Azerbaijan through the use of force. Iran sees Azerbaijan as Israel’s main partner in the region, and Tehran has repeatedly stated that Azerbaijan-Israel cooperation is a threat to the Islamic Republic. Last year, Iran sent a clear message to Azerbaijan with the military exercises conducted along the Araz River that if the international coalition starts military operations against it, Tehran will turn Azerbaijan into a military target for itself. And now, with today’s incident, Iran is once again sending a message to Israel and the United States through Azerbaijan that in case of airstrikes, Tehran’s self-defense strategy also includes a plan to start regional wars. In this regard, choosing Azerbaijan as a target aims to punish Israel’s ally in the region and strike at the West’s energy interests. Presumably, the earthquake in Turkey encouraged Iran to resort to such an adventurous threat against Azerbaijan.”
According to the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, Russian peacekeepers continue illegal activities with Armenians in the Karabakh region. “The movement of military vehicles carrying personnel of Armenian armed forces and illegal Armenian armed groups, accompanied by the Russian peacekeeping contingent, along the Khankendi-Khalfali-Turssu road, was recorded by the technical surveillance tools of our units”, the statement of the Ministry said.
Journalist Habib Muntazir reports that, colonels of state customs service Rashad Babayev and Shukur Safarov, who were arrested last year for taking a large amount of bribe, have been released. The colonels were released as they fully paid the damage caused and returned the stolen funds to the budget, the court verdict said. Rashad Babayev is a relative of Sahil Babayev, minster of Social Protection, and his brother Ramig Babayev is an employee of the General Prosecutor’s Office. Shukur Safarov was awarded by president Ilham Aliyev with the “Distinction in Public Service” medal a few years before the embezzlement accusations.
March 14, 2023