Center for National and International Studies
“How would fools know, that true patriotism consists in protecting people from this government?” (Bayram Mammadov).
The FB community is disappointed with the results of Russian minister Lavrov’s visit to Baku, shares news and concerns regarding Karabagh, the new mosque project in Shusha, decries another attack on the opposition and the founders of the Republic in the speech of Ilham Aliyev, replies to his irony about Canada in his speech in Nakhichevan, is shocked by the numerous landmines revealed under the melted snow in the liberated regions, supports protest actions abroad in connection with the death of activist Bayram Mammadov, demanding its fair investigation, comments on the official commemoration of the birthday of late president Heydar Aliyev, and closely follows and shows a divide on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian flare-up.
Post-war situation. FB users widely discuss the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Baku. The community shares the perception that this visit is mainly related to the situation in Armenia (the elections) and that Ilham Aliyev prefers to resolve the issues with Russia than directly with Armenia. This is in contrast with the attitude among society who mistrust Russia, often calling Lavrov “an Armenian”, hinting at his alleged family name Kalantarian. The analyst Ali Asgarov, in the programme BIZ, argues that President Aliyev’s statement “the conflict is over” means giving away uncontrolled regions in Karabagh to Russia and Armenia and he suggests that the government acknowledges it. He considers that although Armenia has fallen into greater dependence on Russia, they now have Russia as a direct guarantor of Karabagh’s “independence”. The bloggers and journalists interpret a new statement by the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan about military exercises as a message on a possible anti-terror operation. Osmangizi TV interviewed the son of the late popular poet Bakhtiyar Vahabzade, diplomat Isfandiyar, who very critically assesses the post-war situation in the country and the amplified role of Russia in the policies of the country and in the region. The FB community shares photos and a video of numerous and very densely located landmines which were revealed under the melted snow in the liberated territories. Ilham Aliyev in his speech in Nakhichevan strongly criticises some Western states, such as Canada and France, for intervening in the domestic affairs of Azerbaijan. “What does Canada imagine itself – that she is a superspower? he declared with irony. “Let them go and busy themselves with their own affairs!”
The activists, journalists continue discuss the issue of Iskanders-M. Azerbaijan authorities are in a situation of greater dependency on Russia now, so the latter does not take Azerbaijan’s interests into account. They consider Russia to be not non-partisan, but an ally of Armenia. Russia has an agreement with her, border troops, military bases, etc. The same opinion is held about the Minsk group: that France is an ally of Armenia. But in order to neutralise Russia, Azerbaijan should have established a democratic society and integrated in the EU with the assistance of Turkey. But after the recognition of an Armenian genocide by Biden, there might be a chain of recognition of Karabagh in some states, like it was in Canada or Luxembourg. However, instead of political liberalisation in the country, Azerbaijani authorities increase their repressive trends. Azerbaijan should conduct serious reforms to be able to integrate the Armenians of Karabagh. “The government’s access to the foreign market with natural resources has been a tragedy of Azerbaijan”, said Asgarov. He concluded that the conflict is not over: the region should get rid of Russia, start integration in Europe; Azerbaijan and Turkey should establish direct positive and peaceful relations with Armenia. The activists, journalists and bloggers share a sketch of the mega-project of construction of the new mosque in Shusha with critical comments. The journalist Afghan Mukhtarli (who is in exile after being hijacked from Georgia and imprisoned in Baku in 2017) comments that under the disguise of the construction of a mosque in Shusha, millions will be misappropriated and reminds his followers that to build the mosque named after Heydar Aliyev some time ago, the budget allocated was 1b manats (at a time when 70 qepik was equal to $1). The pro-government MPs suggest that the new mosque should be named after late Heydar Aliyev. The FB community continues to exchange emotions and sentiments related to the liberated regions, for many of whom they were lost homelands, which were strengthened by the restoration of the pre-war music festival in Shusha “Khari-bul-bul”. One of the oldest types of Azerbaijani Mugams – traditional singing – originated in Karabagh, the talent of which, in spite of its complex nature, extends to the children. The name of the festival Khari-bul-bul is taken from the name of the flower, also specific only for Karabagh. (“Bul-bul” means nightingale). They also grieve the division of the whole of Karabagh. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev comments that Khankenid can be clearly observed from Shusha and that one day there will be a waving of the national flag too. There is a growing dissatisfaction caused by the contrast between president and his family’s frequent posing for photos in Karabagh/Shusha on the one hand, and the dire state of social and health issues of the war veterans on the other.
The FB community reacts with irony, cartoons, comments etc. to the statement of President Aliyev regarding Canada, where he denigrates its influence and importance in response to the Foreign Ministry’s statement.
Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR argues that the two Azerbaijani officials seeming to play at the “good cop, bad cop” with President Aliyev showing “an iron fist” and addressing the domestic audience, and with the Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, speaking about the integration of the Armenians – who sends messages to the foreign diplomats. The losers are the Azerbaijani people, as they are not aware of the true situation. The foreigners, however, know very well that this divergence is only the cover, but in reality, the President is ready for negotiations and that’s why they are bringing in the Minsk group again. So the winner is the autocratic government at the expense of people.
The eco-activist Javid Gara expresses high concern at the new wave anti-Azerbaijani campaign of the Armenians, asserting the Azerbaijani army is preparing to capture Zangezur. He states that Azerbaijan does not have any territorial claims to Armenia, moreover, it do not have control over all of its territories.
Human rights. The activists and journalists celebrate 10th May (birthday of late Heydar Aliyev) called by officials the Festival of Flowers as “The day of Bayram and Giyas”; the authors of graffiti on the pedestal of the statue to the late president Heydar Aliyev in 2016, and name it the Festival of Slaves. FB users share the ironic wishes: Happy Festival of Slaves – to commemorate the death of youth activist Bayram Mammadov. The e-media continues to publish new details of tortures in the Ter-ter case. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF argues that a society which keeps silence about Ter-ter’s savage tortures does not have a future. Ganimat Zahid considers that there is no difference between Canada’s attitude to Azerbaijan on the one hand, and of Aliyev’s attitude to Azerbaijani people – on the other. The FB community still keeps at the centre of attention the fact of brutal police violence against older women while dispersing the rallies on 7th May.
Democracy and power-society relations. People continue to mourn the mysterious death of Bayram Mammadov. Ruzgar Movsum shares the quotation from Bayram Mammadov published by Statuskar: “How would fools know, that true patriotism consists in protecting people from this government?” with the comment: “You have been bearing inside of you a load of pain bigger than yourself, brother… Rest in Peace.” The journalist Shamshad Aga analyses the effectiveness of “FB only” activities. He argues with pessimism, that so far the statuses posted on FB have not changed anything in reality, and that the country will change only when FB activities will start having an effect on real developments. The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, while praising the messages to Khankendi in the speech of the President in Shusha, suggested that besides these messages, there should be proposals of building a better governance system with articulated freedoms and rule of law. The activists, opposition leaders and journalists refer to and comment on the birthday of the late president Heydar Aliyev in a highly critical way. Beydulla Manafov from exile discredits the range of myths about the late president based on his personal experience. Prominent Azerbaijani historians, participating in an Osmangizi TV programme – Jamil Hasanli, Eldar Abbasov and other political commentators defy the statement by President Aliyev that “Irevan/Yerevan was given to Armenians by Rasulzades”. Dr. Eldar Abbasov argues that at this time the whole Caucasus belonged to the Russian empire, so Azerbaijani leaders could not give away a city which did not belong to the country. He quoted, with reference to J. Hasanli, the 1897 census in Irevan which shows an approximately equal share of the Azerbaijani and Armenian population, while by 1916 – already an increase of the Armenian population to 75%. Dr. Jamil Hasanli explains that Ilham Aliyev never collects opinions of experts and historians – on the contrary, he gives a political order to the historians and expects their execution. This political order is part of a major attempt to create an artificial cult of personality of Heydar Aliyev and delete all the memories related to Rasul-zade and the pre-Soviet history of Azerbaijan. Increasing blame levied on the founders of the Republic for the losses in the conflict with Armenia is the result of failure to create a cult of the late President Aliyev, because unlike Ataturk, De Gaulle, Washington, he was a chief of the KGB. FB users share and comment with irony on the photo of some representatives – heads of the creative unions, such as Union of Writers, etc, bending over by the grave of the late President Aliyev. The functionary of the ruling party YAP, Siyavush Novruz, calls Nakhichevan the “Land of Stability and Development”. He argues that this is one of the most advanced regions in Azerbaijan and notes the importance of the visit of Ilham Aliyev there on 10th May – the birthday of his father Heydar Aliyev, where he participated also in the ceremony of the opening of the new military airport. He stressed Aliyev’s attention to the building of the new infrastructure, including the corridor to Nakhichevan via “our old land, Western Zangezur”. The young people continue to protest and attract attention to the mysterious death of Bayram Mammadov in Turkey by staging vigils and painting graffiti abroad.
Governance, economy, corruption. The country has spent two academic years in closure, but no online or distance education programs have been introduced, comment the activists, while the students were fully charged for it. The experts and journalists discuss the situation with private and public education, with an annual cost of education at private schools ranging from 7,000 manats to 40,000 manats. Some activists and journalists show their scepticism regarding the idea that the government will take into account the advice and proposals of the opposition in the reconstruction of the liberated territories. Tofig Yagublu calls the musical festival in Shusha ridiculous in the absence of the local population of Azerbaijanis from Shusha, who still did not get a chance to return to their home-city. Jamil Hasanli critically analyses the project of the building of the new Mosque in Shusha. First, he considers that the harmony between the minarets and the building of the Mosque is violated; 2) the minarets look like missile rockets; 3) Islam has always been against wastefulness, so such a luxurious construction contradicts the fact of thousands of poor and deprived in the country. He refers to the history of Shusha, which was a city of mosques. There were 17 mosques, 2 Armenian and one Russian orthodox church. He suggests that the budgetary resources planned for the mega mosque project would be better spent on the restoration of old Shusha, because the main attraction of Shusha is its old Fortress town.
Relations with Russia. The activists argue that Ilham Aliyev has pushed himself to the corner vis-à-vis the increasingly isolated Putin regime – he cannot come too close or be too distant from it. The author Rafig Manafli, in his article for Azadlyg newspaper, asserts that Aliyev has no right to lead this nation because he allowed Russian peacekeeping troops to conduct a military parade on its territory. He lists all the countries where Russia has peace-keeping forces – Belarus – RLS Volga 2,000, Armenia – 5,000, Abkhazia – 4,000, South Ossetia – 4,000, Moldova -1,500, Tajikistan – 7,500, recalling figures of 1,600 in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992-2003, and 3,600 in Kosovo, but nowhere do they dare to conduct a military parade. The newspaper also reports that Turkey’s military has boycotted the Russian peacekeepers’ parade in Karabagh, so the joint monitoring centre was represented only by the Russian general Victor Fedorenko.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The local e-media report casualties on both sides during the ongoing escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Meydan TV reports that as a result of the aviation raids from Israel, 56 Palestinians, including 14 children, were killed, while more than 300 were wounded, and 6 people were killed on the Israeli side. There is a diversity of views on who is to blame. The dominating part supports Israel, referring to its support of Azerbaijan during the war with Armenia, sharing photos of the religious leader of Armenians kissing Arafat, quoting the alliance and support of Palestinians for Armenians. Some share images of mass rallies in Turkey in support of Palestinians, calling for the support of fellow Muslim Palestinians. The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil ironically comments: “I will tell you a secret: nobody cares what we think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
May 14, 2021