Center for National and International Studies
“Aliyev fails to grasp or perhaps intentionally disregards the fact that there is no greater moral offense or lack of empathy than gaining wealth at the expense of people’s lives and well-being, and at the cost of irreparable damage to the environment…”
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
According to Meydan TV, activist Latif Mammadov was taken from his home at night on July 12. Relatives of Mammadov revealed that he had made a critical comment about President Ilham Aliyev‘s speech at the meeting on July 11, expressing his opinion on the protests in Soyudlu village. It is stated that he was apprehended from his apartment shortly after sharing his comment on social media. Elshad Hajiyev, the interim head of the Press Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, stated that they would provide information if available. Meydan TV contacted Latif Mammadov’s mother, Afa Mammadova, who confirmed that her son is currently being held at the 20th Police Station in Nasimi district, and she is delivering food to her son.
Latif Mammadov is the third person to be arrested for expressing their stance on the protests in Soyudlu village. Previously, former MP Nazim Beydamirli and activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Elmir Abbasov were also detained. However, Elmir Abbasov was released yesterday due to the expiration of his administrative detention. President
Governance and Corruption
During a mid-year cabinet meeting, president Ilham Aliyev addressed the situation in Soyudlu, a village that has been under blockade due to protests against hazardous gold mines in the area. In his first remarks on the matter, the president made statements that sparked controversy. While he acknowledged the negligence and lack of supervision by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, he praised the actions of the police. This led to a justified outcry from the public. Aliyev expressed his disapproval of certain residents’ “inappropriate behavior”, specifically throwing stones at the police. He emphasized that those who “attacked the police” should feel a sense of shame, not only within their families but also in the eyes of the public. The president acknowledged the tolerance demonstrated by the Azerbaijani police while reminding everyone of the sacrifices made by Internal Troops in Karabakh. Consequently, President Aliyev stated that it is unacceptable for anyone to tarnish the reputation of the police force. He made it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated, and he intends to ensure that this message reaches everyone. However, Aliyev did not touch upon the real owners of the gold mining company, referring to it as “a foreign company.”
According to footage captured by journalists in Soyudlu, residents alleged that the gold processing enterprise responsible for the devastation in their lives was owned by Mehriban Aliyeva. These claims are reminiscent of an investigative report titled “Aliyev‘s secret mining empire,” published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) on April 4, 2016. This in-depth investigation, based on the Panama Papers, asserted that “Azerbaijan’s first family gained control over the nation’s most valuable gold, copper, and silver deposits.”
In the first days of the incident, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that the police officers who employed excessive force against the public would face disciplinary action. However, it appears that no such action was taken. This has drawn criticism from opposition members and activists who argue that the head of state, in his speech, seemed to justify repressive measures, violence, and the use of force against the civilian population.
Jamil Hasanli, the Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces, has expressed his observations regarding Ilham Aliyev‘s recent speech. According to Hasanli, it was evident that Aliyev had no intention of holding accountable the policemen who violated the law and employed excessive force against citizens. “It was clear from yesterday’s speech that Aliyev is well aware that the regime he has established relies heavily on the use of police force. As the leader responsible for ensuring the safety of citizens’ lives and property, Aliyev, in the case of the Söyudlu incidents, appeared to align himself not with the innocent individuals affected, such as the elderly women, but with the police officers who used pepper spray and batons against them.”
Ali Karimli, the Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, has also offered his comments on Aliyev‘s speech, asserting that police violence in Azerbaijan is a deliberate state policy. Karimli argues that it is neither surprising nor unexpected that Aliyev defended the policemen who engaged in violence against the elderly mothers in Soyudlu. “Is it surprising and unexpected that Ilham Aliyev defended not the elderly mothers who were abused by the police in Soyudlu, but the policemen who beat them? Absolutely not. Who does not know that Ilham Aliyev personally patronizes police violence in our country? Perhaps the mothers in Soyudlu and other less informed compatriots still did not believe that the head of state would justify the beating of old women and the policemen who beat them. Now they have seen and understood that Ilham Aliyev is not behind the abused elderly mothers, but the police who raised their hand against them. Police violence in the country is not a coincidence or a mistake, but a state policy personally implemented by Ilham Aliyev.”
Exiled journalist Ganimat Zahid condemned the president for his choice of words about the villagers of Soyudlu and for backing the police. “Aliyev fails to grasp or perhaps intentionally disregards the fact that there is no greater moral offense or lack of empathy than gaining wealth at the expense of people’s lives and well-being, and at the cost of irreparable damage to the environment.” Zahid asserts that this lack of education and moral integrity is a reflection of Aliyev himself, who bears responsibility for owning the mine and all its consequences.
Gubad Ibadoghlu, the Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party, also voiced criticism towards the president for both presenting inaccurate statistical data in his speech and disregarding incidents of police brutality. Ibadoghlu: “According to the name of the meeting, the economic and social situation should be the main focus of the discussion, but Ilham Aliyev spoke about the Soyudlu incident rather than the economy. When discussing the economy, the president manipulated statistics. Although the State Statistics Committee’s data indicated a 1.6 percent decrease in industrial production in January-June 2023 compared to the corresponding period in 2022, the president only mentioned a 6.5 percent increase in the non-oil and gas industrial sector. However, official data reveals a continued decline in the industrial sector since last year, which persisted for the first six months of this year. Additionally, the president did not acknowledge a decrease in GDP during this period but only announced a 3 percent increase in non-oil GDP in Azerbaijan.” Moreover, Ibadoghlu criticized President Aliyev‘s characterization of the protesting community in Soyudlu as uncivilized and unenlightened while justifying the actions of the police who mistreated them. “This further demonstrated that the Aliyev regime prioritizes protecting the interests of the police rather than defending the rights of oppressed individuals”, said Ibadoghlu. Regarding the Anglo Asian Mining Company’s operations in the Gadabey field in Soyudlu, Ibadoghlu stated that recent arbitrary actions by the company may lead to the termination of their Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with Azerbaijan, potentially resulting in AzerGold taking over and the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources losing his position. However, he noted that these developments would not bring significant changes to the community in Soyudlu, as protests by Gadabay residents have been ongoing for decades. Furthermore, “if the Anglo Asian Mining Company’s agreement is terminated prematurely, the company may file a compensation case against the state of Azerbaijan”, concluded Ibadoghlu.
The General Prosecutor’s Office has initiated a criminal case related to corruption in the granting of academic degrees. This information was announced by the press service of the General Prosecutor’s Office. The Anti-Corruption Department is currently conducting investigations into the case. As a result of the investigations, Shafa Aliyev, who served as the scientific secretary and a member of the Expert Council on Economic Sciences of the Higher Attestation Commission, has been held accountable for his actions. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, substantial evidence suggests that Shafa Aliyev took advantage of his influence over the decision-making process within his institution. He allegedly granted scientific degrees to officials in exchange for money from various individuals, thus abusing his official powers. Professor Shafa Aliyev received the “Progress” medal in 2009, awarded by the president.
According to Azadliq newspaper, an alarming tragedy has occurred in Imishli involving a 33-year-old villager named Asif Bey Shahverdili and his 4-year-old son. They tragically drowned in a lake that formed as a result of an abandoned quarry located along the banks of the Araz River. Imishli is home to numerous such quarries, and the lack of proper supervision and adherence to safety regulations is evident. These quarry lakes have depths ranging from 15 to 20 meters. The natural course of the Araz River has been disrupted, and it is unusual for it to have sufficient water depth for drowning incidents to occur. The situation highlights the urgent need for improved control and safety measures in the area.
According to the data published by the State Statistics Committee, Azerbaijan can be characterized as one of the least developed nations globally. The report reveals that during the first half of 2023, a staggering 52.0 percent of consumer spending within the retail sector was allocated to food purchases. Such a concerning disparity is typically observed in underdeveloped countries, as opposed to more advanced nations where this figure ranges between 10-12 percent.
July 14, 2023