Center for National and International Studies



“…We have been independent, but not free…”

Post-conflict situation. The FB community is highly concerned with the statement by the ex-commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces Rustam Muradov that the trilateral agreement on 5 year term of their deployment will be extended after its expiry. The opposition and civil society leaders, journalists and bloggers decry “the tradition” of the Russian peacekeepers’ commanders to meet with the Armenian officials, either upon leaving their position, or when starting it. The ex-commander positively assessed his work, arguing that  life in Karabagh has been getting in order, refugees were coming back, “the process has been going on”. The FB community praises support by Azerbaijan of the draft resolution on the situation on the occupied territories of Ukraine at the 76th UN general Assembly. Nahid Jafarov, an activist in exile, the consul of the Oyan Movement, argues in his interview to Meydan TV that Pashinian got rid of the Karabagh problem, so now the conflict should be resolved between Russia and Azerbaijan, as the region is under the Russian control. He was also sceptical about intention of Russia’s peacekeepers to leave after 5 years, “as they did not hurry to arrive to country to leave after 5 years”. Ali Aliyev in his interview on Osmangizi TV argues, that while the new appointee as the commander Kosobokov has an experience in Abkhazia, Russia will repeat the provocations it did in Abkhazia anyway, regardless of who is a commander of peacekeeping forces. The Russia’s policy is that of occupant, he repeatedly asserted. The FB community is involved in discussion about the statement by the US ambassador to Armenia that the status of NK is not determined yet. Many find it contradictory to the official statements by the President Aliyev, that “the issue of status is dead”. They write that the society should convince the foreign states that it will never allow creation of the second Armenian states on Azerbaijan territory, but support giving full guarantees of security and integration of Armenian community of Karabagh as citizens of Azerbaijan. The youth leader Ilkin Rustamzade describes the current policy toward Russia as a failure, as flattering Russia results in her greater insolent behaviour. The journalists, bloggers and civil society leaders reacted with indignation to the news that Azerbaijan asked  Russian peacekeepers not to allow Iran to let trucks with unknown load to pass to the NK territory without Azerbaijan’s permission. They comment, that this is a direct result of loss of sovereignty to Russia. The MP Sabir Rustamkhanli made a highly critical speech in regards Iran’s policies, as well as warned Russia against ambiguity on this issue. “ This is unambiguously Azerbaijan’s territory and whoever enters it- should ask Azerbaijan’s permission”.  Fuad Gahramanli of PFP analyses the domestic threats to the country’s unity. He considers that the influence of the neighbouring states ( Russia and Iran)  is the main threat to country’s security. He considers that Russia’s 5th column is visible, as consists of a group of known personalities. The rest – Russian speaking population – although feels affinity with Russia but not politically, is not organized and would prefer democratic Russia. Iranian influence is more serious, as some of the religious population has a sympathy towards Iran, to the degree that love to Iran becomes constituent part of their religious belief.  The reason of more successful than Russian propaganda of Iran, Gahramanli sees in the concept of  Vilayyeti-Fagih, according to which Ayatollah of Iran is considered the leader of all Shia Muslims. He adds to it gaps and faults in the religious policies of Azerbaijani government, resulting in thousands of young people being educated in Qum, loss of the reputation of the Mosques in Azerbaijan, arrest of the religious leaders of the country etc. He warns that the religious activities in Azerbaijan which are supported by Iran serve not religious but state  interests of Iran.

Situation in Afghanistan. The FB community closely follows events in Kabul, especially the consistent rallies of women for their rights. They share with high concern the materials confirming first steps of the new government there, such as that Taliban prohibited music. Gultakin Hajibeyli comments that this photo of barbarism – of broken musical instruments -as the evidence of their ignorance has scared her. She extrapolated it to the Azerbaijani authorities, who blocked the way to democracy and state building, repressed all freedoms and rights without leaving any space for the civilized alternative. She mentions of course the glorious democratic period of history of Azerbaijan led by M.E. Razulzade, but concludes that “Afghanistan also has not always been as miserable as it is now”.  Natig Jafarli considers that Taliban is sending a message to the US by appointing the day of an oath on the 9/11. He reports that almost all the members of the new government  are in international search list, while 5 are former detainees of Guantanamo.

Events in CIS. Ahad Mammadli of AG party calls the current pre-election situation in Russia the triumph of Putin’s authoritarianism. He states, that after murder of Nemtsov and arrest of Navalni, Putin neutralized pro-Western opposition and left the gap  filled by “a clown Jirinovsky and political impotent Zyuganov”. Ilgar Mammadov of REAL considers that Putin masterly played with Lukashenka. First , spoiled his relations with the West leading to the strict sanctions, and after that  – invited him to Moscow.

Commemoration of 9/11. The FB readers share materials and condemn the terror act of 9/11 of 2001 when the planes hit  towers of the World Trade Center in NY. The opposition leader Tofig Yagublu states on his timeline, that 20 years ago thousands of innocent people were killed in the terrorist act of unthinkable scale. Naturally, powerful US has soon punished the organizers and leaders of this act. In essence, he argues, this act was directed not against the state, but was an attack of the backwardness against the civilization, democracy, prosperity, development. Regardless of the purpose, he concludes, all terrorist acts are unacceptable, should be condemned and should be fought against.  Ramiz Yunus, posting the condemning status on 9/11 writes that “in its reaction to this act the US showed itself as the strong and united nation”. He comments- how dared those terrorists to act on behalf of the whole religion? He also considers that “the time has come for the United States and its allies to reconsider their strategic approaches to the Muslim world and not repeat the mistakes of the past. How could the US all these years continue to support Saudi Arabia, whose special intelligence services and citizens were involved in the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and at the same time worsen relations with Turkey, the only Muslim country in NATO?” Natig Jafarli of REAL, Javid Gara of Ecofront, while condemning any terror, appeal to address root causes of radicalism such as poverty, inequality, unemployment, poor education, injustice. Jafarli brings an example of successful modernization in Islamic World- the reforms of Ataturk in Turkey and argues that the West should implement Marshall Plans for the Muslim states, similar to those in post -war Germany, or reforms in Japan. J. Gara reminds the audience that thousands innocent people were killed during the war of the US in Afghanistan, which was rather a revenge, but which did not address the root causes of the problem. Seymur Hezi  comments, that “when the smoke of  9/11 billowed it revealed the Afghan women with the Taliban pointing guns in their chests”.  He states, that regardless of its scale or geography any terror, fear, violence should be condemned and decried.

Human rights and liberties. The activists continue to denounce the blackmail by means of sex-videos, including those of the bureaucrats. The opposition activist Ali Huseyn argues that regardless of who is the subject of such videos, even if his enemy, the private life is inviolable. “My struggle is the struggle for Freedom, and it is fought at the squares, not in bedrooms”- he concludes. The number of activists report an intensified attack on them in the social networks or via justice system. Tofig Yagublu, Gubad Ibadoglu, Rufat Safarov, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev report various ways of pressure against them such as slander, fake accusations, hacking social network accounts etc. Ibadoglu posts the screenshot of his FB account being hacked and suggests three reasons why it was done. The BIZ TV channel broadcasted the story about SOCAR’s activities in Turkey and the information discrediting the budget machinations, and on top of that Ibadoglu was blaming Russia for increasing violation of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty. He noted that this is the second hacker’s attack on his account since his arrival to London just couple of weeks ago. Yagublu also reports and protests the tortures against the political prisoner Alizamin Salayev.The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov reported the results of the next court hearing of the case of the murder of 10 year old Narmin Guliyeva. He comments that their impression that the suspect Ilkin Suleymanov has nothing to do with this case has only strengthened.  In addition, the parents were giving confusing and contradictory testimonies. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov appeals to Eldar Hasanov , former prosecutor and an ambassador, whose case is now under consideration in the Court on Serious Crimes, not to flatter authorities, but struggle with dignity. He believes that his case is a political request of the authorities, and that’s why they defend him, but notes that if he was accused for his deeds while in his position as a prosecutor, he would not defend him, as the case would be justified. He called the new trend of authorities circulating sex-videos of bureaucrats as means of blackmail, “the porno-coup which started within the government”. The media also reports arrest of  Faramaz Abbasov the commander of the detachment where the “suicide” of the soldier Mammadaga Melikzade was reported  on the 6th September, but what his parents considered to be a murder. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports that despite  he has an information about those who threatened him, police is not interested in detaining these people, in contrary, puts pressure on himself. The reason is that Hajiyev has been helping activists being monitored by Pegasus system to prepare their complaints to the general prosecutor’s office. The journalists report that police violently detained the defender of LGBT rights Avaz Hafizli, who chained himself to the gates of the building of the MIA, but after the “prophylactical” conversation he was let free. The activist community discusses the planned Democracy Summit in the US. The Osmangizi TV argues, that this will be a test of Biden’s policy and Aliyev should not be invited. The media and FB community discusses possible amnesty decree in connection with the approaching Victory Day. The activists and human rights defenders alert the community on the political prisoner Saleh Rustamov getting infected by COVID 19 in prison.

Democracy and power-opposition relations. The activists and opposition leaders share information about and comment on the meeting of the “bus opposition” at the presidential administration. The meeting was called: “A victory. New Realities. A Dialogue.”  It was attended by all parties, except for Popular Front Party, National Council of Democratic Forces and Musavat. Tofig Yagublu ridicules  so called dialogue on the issue of the legislation on political parties. He comments that if the existing law does not work, the  discussions about the new one are meaningless. He argues, that the dire situation in the country is not the imperfect laws, but the way of thinking and governing by Ilham Aliyev. The official speaker at the meeting stressed effectiveness of the  dialogue, noting that 22 parties received offices, and all the leaders were vaccinated. The activists decry the death threats to Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, the youth leader and graduate of Harvard University, resulting from his refusal to delete his critical status about the Chief of the Police Vilayet Eyvazov. Khadija Ismayil, a prominent journalist, comments that while Hajiyev receives death threats for not deleting his critical post about Vilayet Eyvazov, Ilgar Mammadov – the leader of REAL– states that there is a free environment in the country and nobody persecutes or puts pressure on government critics. The latter is also decried by other activists- Tofig Yagublu asks a rhetorical question – If  Mammadov’s  statement  is true- how come he himself was arrested? He calls the parties who participated in the government’s games called “a dialogue”- the “carousel guys”. He asserts that people should understand that the only instance when the authorities may weaken persecution of government critics is when there is a public pressure either inside the country, or from outside by the international community. In all other cases – they will play the imitation games. REAL party reports creation of the new website – “Lets create the republican platform together” .  In reaction to the criticism of their position by consistent opposition the party leaders respond that they introduce their method of activity- guided by vision of a new culture of changing the laws, democratic initiatives etc. The academic and activist Altay Geyushov analyses the nature of the contemporary average citizen on the example of the Soviet astronaut Tereshkova, who has been flattering whoever was in power since the Soviet times, including post-Soviet period, while having her son living abroad in Italy. He argues that she is a perfect embodiment of the mercantile and non-believing Soviet intelligentsia, Homo Soveticus, not unlike the Azerbaijani society now. Because “ we became independent, but not free. We were obedient before, and are still obedient now” concludes Geyushov. The AND – the organization of Azerbaijani activists abroad – under the chairmanship of Ganimat Zahid has elected 9 members of its Mejlis.

Social issues, COVID-19, environment.  The Fb users share their personal experience coping with the pandemic. One  reports that in their apartment building most of the families are infected, except for a few, and they all are involved in self-treatment, as nobody from the health system- clinics and hospitals- is interested in their condition. Javid Gara, the leader of Ecofront organization posted alarming news, that Baku Executive Power started construction of the high-rise on Hazi Aslanov street at the place called  “squares”.  People have been protested there for years defending the trees. The State Employment Agency reported meeting with 9, 228 of 11, 367 war veterans, 4, 785 of whom were provided with jobs, while 2,960 refused of them.1,393 are now in searches for jobs. It assured the public of continuation of the provision with jobs and satisfaction of needs of the families of martyrs and war handicapped.

Governance, economy, corruption.  The economists discuss the budget for the next year. G. Ibadoglu shows that largest planned expenditures are on economic activities, defence and security, while education and social protection follow them. The e-media continues to cover the court hearings on the corruption case of the Ministry of Culture. The witness at the most recent hearing suggested to interrogate the ex-Minister of Culture Abulfaz Garayev. The witness represented the company AzerAgrarTikinti that was consistently winning most profound tenders on restoration of the historical and cultural monuments, including 31 m. manat for the renovation of the building of the Museum of Art. The head of the company is the MP Agalar Valiyev. The FB users also share the news that police sergeant Elshad Abbasov, discredited in connection with corruption,  was fired from his job. The economic expert Azer Mehdiyev describes the decision making process in the country as produced by one person, or a small group with vested interests, and only after the decision is made they start its discussion. As usual,  it appears that many essential factors were not taken into account. As a result, any amendments to these fault decisions are serving not the success of business, but the interests of the executors. He expresses hopes, that the recent decision on education will not follow the similar path. The activists compare the non-attendance of the Olympic complexes in the regions- on the one hand, to the high degree of drug addiction in these regions – on the other. The Azad Soz platform posts material discrediting ruling elite’s corruption scheme in SOCAR by Anar Alizade and his “gang”  against the background of its “begging pennies  from citizens for a Fund of Fighting COVID-19 and Yashat Fund”. Natig Jafarli of REAL argues that not only in the governance at the state level, but in their own businesses the bureaucrats’ management style is illogical and meaningless. As an example he shows the unjustified expansion of the network of the supermarkets Bravo, with shops often located too close to each other. He argues that this expansion has killed thousands of small businesses. The FB community discusses the resignation of the head of TABIB state agency Ramin Bayramli. Some see it as an indication of the failure of the system to deal with the pandemic, and poor governance in general, some- as a positive sign of the emerging ethical behaviour of the young professionals. One of the activists comments, that it is an indication of the abnormal situation in the system of health, and of the ongoing ingroup fighting between TABIB and the Ministry of Health. Habib Muntazir comments with irony, that while the precedent of voluntary resignation in the country is a positive event, people are concerned with what will happen to his unfinished villa at Badamdar settlement.

September 14, 2021