Center for National and International Studies
“No matter what happens in the world, the expansion of the family government and family business remains the main priority of the Aliyev government.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Anvar Agamalizadeh, a 69-year-old teacher and member ADWP, was detained at a police station for four hours for expressing critical views against the Russian army and Putin during a rally of the party in front of the Russian embassy. After being summoned to the Surakhani Police Department, Agamalizadeh was fired from his job at the Surakhani District Housing and Utilities Department. He worked as a gardener in Neftchilar Park. Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu harshly criticized police brutality during the rally, saying that by using force against peaceful protestors, the government destroyed its own reputation. Ibadoghlu wrote: What is the use of tearing up the Ukrainian flag, which reads “Free Karabakh,” at a rally held by the ADWP in front of the Russian embassy in Baku at a time when Ukrainian flags are being hoisted and cherished in the civilized world? Don’t they understand that they are embarrassing the country in the world? They just think that their master, Putin, will enjoy watching these footages and will say “well done”, and they will renew their oath of loyalty to him.”
Azadliq newspaper reports that the veteran of the Second Karabakh War Bahram Nuriyev, tried to commit suicide. According to the newspaper, the reason for the veteran’s decision to take his own life was negligence and lack of support. Nuriyev was seriously wounded twice in the 44-day war but refused treatment and continued fighting. After the war, he was forced to seek treatment at his own expense but was unable to afford complete treatment. Appeals to the Yashat Foundation for help failed. Out of desperation, he attempted to commit suicide several times. Azad Soz reports that Ilham Asgarov, who returned home from Ukraine after many years, was detained and killed at the police station
The USA Bureau Of Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor shared its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – the Human Rights Reports. According to the report, in Azerbaijan significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by members of the security forces; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country; pervasive problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary interference with privacy; serious abuses in conflict, including enforced disappearances, torture, and other physical abuse; serious restrictions on free expression and the media, including violence against journalists, the criminalization of libel and slander, and harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges; serious restrictions on internet freedom, including blocking of websites; a de facto ban on the rights of peaceful assembly and substantial interference with freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation; significant restrictions on worker’s freedom of association; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.
The report also added that the Azerbaijani government did not prosecute or punish the majority of officials who committed human rights abuses and acts of corruption. Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich said the report could be “the basis for sanctions against a corrupt, human rights-violating ruling elite.” Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli noted that the image of Azerbaijan, according to the US State Department’s 2021 Global Human Rights Report, is so appalling that it is impossible to ignore it in the current new geopolitical realities. Gahramanli argued that the report could be considered an “indictment” filed by the United States against the Azerbaijani government.
Governance and corruption
Meta, a parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, said in a report that it had disrupted an operation of a cyber-spy network in Azerbaijan. According to the report, a hybrid network of cyber espionage activities against civil society activists, journalists, and politicians at the state level has been dismantled in Azerbaijan. The network used various phishing and other methods to hijack social media accounts and create fake profiles and fake reviews. The company says that this hybrid cyber spy and cybercriminal network is managed by a government agency in Azerbaijan. Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reacted to the report, saying that it is a shame for the government agency that was supposed to fight against crimes to be involved in cybercrime.
Hajiyev also added that it is not a secret that the agency within the Ministry of Internal Affairs has long been involved in organizing such crimes against activists and journalists.
On April 12, the Milli Majlis dismissed Elman Rustamov from the Board of the Central Bank. Former chairman of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, Rustamov has been appointed to a new position. He was appointed an adviser to Prime Minister Ali Asadov. The opposition and activists reacted to the dismissal of Rustamov, arguing that with the new appointment, the total takeover of the administration by the Pahayev clan had been completed. Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli said that Taleh Kazimov would be elected chairman of the Central Bank, which will complete the process of transferring the country’s banking system to the control of Pasha Holding. The proposals of Ilham Aliyev on the dismissal of the chairman of the Central Bank, Elman Rustamov, and the appointment of Taleh Kazimov as a member of the Board of the National Bank will be considered by the Milli Majlis. Taleh Kazimov, who will replace 70-year-old Elman Rustamov, who has been the chairman of the Central Bank for 27 years, is the chairman and executive director of Pasha Bank, which is believed to belong to the Pashayevs family of the first lady Mehriban Aliyeva. Karimli added that “no matter what happens in the world, the expansion of the family government and family business remains the main priority of the Aliyev government.”
The Russian Defense Ministry’s use of the phrase “serviceman of the Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces” on its official website has been viewed as a violation of the November 10 statement by the activists and opposition. Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that the statement conveys a message that Russia does not recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and recognizes the Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate entity. Hajiyev argued that, under such circumstances, the Azerbaijani government should demand the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops from Karabakh. Hajiyev wrote: Why does the government interrupts the rallies of those who demand the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan in front of the Russian embassy? If the government (to put it mildly) does not have the courage, then it should let the brave citizens protest the violation of the November Declaration. Otherwise, Russia will continue to spit on the declaration with such statements”.
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov commented on president Aliyev’s recent visit to a school, comparing the state fostered extreme cult of personality around him to the similar practices in authoritarian regimes in North Korea and Turkmenistan. Goyushov wrote: So, Aliyev again made people wait in lines as he headed to an opening ceremony of a public building. In each room of the place where he went, there were two pictures – one of himself and the other of his late father. In terms of mentality, Aliyev is no different from Kim Jong Un and Arkhadag of Turkmenistan. These people have the same totalitarian mentality. But Azerbaijan is not North Korea or Turkmenistan. At least not yet. For instance, what I am writing now here, no one can write in Turkmenistan or North Korea. Not because the average North Korean or Turkmen is more timid than us. Absolutely not. The reason is that between 1988 and 1993, we saw a different system, albeit a relative one, and in those five years, a certain sense of freedom was developed and continued to do so even later. For 30 years, the Aliyevs have been making great efforts to destroy the legacy of those five years, carrying out a series of repressions, arresting people, oppressing them, threatening them with bread and their family, but it is impossible to destroy that legacy.”
Social and Economic Issues
At the meeting dedicated to the results of the first quarter of 2022, president Aliyev said that the incomes in the country have increased by 20%. However, according to the opposition leaders and activists, these numbers are far from reality. Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu doubted the credibility of the official state statistics given the higher rate of inflation. Activist Nigar Hezi said that as Aliyev uses the state budget as his own budget, he certainly feels a 20% increase in income.
Azadliq newspaper reports that the participants of the Second Karabakh War, who were receiving medical treatment in Turkey, said they would be returned to Azerbaijan as the state suspended the funding. According to the veterans, they have been receiving treatment in the Turkish city of Bursa for a year and have begun to see improvement in their health. However, the Yashat Foundation, which finances their treatment, informed them that they would soon be required to return to Azerbaijan before completing their treatment.
Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu criticized the government’s ineffective social policy and neglect of veterans. Yagublu wrote: Ilham Aliyev, who stole tens of billions of dollars from the Azerbaijani people and gave only 11,000 manats to the families of the veterans and martyrs, knows that more than half a million dollars are given to the families of martyrs in Ukraine. He does not want to pay for the treatment of Bahram Nuruyev, a veteran of the 44-day war. Unable to cope with such unfair negligence, Bahram committed suicide. I do not believe that the suicide of the veteran will make Ilham Aliyev feel guilty. On the contrary, in his mind, it is actually better that the veteran killed himself, so that at least the number of the complainants is reduced by one.
April 15, 2022