Center for National and International Studies



“…When one supports the people – he/she is dubbed as populist, but when the government – pragmatic…”
The FB community focuses on relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, interpreting the exchange of the captured for the map of landmines; shows mistrust and decries the role of Russia; welcomes the communique by G7 addressed to Russia and the campaign on political prisoners by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in connection with the European Football Championship; increasingly airs the problems of the war heroes; are alarmed by the near death condition of the political prisoner on hunger strike Afghan Sadikhov, and decries yet more cases of corruption with international involvement.
Post-war situation. The FB community discusses the recent exchange of 15 captured Armenians for the landmine map of Agdam region by the officials of the two countries. This act was praised by the civil society of Azerbaijan. Earlier there was an appeal of the public figures of Azerbaijan and before that of Armenian society to release the captured Armenian soldiers who had no involvement in criminal activities. The distribution of 97,000 landmines was made available but only in one region, Agdam. The official statement also stresses the role of and expresses gratitude to “the PM of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, US State Secretary Anthony Blinken, Assistant State Secretary on European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, the President of the Council of Europe Charles Michel and the Swedish chairmanship of the OSCE”. The Pashinian statement that he had earlier passed over this map to Russian Foreign minister Lavrov – caused indignation among Azerbaijani public and demands that the latter needed to give an explanation on this matter. People are shocked by the number of landmines in only one region out of 7. They stress the paradox that these land mines were given to Armenia by the “peacekeeper” Russia. They urge the authorities to come up with an official statement on how soon, based on the speed of de-mining, people can return to their homes. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF notes that people are too involved in everyday routine survival issues at the expense of struggle, and urges society to become more politically active so to influence policies in the country, including on Karabagh. The official sources call this exchange of map for the captured another important diplomatic achievement of Azerbaijan. The opposition activist Fuad Gahramanli considers that this exchange was a success of US and EU diplomacy in order to support Pashinian during elections, which is contrary to the interest of Russia. He reminds the readers that Lavrov recently admitted that delimitation works were started on Russia’s proposal and that maps were not given immediately to Azerbaijan once he received them from Armenian party. He anticipates the aggravation of West-Russian relations, with Turkey allying with the West and thus creating a new geopolitical context, which would influence the fate of Azerbaijan authoritarian regime.
The activists share and comment on the anti-Pashinian videos, used by his opponents in the election campaign, showing the future of Armenia under corrupt Azerbaijani institutions if Pashinian wins the elections. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev ironically comments that they threaten the Armenian community not by Azerbaijan’s super modern drones and weapons, but by corrupt police. He jokingly concludes that if the minister sends 3-5 police cars to Khankendi to collect road violation fines, the local Armenian armed forces will all escape themselves without resistance. The activists, journalists and bloggers share news on the increasingly heated election campaign in neighbouring Armenia where the opponents are revealing certain previously unknown information in order to discredit each other, some of which has a relation to Azerbaijan. The Armenian sources – the alleged secret recording of Pashinian in 2018 – report Pashinian saying that “Putin, Nazarbayev, Lukashenka argue that Aliyev understood that Karabagh would never be part of Azerbaijan” and when Aliyev was asked to show the written consensus on this matter, he said that if he showed it now – it would be betrayal of the people. The opposition concludes that this explains why the President is saying now, that the conflict is over, or why did the government lie to people that Turkey would also participate in the peacekeeping mission, but in fact implemented Lavrov’s plan. The e-media also reports that there is already even the shop Bravo which belongs to Aliyev’s family in Shusha, but questions the availability of the local population in the city, as there is no information on how many people returned to the liberated homeland. The commentators argue that there is no discrepancy between these revelations and the statements and actions of Aliyev. Under the disguise of “peacekeepers”, the Russians are building a “Russian-Armenian state” in Karabagh. “This insults dignity and identity of people, except for the president himself”. FB users speculate whether this means that Karabagh was secretly given to Armenia, and share Lavrov’s quotations at “Primakov’s readings forum’: “The status of Nagorno-Karabagh should be resolved with participation of the Minsk group co-chairmen, but now they should focus on stability”. Which is evidence that Russians do not plan to leave the area of conflict. The FB community – activists, leaders and journalists – express extreme concern at the delay of the opening of the corridor to Nakhichevan. Bakhtyar Hajiyev argues that while the planned corridor will connect two parts of Azerbaijan, the Lachin corridor connects Armenia with Karabagh, which is the part of the other country – Azerbaijan. In spite of this, nothing has been done in 7 months since the signing of the trilateral agreement in this direction, while freight and passengers are intensely transported via the Lachin corridor to Karabagh from Armenia. He asserts that if not for public opinion, specifically the July 2020 Karabagh rally, the President would not get back lost territory. Azad soz FB platform shows a video where the flag of Azerbaijan is replaced by the Russian flag in Lachin region. The activists and journalists react with indignation to the Iranian ambassador’s statement that Iranian companies will be developing farmlands in the liberated territories. They recall that for 30 years Iranian companies rented and developed these lands which were under Armenian occupation. The journalist in exile Afghan Mukhtarli says that it seems that everyone is now using these lands except for Karabaghis themselves and stresses that locals should be given private land according to the law, as 80% of the lands should belong to the citizens and local self-government. He argues that Ilham Aliyev disposes and uses these lands arbitrarily, in violation of laws, and it is met with silence. Mukhtarli reminds his followers that the Baku villages followed a similar path. Baku and its villages were “given” to the proxies of Aliyev’s family.
Social issues. There are signs that the authorities are increasingly aware of the problems with the social security of the war veterans, as a result of the social networks campaigns and protests and vigils of their families. The functionary of the ruling party Siyavush Novruzov comments that communal service compensation for war veterans and their families should be increased from 80 to 130 manat and should cover more than 100,000 handicapped. The independent journalists argue that recent debates in the parliament – with 13 MPs voting against the new amendments to the law on the handicapped – were artificial and would not prevent the adoption of a law directed against the rights and interests of the handicapped. The MP Ali Masimli argues in his speech in parliament, that from the provisions based on health indicators of the handicapped, the government should move to the provision for social security – giving jobs not only to the handicapped, but also to the family members, as often benefits are the only source of their subsistence. He attracts attention to the violations of the rights of handicapped in the current attempts to eliminate ‘fakehandicapped registration. The economists and activists comment on the increase in the retirement age for women from 62 to 65 years, noting that many do not live up to this age, which means that many people will in general not receive pensions. The academic Jamil Hasanli attracts attention to the fact that the retirement age over a few years was raised 10 years for women – from 55 to 65 years old. Besides, in comparison with Russian women, this age for Azerbaijani women has come 5.5 years later, which he finds unjustified especially against the statements of President Aliyev, that Azerbaijan is a “social state”. Seymur Hezi of the PFP comments with bitterness that people over 60 work as road sweepers in the country instead of enjoying their deserved retirement. “This government not only does not let people live normally – but neither die normally.” The political and civil leaders continue to attract attention to the poor conditions of the families of the war heroes. Ali Karimli of PFP posts a video with the living conditions of the parents of Colonel Mehman Gambarov, killed in the war, and urges the authorities to stop this shameful situation and instead of funding corrupt multi-million construction projects (such as the new building of the Tax Ministry) to improve the conditions of the families of the war dead and handicapped. The e-media continues to post information about the war-handicapped and their problems. This time it covers the calamities and bureaucratic indifference of twice wounded during the second Karabagh war Rashad Shahverdiyev, who was deprived of insurance and unemployment compensation, and has complained about the small amount of salary allocated, insufficient for subsistence. The head of executive power of Salyan region, Rashad Kerimov, however assured that they are doing everything they can to help the war hero.
International relations. The democratic community closely follows, widely covers and comments on the results of the G7 meeting in Cornwall. They praise the joint communique about Russia, where she is urged to stop her “destabilising” behaviour, provocations and to de- escalate in Ukraine. They also declared their interests to support stable and predictable relations with Russia. Ali Karimli stresses the importance of the US-Turkey meeting and strengthening alliance between the two for the stability and security in the region and in world affairs. He argues that first of all it is important from the point of view of undermining the monopoly of Russia. Similarly, the meeting of Erdogan and Macron will also touch upon the conflict. He stresses that meetings of the two states-Minsk co-chairmen with Turkey is a recognition of her role and a positive factor in conflict resolution. The upcoming meeting of Putin and Biden is discussed on the social networks. Some express concern that any possible agreement between the two in regard to China may take place at the expense of giving away of all FSU space except for the Baltic states to the sphere of influence of Russia. The FB community shares information with reference to Meydan TV, that Turkey’s President Erdogan has announced plans to sign a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan. The Azadlyg newspaper reports the continuous harassment of the Azerbaijani population by eco-migrants Svans in Dmanisi region of Georgia, in spite of the previous incident being resolved. The Ministry of Interior of Georgia reported detention of the 4 Svans on 19th June, who “applied violence” to the 3 young people of Azerbaijani ethnicity. The previous incident took place on 16th May. Natig Jafarli of REAL on the eve of the PutinBiden summit, posts speculations based on the book by George Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman “2034: The Novel Of The Next World War”. He notes that the book reflects the defeat of democracy by authoritarian regimes in periods of crisis and anticipates this topic becoming one of the most important in the upcoming 10 years. An Osmangizi TV programme is devoted to the geopolitical choice of Azerbaijan and increasing pressures for official Baku to choose between its external allies. Osmangizi TV expert Beydulla Manafov argues that Aliyev tells Moscow that he cannot cope with the Turks, while to Turkey – that he cannot cope with Putin.
Human rights. The FB community is alerted to the news that political prisoner journalist Afghan Sadikhov, as a result of a few months’ hunger strike in prison, is nearing his death. It is also deeply saddened by the news that one of the four PDP members who was sentenced to 4 years in prison (provisionally) on trumped-up charges, Seymur Ahmadzade’s underage son, has died. The activists contrast the perceived humanistic behavior of the authorities to the war opponent (releasing the captured) to the attitudes to its own citizens, afforded special cruelty. Ali Karimli calls on society not to be indifferent to the injustice in the country and attracts attention to the beginning of the trial of the second group of Karabagh rally participants, including the activist of the PFP, Asif Yusifli. The FB community decries the sentence of 7 years in prison for the blogger Aslan Gurbanov, read on 15 April by the Court of Serious Crimes, who is charged with “open calls against the state” (article 281 of the Criminal Code) and inciting ethnic, confessional and social hatred via the social networks (article 283.1). He is blamed for stirring up ethnic conflict by posting information about discrimination of Talysh people. The Public Council of the Talyshes of Azerbaijan issued a statement where it is asserted that Gurbanov was publicising the culture, art and literature of Talysh minority of the country. The civil society representatives have issued a statement protesting at the increased discrimination and violence against the LGBTIQ group. The human rights defenders discuss the meetings of three civil society activists with the US Assistant State Secretary Philip Reeker. They criticize their failure to mention the Ter-ter case at the meeting. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov decries Gunel Safarova’s argument that they did not do this because the Ter-ter case is an internal matter of Azerbaijan. He makes a reference to the led by him Line of Defense human rights organization’s statement reflecting crimes against citizens and violation of human rights during the Ter-ter case investigation, including the list of 11 people who died as a result of torture. The activists continue to keep the investigation of the mysterious death of Bayram Mammadov in Istanbul at the centre of attention. The activists, journalists and human rights defenders praise and welcome the human rights campaign #protectourgame accompanying the European Football Championship, part of which is taking place in Baku, UEFA Euro-2020. Arranged by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, it aims at attracting attention to the issue of political prisoners in the country. The activists, journalists and bloggers continue to denounce and publicize the crimes committed during investigation of the Ter-ter case. They post videos of the survivor’s witness statements on their timelines, comment and demand punishment of the state structures responsible for the crime.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev states on his timeline that the demands of the WhatsApp hackers, who allegedly the law enforcement and intelligence cannot find, are the following: 1) not to criticize Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva 2) not to target the Ministry of Interior and the minister Vilayet Eyvazov 3) not to target the Ministry of National security and Ali Nagiyev 4) not to criticize the ruling party YAP. There are also other demands: 1) to post messages non-related to politics 2) to spread posts criticizing Ali Karimli and Ali Insanov.
Economy, governance, corruption. The continuous destruction of small enterprises, national budget and foreign credits by the big state companies – is a popular topic of social networks. The Chamber of Accounts’ report on the budget execution of 2020 reveals that of 6 biggest state companies, all except for one – the Khazar Sea Shipping company – work with losses (their subsidy from the budget being greater than their contribution to it). Besides, they collect payments from the population, while two companies are responsible for more than 20% of the state foreign debt of 3 billion manats – Azerbaijani Railways and AzerSu (Water supply company). Gubad Ibadoglu, the economist and opposition activist, argues that the created Supervisory Boards also bear a formal character. He argues that on top of all that, the rise in tariffs does not eliminate corruption, but leads to the decline of purchase capacity and living standards of the population. The social network quotes the report by OCCRP where another corruption scandal with participation of Azerbaijan government is reflected. It reports that of 350 m dollars contract the Bombardier Transportation Swiss company gave 100 m dollars bribe to the mid-level bureaucrats of the railway authorities of Azerbaijan. The economists pay attention to the disproportionally high percentage of the 2020 budget execution (43.8%) on environment expenditures in the last quarter of the year with 27% only in December and view it as an indicator of misappropriation of budget funds. Gubad Ibadoglu comments that due to SOCAR’s non-payment of the income to SOFAZ, the State Oil company’s debt reached $1b 134m 400. He shows the debt consistently increasing since 2016, reaching its peak in 2020, despite the created agreement protocol between SOCAR, SOFAZ, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economy aimed at addressing this issue. He also comments that many issues on the budget execution of the SOFAZ would be clearer if there was transparency in its work. He recalls that there has not been any answer to his inquiry on the data since 2019, despite appealing twice to the court.
Democracy and power-society relations. One of the activists (Bakhtiyar Hajiyev), who previously complained of harassment by the authorities via the hacking of his mobile and FB accounts, argues that after the journalist Ganimat Zahid, in an act of solidarity, started calling bureaucrats up one by one, asking various non-related questions, his harassment stopped. The people comment on the short term of detention of the person who slapped Emmanuel Macron during his meeting with public – 4 months, and compare it with the life sentence to Shamsi Samadzade, who did the same to prosecutor general Zakir Garalov, and who has served 21 years in prison. Seymur Hezi of PFP observes that “When one supports the opposition – he/she is dubbed as populist, but when the government – pragmatic”. Zaur Usubov, the citizen of Ismayilli region has been under pressure by the employees of the of executive power office for the publicizing the cutting of trees.


June 15, 2021