Center for National and International Studies
“Under no circumstances are Azerbaijanis allowed to assemble; they are only allowed to suffer, in the opinion of this regime…”
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
Gubad Ibadoglu‘s mistreatment in detention persists in a manner that risks his health. According to Galib Toghrul, Ibadoglu‘s brother, the administrators at the Kurdakhani Detention Center are refusing to disclose the findings of the medical examination and blood tests conducted on Ibadoglu, providing various excuses to deny access to this information for his legal team. Toghrul said that if they were granted access to these results, they could engage with the London-based physicians who have been diligently monitoring his brother’s health over the past two years. On the day he was brought before the Narimanov Court, Ibadoglu appeared alarmingly frail; his body temperature had remained consistently high for 3 days. Notably, Mr. Gubad‘s blood sugar levels, which had been elevated to 2-3 times the normal range for the past 20 days, had plummeted to 4 today. This dramatic fluctuation in blood sugar poses a significant and potentially life-threatening risk. Compounded by inadequate oxygen supply and disruptions to the nervous system, his arterial pressure continues to remain unstable.
Moreover, in another update on Ibadoghlu, Toghrul said that his brother is not allowed to talk to his family members. “During the 20 days of his detention, my brother has not been able to meet his family, and telephone contact with his children studying in Europe has been banned, we cannot give him books and magazines, as they do not accept them. Psychological pressure against Gubad Ibadoglu continues!”
Lately, couriers have found themselves in the crosshairs of the regime, resulting in the arrest of four individuals from the “Workers’ Table” advocacy group defending the rights of couriers. Additional pressure is being exerted on other couriers who are demanding fair pay. Aykhan Israfilov, a member of the Board of Directors of the Workers’ Table, was sentenced to 4 months of imprisonment by the decision of the Narimanov district court. Israfilov was accused of selling drugs. Before that, Elvin Mustafayev, another member of the Board of Directors of the “Workers Table”, was arrested on the same charge. Afiaddin Mammadov, the Chairman of the group, has already been sentenced to 30 days in prison.
One of the couriers, Orkhan Zeynalov, turned to social media to share his rather sad story as a courier and the harassment he has faced. According to Zeynalov, he found himself chased by civilian law enforcement, compelling him to go into hiding to evade arrest as he had to support his family. Zeynalov’s Facebook post: I started to boycott Wolt while working with them. The tariff for each delivery was reduced from 2.50₼ to 1.50₼. Upon this decision, I announced that I would be offline and not work if the company did not raise the tariff. Thousands of couriers joined the boycott. There was support from the media and the activists. Everything started after that boycott. Since then, I started to notice that I was being followed. Because the Workers’ Table Trade Union always kept the boycott on the agenda and provided both moral and legal assistance to the couriers. About a year ago, I was arrested on the pretext of a comment I posted on Facebook. First, there was a preventive conversation. They said that, you did not violate the code of ethics in your status, you expressed yourself normally, and we know that you have freedom of expression. But for certain reasons, you have to delete that status. I was sentenced to 30 days in detention. On August 1, 2023, a courier boycott was instigated. The new regulation mandated the couriers to acquire a driver’s license and affix a state registration plate to their vehicles. Anticipating potential repercussions due to my courier role and considering my involvement in the previous boycott, it seemed plausible that it would lead to arrest. Nonetheless, I supported Afiyaddin, denouncing his detention. Since yesterday, I tried to hide in various places in the streets until 4 am. Now I’m at my friend’s house. I know that my hiding is pointless. But what should I do, after all, if I come out, I will be charged with drug accusations. Is it my fault to post on social media in someone’s defense? How do I know that tomorrow, while I am on the road, I won’t be hit by a car and killed? Can I leave the country and apply to some embassy to protect me? What should I do now?”
Journalist and activist Mehman Huseynov expressed his support for the couriers calling the public to actively defend their rights. “The country called Azerbaijan is sinking. I am once again convinced that they are destroying the youth in Azerbaijan. Many talented and capable young people are working as couriers today. They are forced to do this hard work to earn a piece of bread. They deliver food here and there in the scorching heat of the sun. And now, the government hindered the job of these couriers and introduced new rules. They do not want to allow the couriers to earn money and take it home. Several couriers gathered and protested against the new rules imposed by the government on couriers. Some of those couriers have already been accused and arrested on false charges. Can you say that this government is so cowardly that fights against 3-4 couriers? Yes, it is a coward. They don’t want 3-4 people to organize and talk about rights and justice. That’s why they are trying to eliminate these people. They put drugs in the pockets of those couriers and arrest them.”
Commenting on the arrests of the couriers, exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that the Aliyev regime targets those young people as they tried to raise awareness about the violated rights of the workers. “The Worker Table is the only independent Trade Union founded by young people in Azerbaijan. In fact, it is the only organization that protects the rights of workers. The Aliyev regime is afraid of any alternative. Ilham Aliyev considers any protest, protester as his enemy. That’s why The Workers Table is the target of the authorities.”
Member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Fuad Gahramanli said that even a smal debate about the rights and freedoms scares the regime and that’s why it is trageting the young couriers. “Because the issue of workers’ rights and freedoms of employees is considered the most massive platform for organizing people outside of politics. The workers’ rights unions know the depth that the political parties cannot reach, they are able to raise the demands and aspirations of the workers and mobilize thousands of people. That is why the authorities react so aggressively to the protection of workers’ rights in Azerbaijan, and they treat the members of the “Workers’ Table” created on the platform of the trade union as dangerous criminals. Under no circumstances are Azerbaijanis allowed to assemble; they are only allowed to suffer, in the opinion of this regime. In fact, they made the law on parties more difficult in order to prevent the public to organize. It doesn’t matter to the authorities, all forms of assembling, whether based on political claims and demands or with the aim of protecting workers’ rights against exploitation and labor rights, seem dangerous to the current regime. That’s why the government resorted to very harsh methods of punishing the “Worker’s Table”. In the current case, the fact that couriers, who have the opportunity to work more freely, can be an example for other segments of society to mobilize. Therefore, the authorities are trying to disrupt this process with repressions.”
“Being a writer has more downsides than upsides. Of course, if you express your free opinion, there will be persecution and oppression. I don’t think it’s right to avoid it. I will continue to write.” This was said by activist and writer Samad Shikhi, who was taken to the Absheron District Police Department. According to him, at the police station, he was asked to delete the posts he wrote about the events in Soyudlu.
Political commentator Arastun Orujlu addressed the dire conditions within prisons, suggesting that these circumstances could potentially lead to a significant uprising among the inmates. “In Azerbaijan, the criminalization of the authorities has become so common that not only the state institutions do not react to it, even the society itself does not react to it. In such circumstances, it is completely natural for bandits to become even more violent. As a result, the situation in the penitentiary institutions has reached a dramatic level, and with this move, we will witness bloody uprisings in those institutions. But it’s a pity that when these uprisings happen, thanks to paid propagandists, fake opinion creators and trolls, the responsibility for it will be placed on the prisoners. However, as a society, we are all responsible for the hellish conditions in prisons. Not only because we are silent. We are all responsible if maniacs like Babek Iskanderov, who is otrturing our imprisoned compatriots, and robbers like Mehman Aliyev, who is his boss, go unpunished in this society, if they live comfortably without fearing anything for their actions, and if they feel completely safe.”
The Washington Post has once again featured an article in support of Gubad Ibadoglu, this time written by Richard Kozlarich, the former US ambassador to Azerbaijan from 1993 to 1997. Kozlarich emphasizes the crucial role of international media attention in shedding light on the egregious human rights violations occurring in Azerbaijan. Despite appeals for Ibadoglu‘s release from the US Embassy and the State Department, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, leaving his life in peril. The former ambassador also called for sanctions against Azerbaijani officials responsible for his illegal arrest and continued detention. “We have done this in the case of Russian officials. Azerbaijan’s authorities act with impunity. The United States must take the lead in showing there are consequences for continued violations of human rights”, said the article. Moreover, the diplomat argued that Furthermore, Ibadoghlu’s arrest is a continuation of a prolonged sequence of suppression aimed at individuals who dare to criticize the autocratic kleptocratic regime in Azerbaijan. Speaking of the strategy that the Aliyev regime uses, the author said that it involves fabricating unsubstantiated “offenses” to target political adversaries, followed by forceful apprehension of the alleged “offender,” mistreatment and intimidation of innocent family members, deprivation of legal counsel and communication, and confinement of the accused within deplorable prison conditions, which often involve instances of torture.
August 15, 2023