Center for National and International Studies
“…I am not a bandit, I am not a criminal, I am not a corrupt bureaucrat..!”
The FB community remains keenly concerned with the Russian peacekeepers’ activities, comments on the release of the Lebanese Armenian female sniper, decries tortures given to the PFP activist Niyamaddin Ahmadov and severe stabbing in the group attack of the young blogger in exile in France, Mahammad Mirzeli, demands the release of political prisoners and restoration of child benefits; questions the reliability of COVID-19 statistics and are puzzled by the arrest of the pro-government figure Ata Abdullayev.
Post-war situation. The FB community shares with indignation the news about the award ceremony of at least 10 military personnel by the leader of Karabagh Armenians, Araik Arutyunian, on 10th March. They note that all of them are listed as members as terrorist group VOMA, including its leader Vova Vartanov, and given for search. This group is charged with arranging explosions, arson and crimes committed with special cruelty in various regions of the country. The group represents itself as the Youth Patriotic-Military Education organization. The question is asked: how did the Russian peacekeepers let the military get through to Karabagh? and that official Baku should demand an explanation. Many find it in contradiction with the agreement on 10th of November, that the Russian peacekeepers not only promoted withdrawal of Armenian forces, but actually help them to create an army under leadership command of Vitali Balasanian. They decry the silence of Baku in response to these developments. FB users continue to share information about neglect of the needs of the war heroes by bureaucrats, giving as an example most recent behaviour by head of executive of Syazan region. Arif Hajili of Musavat reports “two important events” in the country – release of the enemy sniper and terrorist Lebanese Maral Najarian, and tortures given to Azerbaijani activist Niyamaddin Ahmadov. Hajili demands the Azerbaijani authorities provide explanations for both events. The other journalists also note that the release of the Lebanese female sniper Najarian was not accompanied by publicity, although that was a proof of foreign fighters on the Armenian side. Moreover, it looks like the issue was deliberately overshadowed by the secret recordings of local feminists in the post-8th March rally. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev suggests the ministry of interior and national security should focus on the treats and risks related to the Karabagh conflict instead of monitoring the telephone calls of the local activists. The e-media reports a planned official visit of the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Ann Linde, who is chairing OSCE, for a series of meetings with officials, and civil society, in regards to the Karabagh conflict. The Baku Research Institute has published an article “Is Karabagh status as important?” by the Swiss Armenian scholar Viken Cheterian, where he presents his view on the Karabagh conflict and suggests that while the Karabagh status is not resolved, it may not have the same importance as before.
Social issues. The activists compare the living conditions for the Russian peacekeepers and Azerbaijani soldiers in the same region, which are not in favour of the latter. They describe barracks with perfect conditions for Russians, where they not only sleep, but also have perfect facilities for sports, leisure etc. Fuad Gahramanli demands that the authorities report to people why Azerbaijani troops have such poor conditions in Karabagh. Gultakin Hajibeyli attracts attention to twin sisters – the underage children of the political prisoner Agil Maharramli and demands to restore child benefits, as this is a basic right of all children to be protected by the state, especially those whose fathers are persecuted and arrested by the authorities. The Azadlyg newspaper writes about a new “creative” way of extorting fines from the citizens – police enter the peripheries of the Baku capital in civilian cars and fine those without masks.
Human rights. The opposition, journalists and bloggers decry the brutal attack on the blogger Mahammad Mirzali, who has received multiple injuries as a result of the stabbing by 6 people in Paris, where he is in exile. While the majority of leaders also denounce his blogging method – often by cursing the president and his family – they react with indignation to the persecution of the young activist, whose condition is hard and who is in hospital in Paris. Two court cases have been opened against him in France – one by the Azerbaijan embassy, the other by the wife of SOCAR’s president. He was shot near his house a few months ago and was lucky to survive. A few days ago, a secretly recorded sex video of his sister with her groom was used to put pressure on him. Osmangizi TV broadcasted the programme with 6 bloggers – Mahammad Mirzeli (Made in Azerbaijan), Orkhan Agayev (Huseyn TV), Suleyman Suleymanli (PAZ TV), Imaddadin Alimanov (Khalg TV), Manaf Jalilzade (Diktator TV), and Gabil Mammadov (End to Repressions), who argued that the government had started “hunting” for bloggers in exile. Ali Karimli of PFP reminds his followers that earlier the bloggers Gabil Mammadov and Orkhan Agayev (who was beaten by 6 people) were also attacked. He regrets and decries that some bloggers use the swear and insult language, but denies categorically that its response should be by knife, a gun or a fist. He asserts that physical attack on bloggers in exile is a crime. He calls on the European governments not to close their eyes to the deeds of criminal groups close to the Azerbaijani authorities. He states that everyone knows that the language of insult and swearing in politics was brought on by this government. Karimli argues that people understand that unless Ilham Aliyev changes himself, nothing will change for the better in the country, and that the current process of “reforms” is the replacement of the old “hungry” cadres with new “hungry” ones. Afghan Mukhtarli also recalls that 31st December last year another political immigrant – Vugar Rza – disappeared in Belgium and 15 days later his dead body was found in the river. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP argues that violence is also globalized as corruption – politics being openly conducted in a criminal way. The activists decry the slander campaign featuring the scholar and youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev in a fake video. They also report the detention of the PFP activist Tofig Mammadov, who was giving an interview about social problems in the country in front of the National Parliament (Milli Majlis), while waiting for the reception of the Astara regional representative there. He was taken away in a police car in an unknown direction.
FB also reports a protest action on the part of the former dwellers of Sovetski street (the area which was demolished) demanding adequate compensation for their houses, saying “Let them sell their villas and pay people’s compensation!” The human rights’ defender Elchin Mammadov’s family reports his transfer to prison the Penal Colony#14 in Garadag region, with high concern due to his poor health and hard conditions in that colony. The activists, journalists and bloggers continue to decry tortures and arrest on trumped-up charges of the PFP activist Niyamaddin Ahmadov. Jamil Hasanli, the opposition activist and historian posted the testimony of Ahmadov at the court hearing where he describes the tortures. He reports the application of force all through the process of detention – by his house, at the Khatayi regional police office No.34, and while he was at Binagadi detention centre. His head was covered by a black bag and he was taken to the State Security Service office. They demanded him to testify against Ali Karimli as if he were guilty of receiving money from Germany and giving it to Karimli, but Ahmadov refused to sign any fake confessions. Then he was beaten up for hours in some robber room and in the end transferred him to solitary confinement. The investigators Ramig Babayev and Orkhan Babayev told him to read the written text to the camera and then he would be released. When he refused, he was threatened to be imprisoned for 10-14 years. But Ahmadov resisted. He was refused his legal defence and was given one by the authorities.
The activist Gultakin Hajibeyli reports that unexpectedly, the Baku Court of Appeal has satisfied her complaint and allowed her son, who was accepted to the University in Germany, to leave the country. She expressed her gratitude to all media who regularly covered the issue, and the community for their support. A famous blogger Mehman Huseynov was detained, along with his colleague Ulvi Hasanli, on his way back from the video session of the bureaucrat’s villa and taken to the police station and then to the so-called “Bandotdel”, department of the fight with organised crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This was received with big concern, indignation and support for those arrested all over FB. Arif Hajili of Musavat praised the activists and argued that this way the authorities only increased the public’s interest in the video about the corrupt property. He also reports the first online experience of the holding of the Musavat Party’s Majlis meeting. Tofig Yagublu points to the absurdity of the interior ministry, which detains activists, and fights corruption practices, while illegally hacks and spreads personal information of the activists. The FB community continues to discuss the harassment of the feminist Narmin Shahmarzade, whose FB account was hacked, and personal information spread. Narmin stated that it was done by authorities to prevent the action on 8th March, and to put pressure on her. The PFP activist Bakhtiyar Imanov reports that his friend Lachin Veliyev had been detained and kept incommunicado for 2 days before he was released under police supervision. He reported that they opened a criminal case against Veliyev for refusing to falsely testify against Imanov as an “organiser of disturbance” at the rally on 14-16th July 2020. Baktiyar Imanov confirms in his status that he did not even attend the rally.
COVID-19. The experts consider that there is an indication that the government’s observation of the increasing social activities of the population will tighten the quarantine regime, in spite of the risks for the economy. Gubad Ibadoglu comments that the government does not understand that economic governance does not consist only of fiscal policies collecting revenues for the budget and a 6-month long employment programme. It also does not understand, or does not want to, that positive short-term changes may result in negative consequences in the mid-or long-term period. He predicts that if the government will not support private businesses sufficiently, it may lead to a deeper crisis. Besides, the work of the customs agency may result in a “customs” rebellion, as businessmen cannot make any profit because of it. Natig Jafarli questions the reliability of the statistics of the infected by the government. Ilgar Mammadov of REAL urges the government to cancel the obligatory wearing of masks in the open air, giving as an example the president’s latest appearance on TV without a mask.
Economy, governance, corruption. FB users comment on the financial report published by Yashat Fund. Afghan Mukhtarli finds it strange, that the expenses on transportation of medical eye prostheses for 135 people from Israel is 4 times higher than the cost of the prostheses themselves. Natig Jafarli of REAL notes that $107m were spent of the WB credit for the improvement of the judicial system, but the latter remained in the same poor condition. He argues that the government understands reform as building an infrastructure in purely quantitative terms, but not in terms of quality. They report construction of new buildings of court in Surakhana, Sumgayit and Masalli regions, but not on any improvement of the justice system. He also comments on the recent firing of 4 members of 7 from the Chamber of Accounts of the National Parliament, who all appeared to be relatives of various bureaucrats. Because of the nepotism, he argues, corruption has become an inseparable part of the system.
FB users share news that the infamous Ata Abdullayev, introducing himself as a blogger, has been arrested for blackmailing the bureaucrats with the purpose of money extortion. The photo of himself with the president is also circulated in the social networks. The activists and journalists discuss the corruption scandal involving the German MP Mark Hauptmann and Azerbaijan. They inquire why the German authorities hold him responsible, while Azerbaijan does not do the same in regard to his partners here. Gubad Ibadoglu presents statistics on education in three SC states: there are 35 private Universities in Georgia, 25 in Armenia, and 11 in Azerbaijan; similarly Azerbaijan is last on the indicator of the students aged 30 and over, the percentage of acceptance, etc. Of all universities of the South Caucasus only one – Ivan Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University – got in the 1001 list of the Times Higher Education Ranking, while Azerbaijan State Economic University got a ranking in UniRank rating.
Mehman Huseynov, the blogger and youth leader, states on his timeline after he was released from detention: “I am not a bandit, I am not a criminal, I am not a corrupt bureaucrat! Do they want to force me to keep silence? Is it because I am trying to reveal and discredit the true criminals, who steal people’s money from the state budget?” He promises that the hunt for corrupt bureaucrats will go on.
US policies. The experts continue to comment on and interpret the policies of the new US administration. The political activist and commentator in exile Ramis Yunus argues that Joe Biden is paying serious attention to Ukraine by considering it as a possible candidate with the special status of a NATO ally. He mentions that Zelensky, in turn, is positively responding to this trend by suppressing the pro-Russia TV channels and their owner, the oligarch MP Medvedchuk.
Relations with Iran. Azadlyg newspaper reports the punishment which was announced by the court in Iran in regards Iranian Azerbaijanis who participated in the action of support to the Karabagh issue last year: 1 year’s imprisonment and 60 lashes to 13 activists and representatives of the cultural sphere. The sentence was read by the Second Criminal Court of Tabriz City 112th department for “violation of the public order, illegal assembly, disrespect to the state servants”. Natig Jafarli of REAL considers that the united West should change its policies to Iran and instead of imposing sanctions, to open up and integrate the country, because the sanctions and the external enemy turn into a factor of domestic consolidation in such political regimes.
March 16, 2021