Center for National and International Studies
“I continue to believe Azerbaijan’s future should be in the community of democracies, but the detention of political prisoners, such as activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, undermines that path…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has been on hunger strike for more than 40 days in protest against his illegal imprisonment. Despite the appeals of many local and international human rights defenders and organizations, Hajiyev has not been released. His mother and friends say that they are very worried about Hajiyev‘s health and that the government and President Aliyev are responsible for what could happen if he is not released soon.
Two US Senators Ben Cardin and Dick Durbin demanded the immediate release of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and all the political prisoners. Senator Durbin tweeted: “I continue to believe Azerbaijan’s future should be in the community of democracies, but the detention of political prisoners, such as activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, undermines that path. Azerbaijan should release Hajiyev and other political prisoners immediately.” Senator Cardin also joined the calls for the activist’s immediate release adding that the US government “can and will hold accountable all those who seek to undermine human rights.”
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli called on the Azerbaijanis living abroad to join him in protesting against the human rights violations in Azerbaijan. Mukhtarli said that he plans to organize a rally in Munich during the state visit of President Aliyev. Mukhatli’s Facebook post: “Ilham Aliyev will attend the Munich Security Conference. I received permission from the Munich police to hold a rally during the conference (February 17-18-19). Representatives of the oppressed nations will hold numerous actions in Munich on those days. Yesterday, the Munich police called and asked that Iranian activists also want to hold a protest together with you at the same time. 1000 Iranians want to join our rally and spread the problem of their country’s human rights to the world. I did not agree. Because our voice would be drowned among those thousand people. I know I may not be doing the right thing. But this group is one of the dozens of Iranian groups living abroad. We have tens of thousands of “political” immigrants. But there are very few people who say that they will join the rally. Let alone participating in the events, they do not even like or share information about the rally. I am not a person who is interested in quantity. Even if no one comes, I will hold a single protest. But it is not right to apply for political asylum and not to do anything when Ilham’s name comes up.”
Another political prisoner started a hunger strike in prison. Member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Mutallim Oruj was a migrant in Germany where he was seeking political asylum. However, Oruj was deported to Azerbaijan and was arrested at the airport upon his arrival in Baku. Although he was accused of selling drugs and was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, human rights defenders believe that his arrest was politically motivated. Besides Hajiyev and Oruj, two more political prisoners, Elnur Hasanov and Alizamin Salayev are also on hunger strike demanding immediate release.
The well-known director and dubbing actor Kamal Yashar addressed Ilham Aliyev on social media, complaining about the financial difficulties he experienced. According to the actor, despite working as a voice artist and director for many years, he is not able to support himself and his family. However, soon after his video was widely shared on social networks, the actor was fired, and his show was canceled.
According to the information released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, ten Azerbaijani citizens died as a result of the earthquake in Turkey. The ministry noted that the bodies of the deceased citizens would be brought to Azerbaijan. Among them, four were students who studied in Malatya, Turkey. Ibrahim Ibrahimov, a fellow student of the four young people who died under the debris in Malatya, wrote on social media that they couldn’t return to Baku during the winter break as the land border with Azerbaijan was closed, and the air tickets were extremely expensive.
Governance and Corruption
According to the decision of the Supreme Court, the confiscated property of Major General Akif Chovdarov, the former head of the General Department of Energy and Transport Security of the former Ministry of National Security, was returned. On December 28, 2022, the decision on the re-examined case was announced at the Baku Court of Appeal. According to the decision, the 30 million property registered in the name of Akif Chovdarov‘s relatives was exempted from confiscation. In addition, a few days ago, several properties confiscated in the criminal case of the former head of the Directorate for Combating Transnational Organized Crime of the Ministry of National Security, Major General Subahir Gurbanov, were returned to the owners.
According to independent journalists, since Tuesday on social networks, many people have reported that in a number of state bodies and companies, employees are forced to donate “voluntarily” to the survivors of the earthquake in Turkey. Teachers at schools, doctors at medical institutions, and the employees of the SOCAR, Baku Metropoliten, and Azersu have complained that they were forced to collect money from 10 to 50 manats. The chairperson of Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADWP) commented on the issue, saying that such an act is unacceptable and illegal and harms brotherly relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Ibadoghlu: “I believe that the employer should be prevented from forcing the employees to deduct money from their salaries in the name of helping earthquake victims in Turkey or forcing them to pay money for this purpose. Everyone in Azerbaijan should do it voluntarily, and many are already doing it. In short, the donation must be voluntary, and the party collecting it must be transparent and accountable.”
According to the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, starting from February 15, customers will be charged for the polyethylene bags intended for the collection of products at market checkouts. In all markets and stores, large polyethylene bags will be sold for 5 kopecks, and smaller bags will cost 3 kopecks.
Member of REAL Party Natig Jafarli said that he doubts the effectiveness of the new decision. Jafarli’s Facebook post: “The idea of paying for polyethylene bags in stores and markets is understandable, but its implementation in Azerbaijan will cause serious problems. Therefore, I do not think that it will play a significant role in solving environmental problems. That is, the rejection of polythene bags should be born from the voluntary behavior of people. It would be better if actions were organized in front of markets and free cloth bags were distributed. The state could even allocate grants to environmental organizations for at least one year. If the citizens do not understand the environmental problems, they will not stop using the polythene bags that would cost 3-5 kopecks, and this decision will only cause further discontent among the citizens…”
February 18, 2023