Center for National and International Studies


“If in the past only 20 percent of the country was occupied by Armenia and 80 percent by Aliyev, now 100 percent is under the occupation of the Aliyev dynasty…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Ramin Ahmadov, a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), was arrested on October 12. He was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention under the charge of 535.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (disobeying the legal request of the police). A representative of the APFP reported that Ramin Ahmadov is the fourth APFP activist who has been administratively arrested in recent days. Party leader Ali Karimli characterized these developments as an ongoing campaign of oppression against opposition activists in Azerbaijan. “The whole world demands Ilham Aliyev to release political prisoners, but Aliyev continues the policy of repression regardless of anything,” said the Chairman of the People’s Party of Azerbaijan on the recent arrest of four members of his party.

Yunis Guliyev has been in prison since March 29. He was charged with Article 234.1-1 of the Criminal Code (acquiring, transporting, and storing large quantities of drugs without the purpose of sale). This particular article prescribes a prison term ranging from 3 to 8 years. Nonetheless, the 33-year-old Yunis Guliyev vehemently denied these allegations, asserting that he suffered humiliation and abuse at the 15th police station in Sabunchu district. He claimed to have endured unimaginable torture while in their custody. During a court hearing on October 11, Yunis Guliyev’s mother corroborated his account. According to her, her son had been taken to the police station concerning the shooting incident involving MP Fazil Mustafa, where he had been subjected to maltreatment. She recounted that both her son and daughter-in-law were detained at the 15th police station on March 29 and 30. On March 31, she visited the station to inquire about their status, and she was met with a distressing scene: “I was shocked when I entered. My son was seated, covered in blood. He said to me, ‘Find Ramila.’ I searched for my daughter-in-law and found her in the corridor. She confided that she had been mistreated there. Ramil Babayev, an operative from the 15th division, solicited 5,000 manats from me to secure my son’s release. I explained that I couldn’t afford it, to which he callously responded, ‘Then your son is gone.’ As he said, it happened. They coerced my son, telling him, ‘Admit to the drug offense, or your wife will face the consequences.’ My son had no choice but to confess to a crime he did not commit.”

Gulbuta Khasmammadova, another distressed mother, has come forward to recount the unlawful detention of her son, Taleh Khasmammadov. On September 17, 2023, at 5:00 p.m., Taleh was apprehended by the Goychay police. He found himself facing a criminal case under Article 221.3 for his vocal criticism of the police’s illicit activities. According to her, Mugalib Abdiyev, the Chief of the Goychay City Police Department, resorted to bribery to orchestrate Khasmammadov’s arrest. He allegedly ran over Khasmammadov with a vehicle in an attempt to take his life, subjected him to verbal abuse, and subsequently incarcerated him. Presently, Mugalib Abdiyev is reportedly exerting significant efforts to obstruct Khasmammadov’s release from prison, enlisting false witnesses from various regions who were allegedly paid for their testimonies. She has fervently appealed to Vilayat Eyvazov, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, beseeching him to impartially investigate her son’s case.

October 15 marks the 20th anniversary of Ilham Aliyev’s presidency

Twenty years have elapsed since Ilham Aliyev assumed power following his father’s decade-long rule. Ilham Aliyev‘s ascent to power involved significant manipulation of the presidential elections held on October 15, 2003, coupled with violent repression against those who protested the election’s fraudulent outcomes. In truth, the actual results of the October 15, 2003 elections indicated that opposition leader Isa Gambar garnered over 40 percent of the votes, while Ilham Aliyev secured slightly over 30 percent. These results necessitated a second round of elections, however, Aliyev deployed coercive and punitive machinery to suppress the protestors, among whom at least one died and hundreds were severely injured. Ilham‘s authoritarian rule has been characterized by numerous contentious political decisions, and it is marked by a series of grave human rights violations, including the killings of journalists and activists such as Elmar Huseynov, Rafig Taghi, Rasim Aliyev, Bayram Mammadov, Mehman Qalandarli, Vugar Rza, and numerous other critics whose names remain unmentioned.

Journalist Seymur Hezi commented on the elections of 2003, saying that it was a turning point in a way that marked the beginning of repressions. “He who does not have freedom does not have property, and he who does not have a court does not have rights. Today was another day of usurpation of our freedoms. It is the day Hamidaga Zahidov was killed for this freedom. Those who killed Hamidaga were not punished, and justice was usurped. The right itself was usurped.”

Exiled journalist Ganimat Zahid reflected on the election day, adding that it was the beginning of an authoritarian family regime in Azerbaijan. “As long as this family remains in power, Azerbaijan will be a black and dark country, and its lights will not shine for Azerbaijanis. Remember, the history you mark today is cursed pages of the past. This curse is still on the people of Azerbaijan.”

Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli recalled the bloody protests after the 2003 presidential elections, saying that today’s Azerbaijan is under full occupation of Aliyev. “Military victories further fueled the spirit of repression. The number of political arrests are growing. At the same time, those who have been fighting for Azerbaijan, human rights and democracy for years have been silenced. We have shed our blood for the motherland. We fought not only against the foreign invaders but also against the Aliyevs, who looted the country’s wealth and spilled our people’s blood. The liberation of Karabakh does not justify silencing the voices of decent. Karabakh is, in fact, not free. One invader left and another came. Pashinyan was replaced by the  Pashayevs.”

Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov shared a Facebook post on the anniversary of the controversial presidential election of 2003. Goyushov remarked that Aliyev deliberately rescheduled the flag-raising ceremony in Khankandi to align with the anniversary of his rise to power. “Exactly 20 years ago today, he came to power through extreme election fraud by brutally beating those who objected to this fraud, killing at least one of them, and imprisoning thousands of others. With this, Azerbaijan became the property of a dynasty, thus establishing a foundation for absolute hereditary authority. Since that day, thousands of people’s property has been dismantled and taken from them; the country’s wealth has been looted and transported to London and offshore companies; thousands of innocent people have been abused and sent to prisons; the majority have suffered from corruption and arbitrariness of the officials; tens of thousands of people left the country and moved abroad in search of a good life for their families, education, quality medical care, and the desire to be able to breathe freely; and all freedoms in the country have been suppressed and destroyed. There is no funnier expression than “Aliyev liberated Karabakh”. If in the past only 20 percent of the country was occupied by Armenia and 80 percent by Aliyev, now 100 percent is under the occupation of the Aliyev dynasty. Dictatorship, tyranny, and freedom are mutually incompatible concepts. Ultimately, dictatorship signifies a choice that aligns with the wrong, the culpable, and the unjust side of history, and its end is inevitable, sooner or later.”

October 17, 2023