Center for National and International Studies
“Those who were looking for the 5th column in Azerbaijan were the 5th column of Russia in our country.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Lawyer Rufat Safarov reports that seven street sweepers in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic were detained for 15 days after complaining about the work conditions. Safarov added that considering the previous cases, the sweepers are more likely to be tortured while in detention.
Meydan TV reports that a trans woman Aydan Pashayeva has been in the intensive care unit of Central Hospital Sabunchu for ten days. However, Pashayeva was denied to receive treatment as the doctors refused to treat her based on her gender identity.
According to the statement by N!DA Civil Movement, police raided the office of the Democracy 1918 Movement on Wednesday. The man, who identified himself as an authorized employee of the Yasamal police department and a police officer in civilian clothing, first said that they had received complaints from residents and then argued that they came to conduct a preventive inspection due to the pandemic. According to the members of the Movement, police openly threatened them, saying that their office would be shut down at any time for drug and terrorist activities. The office was opened only a month ago for preparing intensive organizational events and discussions.
On March 15, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had a telephone conversation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. A statement issued by US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Secretary Blinken stressed the continued importance of bilateral relations between the United States and Azerbaijan and the United States’ commitment to a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future in the South Caucasus. Noting the latest reports of escalating tensions between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, the Secretary of State called on the parties to exercise restraint and intensify diplomatic efforts to find a comprehensive solution to all other issues. Moreover, he also stressed the importance of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan. According to the statement, the Secretary of State stressed the commitment of the United States and its allies to hold Moscow and its supporters, including the Lukashenko regime in Belarus, accountable for the Kremlin’s unfounded war against Ukraine. Journalists and activists reacted to the statement differently, arguing that the close reading of the statement reveals that the Azerbaijani government put itself in a very critical position by signing the declaration of alliance with Russia. According to journalist Seymur Hezi, “as president Aliyev was not satisfied with the outcomes of the conversation with Secretary Blinken, the Azeri state media did not report on the phone meeting between the two. Hezi wrote: Ilham Aliyev chose to remain silent about the conversation with Blinken. In addition, the official state agency AzerTaj did not report on the telephone conversation between Ilham Aliyev and Blinken. However, the president’s website contains information about Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva‘s Instagram post on the occasion of Earth Wednesday and Ilham Aliyev‘s congratulatory call on the election of Sardar Berdimuhamedov, the son of former Turkmen President Berdimuhamedov. It became clear from the above information that Ilham Aliyev was not satisfied with this telephone conversation. Because the Azerbaijani side did its best to keep the public uninformed about it. It should also be noted that Anthony Blinken thanked Azerbaijan for its support to Ukraine, not the president. Reading the text of the whole conversation, one may suggest that Blinken did not hesitate to present Aliyev as a partner of Putin and Azerbaijan as a partner of Ukraine.”
The influx of refugees from Russia
As the war in Ukraine continues, many Russians move to neighboring countries, including Azerbaijan. Journalist Mehman Huseynov touched upon the issue, suggesting that in the long run, this may have threatening impact on Azerbaijan. Huaseynov wrote: Have you ever asked yourself why Russians are fleeing their country en masse? After all, there is no war on their lands, and their lives are not in danger. Why do they flock to Azerbaijan and Georgia en masse? This is a very bad tendency. We do not feel the weight of this burden now, but I can say what will happen in the future. After a while, when Russians settle comfortably in Azerbaijan, they will say that “the number of Russian schools here is not enough”, “our children can not get an education in their language”. When this problem arises, there will be many citizens in Azerbaijan protesting against it. Then these Russians will say, “look Putin, we Russians are oppressed here, they do not allow us to study in Russian, there is discrimination against us, our rights are violated.” Those Russians will stand up and say that “we want to hold a referendum in Azerbaijan, we demand that Russian become the state language, that the number of Russian schools increases and that we should be issued Russian passports.” What will Putin do? Yes, he will send troops to Baku to protect the rights of his citizens. That will be a real issue.”
Commenting on the issue, member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli shared a similar opinion suggesting to boycott Russian schools in Azerbaijan. Gahramanli argued that it is time to boycott Russia when the whole world hates Russian fascism, opposes Russian imperialism, and sees the Russians’ worldview as an obstacle to culture and development.
Lawyer Rufat Safarov opposed the argument of the pro-Russian people that Azerbaijan is economically closely connected with Russia. Safarov wrote: Most supporters of Russia and Putin repeat the same argument that millions of our people live on money from Russia. These people, who live by the principle that “full stomach is above everything”, do not ask why the citizens of a rich country should live at the expense of another state, why should millions be expelled from their homeland and go to other countries in search of bread? The Ukrainian people are also sacrificing for your rights. In the post-Soviet area, and even in the world, imperial thinking must be eradicated in order for good to prevail over evil.”
Chairman of APFP Ali Karimli also reacted to the pro-Russian comments by certain media representatives. Karimli wrote: What is the secret of the fact that pro-government people support Russia? Previously, they were looking for the 5th column of Russia in Azerbaijan. They deceived society with this absurd argument. The moment came, and now it became clear that all the sympathizers of the occupying Russia are represented in the ruling circles. Those who were looking for the 5th column were the 5th column of Russia in our country. Did Ilham Aliyev say, “If they do not give the Zangazur corridor diplomatically, we will take it by force”? Now he has agreed to build a road to Nakhchivan from Iran. At that time, I said that the head of state should not engage in populism and should not promise anything that he won’t be able to stand behind. At that time, I said that the road to Nakhchivan passing through Iran would be safer than the road passing through Armenia, which is controlled by Russia. Time has shown who is right.”
Activist Nigar Hezi reacted to the crisis on the border with Russia urging the government to respond to the issue immediately. Hezi wrote: The whole world calls on its citizens to leave Ukraine immediately before the Russo-Ukrainian war, to help people return to their homeland, but the ambassador of our country saves her life by leaving our compatriots in the war. Our compatriots are trying to return to our country, seeing that the situation is getting worse after the sanctions imposed on Russia due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. However, after passing the Russian border, the Azerbaijani border service has not allowed our compatriots to enter their home countries and makes them stay on the border in this cold weather for days. This is a shame. It is a shame, a disgrace to the country. How can a government be so indifferent to its citizens? Urgent entry of our compatriots to the country must be provided. These people have already left for Russia because of the government’s ineffective policy. At least don’t hurt people on already difficult days.”
Azadlig Newspaper reports that thousands of citizens returning to their home country from Russia have been detained on the border with Dagestan for more than ten days. 780 people are accommodated in the Ogonyok children’s camp while thousands of people spend the night in their cars and in houses near the border.
Meanwhile, the initiative led by Azerbaijani activists continues collecting humanitarian aid from 09:00 to 19:00 near the Embassy of Ukraine in Azerbaijan.
Economic and Social Situation
Chairman of APFP Ali Karimli shared his opinion on the state budget for the first two months of the year. Karimli wrote: According to the results of the first two months of this year, the profit in the state budget of Azerbaijan amounted to 2 billion manats. That is the amount of money after the budget expenditures are paid. Considering rising oil prices, it is not surprising. The Azerbaijani is sold almost 3 times more than it was initially budgeted. Taxes, excises, state duties, and fines were increased again at the end of last year. The citizens were looted as much as possible, and now, after all the misappropriations and official budget expenditures, there are more than 2 billion manats left in the budget. The government does not plan to spend on the families of martyrs, veterans and increase the social benefits. Years have passed, but nothing has changed, and corruption is still a state policy. Because this government is foreign to its own people, and we, as a nation, have not been organized to the point where we can force the government to be held accountable. We must correct our mistakes, albeit belatedly. In order to change our lives, we must first change ourselves and become more responsible and demanding citizens.”
Chairman of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu warned the government about the possible reduction in grain production due to the current situation in Russia. Ibadoghlu wrote: The new situation in the region as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine will affect the purchase of grain from Russia. Therefore, there is a need for changes in agrarian policy and food security in Azerbaijan. The current situation should be assessed by the Ministry of Agriculture, and urgent decisions should be made soon, taking into account the established trends. One of them is the expansion of grain fields. To achieve this, changes must be made in the structure of agriculture, and the sowing of cotton and other industrial crops this season must be postponed and prepared for grain. Because it will not be possible to plant grain in autumn in the fields where we planted cotton in spring. It should be taken into account that the cold weather observed in the regions of Azerbaijan, along with fruit growing, may have a negative impact on the development of grain for this year and reduce productivity. At the same time, although it is March, the water level in the Araz and Kura rivers is very low. Therefore, make your decisions in time, do not test the people with bread.”
March 18, 2022