Center for National and International Studies



“…The House of God cannot be built with the orphans’ money…”

The FB activists and journalists are concerned at the tension on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border during demarcation, at the victims in the shooting on the Iran-Azerbaijan border, at the violent incident in Dmanisi region of Georgia, at the lack of transparency in restoration and building of mega-projects in Shusha such as the new mosque project, mistrust and decry Russia’s role in the conflict and in the region, are totally disappointed by the bias of France, continue to decry the violations of human rights and high-level corruption, and follow the Israeli-Palestinian flare up.

Tension on the state borders. The FB community is concerned and tries to understand what is happening on the state borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The e-media reports that the Armenian President Pashinian reported at a meeting of the National Security Council the presence of 240 Azerbaijani military on Armenian territory, and instructed the secretary to appeal to the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation). It also reports the telephone conversation of Russia’s Lavrov to Armenia’s FM spokesperson Ayvazyan and Azerbaijani foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramov, as well as the call of the chair of OSCE Ann Lunde to Armenia and Azerbaijan foreign ministers and appeal of the State Department to both parties to be patient. It also reports the appeal of the group of pro-Armenian congressmen, including the head of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Menendez, to Joe Biden against Azerbaijan.  A few versions are being discussed on Azerbaijani social networks. Osmangizi TV guests argue that Azerbaijan’s alleged move 3.5 km deeper during delimitation of the state border in the Syunik region of Armenia is a provocation of Russia, who is trying to stir a new source of conflict to put pressure on Pashinian on the eve of elections. They make a parallel with Elchibey’s ousting in the 1990s. They recall that failure in the front led him to lose power, which was a punishment for the demand of Russian/Soviet bases withdrawal in 1992. The others argue that the territory around the Lake Garagol and the lake itself has always been within the Azerbaijani borders, and only extraction of water from a third of it – not the ownership – was agreed upon with Armenia. There are others who consider the actions during demarcation as a means of Azerbaijan’s pressure on Armenia, as a tool of bargaining, similar to what Pashinian was saying: “Karabagh is Armenia”, and Aliyev in response: “Karabagh is Azerbaijan”. Seymur Hezi of PFP puts it simply: “Any tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia benefits Russia.” He argues, that the country should openly reject Russia’s peacekeeping operation and calls everyone to join this demand.  Arif Hajili, the leader of Musavat party, argues that Azerbaijani military did not cross the internationally recognised borders  even for 1cm, so the statements of Armenian politicians, designed for the domestic audience in the eve of elections,  and other fake statements by Macron, etc. are groundless. He also considers the statements by the local populists cheering the fake  “progress” of Azerbaijani military as groundless and very harmful. He concludes that the Azerbaijani-Armenian border’s length is 1007 km, and it should be and will be restored. Some, however, justify the possible advance as they consider it – in the absence of any enforcement of the international law – the only means of pressure to make Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijan and never occupy it again. The e-media reports that in liberated Sugovushan a storage of the ASALA terror organisation with the banner, arms and various devices was discovered during the works on construction of the road and communication.

Russia’s role. The activists consider that Putin had indirectly threatened Azerbaijan at the meeting of the Russian Security Council. They argue that official Azerbaijan should clearly state that an ally of Armenia cannot be a peacemaker in the country and that Azerbaijan cannot allow itself to be turned into a tool in the Russian-Armenian political intrigue. Tofig Yagublu comments that Putin said the situation was under his permanent monitoring and “we would give it a right reaction in a right time”, although was supposed to say that “we will react in accordance with the international law with respect to the state integrity and recognised borders”. He considers those “games” on the border quite dangerous, and gives an example of the recent aggravation on the Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan border, which started immediately after the visit of Russia’s defence minister Shoigu to Tajikistan. The escalation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border also started after the visit of Russian foreign minister Lavrov to the region. Playing by the rules of Russia can only harm Azerbaijan interests. He also analyses the possible outcome of elections in Armenia and its consequences for Azerbaijan. He considers each of the outcomes has its risks for Azerbaijan. If Kocharian wins, then Russia will “reward” him by granting him some lands which were liberated in the 44-days war. However, if Pashinian wins, he might be “rewarded” by the West by helping him to get Upper Karabagh de-jure, as it will support not the autocratic Aliyev regime, but democratic Armenia, and this is no less a harmful outcome for Azerbaijan. Isfandiyar Vahabzade, the diplomat and son of the Azerbaijani poet Bakhtiyar Vahabzade, commented that Russia has put a collar on the country and leads it. Osmangizi TV stresses that there is a soft occupation and mankurtization of the country, Russia’s stamping on the country’s national interests. It considers that hidden aspects of the Zangezur events are that Putin and Aliyev are restoring the former Soviet Union. The ruling party functionary MP Siyavush Novruz, in his speech at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly stressed that while Azerbaijan respects the territorial integrity of all states, including Georgia and Ukraine, Armenia takes the opposite stance. He also reported that Armenia has purchased 2b worth of missile rockets Iskander-M and Zenit-rockets S-300 and has committed war crimes by using them. He also attracted attention to the hundreds of thousands of land mines on the occupied territories, as a result of their explosion 20 people, 12 of them civilians, died – while 85, 17 of them civilians, were seriously injured.

Restoration in Shusha. The activists continue to decry lack of transparency in the restoration in Shusha – the project of the new mosque, or music festival conducted there. They question the meaning of it before local citizens returned there and without their participation. Excerpts from the journalist, author and activist Mehriban Vezir’s writing about mosques in Shusha is shared by the FB community. The article is called “The House of God cannot be built with the money of orphans”. She tells the history of Mosques in Shusha, especially about two of them: built in 1750 by Panahali khan, and Juma mosque by Ibrahim khan (“Govhar Aga” Mosque). The latter, destroyed during the Russian occupation, was restored by the daughter of the local khan at her own expense, that’s why it was called Govhar Aga Mosque. Mehriban Vezir questions the necessity of the new mosque mega project in Shusha, and spending so much not from private, but budget resources, which could have been spent on the poor, deprived, children, the handicapped, etc. She concludes by commenting that the “House of God cannot be built with orphans’ money”. The activists call the conduct of the music festival a “half billion worth of theft” which took place in Shusha.

Relations with France.  FB users discuss the role and interests of the regional and extra-regional powers. The statement of president Macron condemning “the advance of Azerbaijani military into Armenian territory” and demanding its immediate withdrawal was posted on his FB in Armenian language and caused an uproar and irony among the FB community. Some opposition activists view France’s presence among the Minsk group co-chairmen as a result of efforts of Heydar Aliyev, who made France replace Turkey, while the current regime of his son has been spending the national budget on restoration of the French churches and museums. The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov states that there is a serious need to change the format and composition of the OSCE Minsk Group and that France should cease to be part of the co-chairmanship. There is in general a consensus that France should be excluded from the co-chairmen of the Minsk group. Moreover, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, for instance, considers that the vice-president of the country should reject her Order of Legion, awarded by French government. People quote Macron’s statement, that “Once more I am assuring Armenian people, that France is with you and will stay with you” Fuad Gahramanli argues that this statement is equalising France with Russia. He argues that the Azerbaijani government should come up with new proposals and prepare the strategy of work with international public opinion. Seymur Hezi calls Macron’s statement “not serious and fully adequate to the activities of the Minsk group”. The activists comment that Emmanuelle Macron behaves himself not as a president of the country, but as a leader of the Armenian community in France.  They condemn the postings he made in Armenian language on FB, calling Azerbaijan an aggressor, a fiasco. Because for 30 years he never managed to call Armenia, which was occupying Azerbaijani lands, an aggressor, although there were 4 UNSC resolutions about it.  But in the situation of high uncertainty on the borders, he hurried to blame Azerbaijan for its aggression. Yadigar Sadyghli comments that France being a co-chairman of the Minsk Group for a quarter of a century has not made a single statement condemning the occupation of Azerbaijan by Armenia, while now it makes statements in Armenian language condemning Azerbaijan, so such a biased country cannot be a mediator.

Human rights. The FB community is concerned with the pressure on and threats to the prominent human rights defender and former political prisoner Rufat Safarov. He reported calling hotline 102 of the Ministry of Internal Affairs complaining of threats by the former convict (charged with murder) Nasir Asgarov, but to no avail. The response is that he had to appeal in writing before they would start an investigation. Later he reported that Colonel Ehsan Zahidov – head of the press service of the ministry – called and assured that his security will be provided. The youth movement NIDA and other activists continue to campaign for fair investigation of the death of one of the “graffiti prisonersBayram Mammadov, naming the campaign on the twitter hashtag “How did Bayram die?”  Azadlyg newspaper reports on the worsening of the health condition of political prisoner, blogger Elchin Hasanzade. He will be transferred to the medical facility of the prison next week. Ali Karimli of PFP posts his statement written just 6 months before the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev was hit by a car and fell into a comatose condition. In this posting he alarms his followers in regard to tortures, their denial by the authorities and threatening Gulaliyev for his publicising of human rights violations in the Ter-ter and Ganja cases. He argues that instead of putting an end to tortures, the government tries to silence those who speak about such tortures. Karimli reminds the community that some time ago, 30-year-old Mammadov Galib was killed as a result of torture in Shaki police station, and similar cases were reported in Mingechavir, Baku and Gazakh cities, with 90-95% of them detained on political charges. He asserts that “non-involvement in politics” does not secure anyone from beatings or torture and demanded the cessation of pressure levied against Ogtay Gulaliyev. The e-media published another witness in the Ter-ter case comment, when he was in detention: “I saw Hikmet Hasanov and Babek Samadli. The former said, that nobody will get out alive from here – I will shoot everyone”. The other victim of tortures witnessed: “They have destroyed all my capillaries, giving electro-shocks, and saying that you should die”. The National Parliament has made amendments to the law on Freedom of Religion. The amendment is about the forceful attraction of children to religious practice and it says that religious education should not be harmful to the children’s physical and psychological health. The theologist Elchin Gasimov criticised the change and said that it did not reflect people’s will. The lawyer Subhan Hasanli on the contrary commented that this amendment would not create any serious problems for children’s education and upbringing.

Governance, economy, corruption. Gubad Ibadoglu’s status about the salaries in SOCAR and in the government is widely shared by social network users and the e-media. It shows that the salary of the SOCAR president is 7,890 manats, which is 11.5 times higher than the average salary in the country. The oil company also has 12 vice-presidents, each of whom have 1 deputy, 1 secretary and 1 referent. The company’s president has 7 secretaries, the salaries of whom vary from 4,500 to 5,000 manats.  President Aliyev’s salary is 15, 000 manats, while the prime minister’s 2,460 manats, etc. Azadyg newspaper quotes the war-handicapped who complained to President Aliyev on the local head of executive power: “He has created mafia in the region!” People continue to share the complaints of the families of the war heroes whose appeals to the state structures are left without response. One of the videos depicts the father of the war-handicapped soldier, who is exclaiming in desperation: “They left my son totally in my care, but do not give any insurance, handicap category or anything else. Nobody is interested in us!” Ali Karimli, the leader of PFP, suggests the real numbers of the COVID-infected and deaths are not disclosed to people, and considers that the authorities are hiding the true situation with the pandemic from the society. The activists share information about the shooting of stray dogs on the territory of the airport named after Heydar Aliyev. The independent platforms and websites report that the President’s family is forcefully collecting donations from businessmen with the help of ministers. The academic, historian and political leader Jamil Hasanli argues that the president and his family are at the top of all corruption and misappropriation of funds in the country. Mehman Huseynov, the blogger and political activist, reports that the son of the rector of the Maritime Academy of Azerbaijan Heydar Asadov is driving London streets in his 90-HO-505 Porsche car , adding with irony- apparently after he found the Baku streets too narrow for it. Another evidence of how the former bureaucrat has robbed the budget and has taken it abroad by means of his family members.

Incident in Georgia. The activists, journalists and bloggers are highly concerned with the violent clashes in Dmanisi region of Georgia, populated mainly by Azerbaijanis. They share a video, where the Azerbaijanis are being attacked by the group of Svans (the eco-migrants from the mountainous areas of Georgia, Svaneti), apparently in response to the refusal by the salesman to sell beer on credit to the Svans without preliminary permission of the shop owner. The violent scenes caused comments and various interpretations of who was behind these clashes. The prominent human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova, who got an award from the US administration for her activities, tells the story of her growing up in the region of Dmanisi. She contrasts the peaceful, tolerant and multicultural life there before the collapse of the Soviet Union to the situation when, as a result of the flood in the mountains, the Svans were re-settled to the regions populated by Azerbaijani farmers by then president Gamzakhurdia. She, along with the other population, was deeply shocked by the changed environment of the region with the arrival of newcomers, who started to establish their rigid mountainous traditions, hijacking girls, conducting street fights, using knives, etc, literally terrorising the local population. Tofig Yagublu asserted that ethnic confrontation is an expression of archaic thinking and should be prevented. He argued that Azerbaijanis living in Georgia love their homeland and promote its prosperity and democratisation.

Victims of shooting at the Iran-Azerbaijani border. The FB community shares information about 3 people who violated the Azerbaijan state border with Iran in the Gendere village of the Yardimli region of Azerbaijan, and shot 2 of the Azerbaijani border troops – Samir Eyvazov and Farid Alimov. Of the three violators, one was captured, while two had escaped.

Israel- Palestinian aggravation.  Social networks continue to follow the conflict in the Middle East. The FB community quotes comments by the Ambassador of Palestine to Russia, Abdel Hafiz Nofal, who thanked Erdogan for Turkey’s support for Palestine, but defied the parallels with the Karabagh conflict, and called it simply Erdogan’s speech method. He stressed Palestine’s excellent relations with Armenia and good relations with Turkey.

May 18, 2021