Center for National and International Studies
“The dependence of Azerbaijan’s economy on natural resources and demographic trends causes structural changes that put the country’s future development prospects at risk….”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
War veteran Gulu Mammadli who works as a teacher in Sabirabad, sent an open letter to President Aliyev. In his video shared on social media, Mammadli complains about his financial difficulties and the injustice he faced. Mammadli said: There are five of us in my family. When I was serving in the army during the war, my father suffered severe psychological trauma, and since then, we spend more than 200 manats on his medicines every month. Since unemployment is a big problem here for everyone else, I am the only one working in the family. We have no additional income or social benefits. Unlike many others, we did not want to arrange fake pensions by paying bribes. After returning from the war, the officials said that they would give me two cows, and although I have applied to receive them, they did not give. In a country of oil and gas, overflowing with other natural resources, and where the children of even law-ranking officials have collections of cars worth a hundred thousand dollars, I cannot support my family with the salary I get working as a teacher. I don’t want anything from anyone! And I am not ashamed to share this situation of ours. Shame on those people who have usurped the power for 30 years by fake elections and stealing the wealth of this nation. As a citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan, I demand my share of that oil, gas, and other resources! If you do not give, if you do not want to give, then deprive me of the citizenship of the country. My appeal is directed to Ilham Aliyev and the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Imagine that you are a teacher like me, no one in your family works, you don’t have a single manat extra income, and you have to meet the financial needs of your big family with only 400 manats. What would you do?! Please, send me the scheme and schedule according to which I can arrange the monthly expenses with 400 manats that I receive monthly.”
Afgan Mukhtarli said that the appointment of rapporteurs on Azerbaijan by the Council of Europe is welcomed news considering the current state of human rights in the country. Mukhtarli wrote: “Arrests and political persecutions carried out in Azerbaijan after the pandemic are not seriously criticized by any international organization. The international organizations to which we apply use the Ukrainian war as an excuse. In this matter, the role of Azerbaijani “selfless” human rights defenders, with whom international organizations cooperate in Baku and Europe, is not insignificant. These “benevolent” human rights defenders claim that reforms are underway and there are no political persecutions. I hope that the new rapporteurs will pay attention to political activists who were arrested after being deported from Germany and the issue of Rashad Ramazanov, who was arrested after returning from Georgia.”
The lawyer of the chairman of the D18 Movement, Ahmed Mammadli, said that the authorities are planning to enlist him as soon as he is released from prison. Mammadli, who was arrested administratively on false grounds, was attacked when he was going to buy a plane ticket to go abroad to study for a master’s degree.
Governance and Corruption
Azadliq newspaper reports that the former official of the state customs service, general Rasulov embezzled the confiscated goods. According to the report, Rasulov stole various types of goods confiscated during the customs inspection and stored them in the basement of his 3-story house located on a 2-hectare area in the village of Fatmai, Absheron region. Later, those goods were distributed to various shops and sold.
19 years since the controversial presidential elections of 2003
Ilham Aliyev, who came to power after the October 2003 election, has been in power for 19 years. Aliyev took office right after his father, Heydar Aliyev who, was announced dead two months after the elections. In 2016, after the amendment to the constitution, the presidential term was increased to seven years, and the restriction on one person being elected president more than twice was removed. The next year, Aliyev appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva as his deputy and the first vice president. Aliyev has long been criticized both by local and international human rights defenders for cracking down on civil society and limiting the fundamental rights of the citizens.
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that October 15, 2003 marks one family cementing their grip on power for decades. Hajiyev wrote: “Nineteen years ago today, power in Azerbaijan was transferred from father to son by fraudulent means. Protests were suppressed with blood and police batons. Nineteen years have passed, and the government still cannot hold a transparent election relying on the people. It does not rely on the people and does not give them the freedom to assemble and still relies on the police baton and violence. Young people aged 19-25 don’t remember those days. I suggest you type “October 16, 2003” on Youtube and watch what happened on that day.”
Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu shared a video on Facebook depicting police brutality against the protestors on election day on October 15, 2003. Yagublu wrote: “The first part of this video was shot on October 15, 2003, and the rest was shot the next day in Azadlig Square. Please watch until the end. If these were not real footage, one would think that they are the product of a Hollywood movie studio. Presidential elections were held in the country on October 15, and the head of the Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, won over Ilham Aliyev by a large margin. On that day, members of the election commission and observers in the precinct election commissions, the members of the party, came happily to the party headquarters with the protocols reflecting the victory of Isa Gambar to congratulate each other and hand over the protocols to the central election headquarters of the party. That’s why the state (because this terrorism is carried out with the resources of the state) assaulted and terrorized them. Look carefully, see what atrocities they are doing. Can the state behave in such a predatory manner even with innocent citizens? How shameless of them that they now talk about a legal state, the provision of freedoms in the country, Ilham Aliyev‘s victory in the elections, etc. If any international organization accuses the Azerbaijani state of terrorism against its citizens, they (the government) would start a campaign saying that the Armenian lobby is behind it, and those who can’t stand our development did that.”
“Clearing mines that have been planted by Armenia on occupied Azerbaijani territories will take nearly 30 years and cost $25 billion”, said President Aliyev on Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana, where the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit is being held. Aliyev also added that Azerbaijan is also carrying out large-scale construction works in the territories of the Karabakh region. However, the president’s comments on the cost of clearing land mines caused debates, with many arguing that it is deliberately overestimated. Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli said that by making such a statement, Aliyev showed that he has no intention of improving the salaries and the pensions. Karimli wrote: “Ilham Aliyev wanted to convey his message that you should not have any expectations from the Oil Fund. You should not ask for child support, new jobs, increased salary, pension, or social benefits. He wants you to know that there is no money in the budget for those issues, and he will spend Oil Funds on clearing the mines.”
Chairperson of NCDF Jamil Hasanli also criticized the president for miscalculating the budget. Hasanli wrote: “The person who detonates the mine at the expense of his own life is given 11,000 manats ($6,470), the person who explodes the mine and loses two legs is compensated with 8,800 manats ($5,176), and the one who looses one leg is compensated with 6,600 manats ($3,882), but the cost of its neutralization is 25,000 per mine. If it takes thirty years to clear the lands off mines, then why is the government investing in building three airports (Fuzuli, Zangilan, Lachin) costing 100 million?.” Hasanli also added that the previous estimation of the cost of clearing the occupied lands from mines was much lower. Hasanli wrote: “There is another problematic aspect of the funds and time announced by the president. A few years ago, ANAMA stated that it would take a minimum of ten and a maximum of fifteen years to clear the landmines in Karabakh. At that time, this seemed a little bit of an exaggeration. As for the financial costs, in 2007, the Azerbaijani government together with the World Bank, stated that 600 million US dollars were required to clear the occupied lands from mines at the prices of that time. Now, this figure is declared as 25 billion dollars. Ilham Aliyev noted some time ago that according to preliminary estimates, Armenia buried more than one million mines in those territories during the occupation. There is no doubt that the mines were more densely buried in the direction of Agdam, Fuzuli, and Jabrayil. If, on average, one million mines are buried in the occupied territories, and 25 billion dollars are needed to neutralize them, then clearing one mine should cost the state, nation, and people of Azerbaijan 25 thousand dollars. Apparently, this government introduced a new way of corruption.”
Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu also reacted to the president’s statement on clearing land mines saying that the government’s actions don’t correspond to the statement. Yagublu wrote: “They say, one day in the distant future, there will be vibrant life in those areas, and tourists will flock from all over the world, even from the distant Falkland Islands. They must have lost their minds. If there are so many mines in these areas, why would those tourists visit there when the citizens of the country are not allowed to? Why does the government build four airports on lands that have not been cleared of mines? One must be either a fool or a hugely corrupt person to do so.”
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that clearing minefields is a new method for the government to write off huge amounts of the budget. Mukhtarli wrote: “Ilham Aliyev announced his next method of looting the state budget. Who calculated these numbers? Is there any report on the areas that are planted with land mines? If so, why isn’t it published? Why is the map of mined areas not prepared and presented to the public? This is not a state secret. In which areas did the Armenians plant mass mines outside the Aghdam? During the war, our army took those territories bit by bit. How come not any of the soldiers hit the mine? Ilham is lying. The goal is to loot the budget in the name of Karabakh and not to let the people of Karabakh into Karabakh. The plan is to exploit those fertile lands. Ilham dreams of becoming the world’s greatest feudal lord. A huge collective farm is already being built in the area. Thousands of hectares of grain were planted, gardens were planted, fish ponds were built, and mini-hydroelectric power stations were installed. He seizes the gold and other natural resources together with his friend and brother Erdogan, another ruthless dictator of the Turkic world. The lands liberated by the blood of the young people are now reoccupied by Ilham. An occupier was replaced by another.”
The World Bank published a 247-page long report on Azerbaijan. According to the “Azerbaijan Country Economic Memorandum,” the economic future of the country was assessed based on the long-term growth model (LTGM). The researches show that in the last two decades, Azerbaijan’s economy has remained dependent on natural resources, and the main asset base of the country has not been diversified. Although the per capita national income of Azerbaijan increased more than four times between 2000 and 2014, it has been decreasing since 2015. The World Bank has come to the conclusion that the dependence of Azerbaijan’s economy on natural resources and demographic trends causes structural changes that put the country’s future development prospects at risk. The World Bank report focuses on declining population growth, aging population, and depletion of oil and natural gas reserves. Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu shared the document with his own assessment, arguing that considering the economic policy of the current government, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the country will face severe inflation the in the near future. Ibadoghlu wrote: “In fact, I had no other expectations from this government. For decades, I have repeatedly issued the same warning criticizing the economic policy, and in 2016, I presented the “package of urgent measures in the economy” on behalf of the ADR Party, but neither the government paid attention nor the public, especially the youth, were worried about the situation. Be assured that future generations will forever curse us for the economy and the country we passed on to them.”
October 18, 2022