Center for National and International Studies
“Corruption is not only taking a bribe, hiring a relative, but also harassing and abusing female colleagues.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
In the past couple of days, several members of APFP were summoned to the police offices. Murad Adilov, the brother of APFP activist Natig Adilov, was taken to the police, and Gadir Khudabakhsiyev, an activist of the Mingachevir branch of the party, was also taken to the police. Moreover, APFP member, late Elnur Farajov’s father, Huseyn Farajov, was kidnapped by unknown persons in black masks. Elnur Fatajov died shortly after his release from prison. Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that the order for Farajov’s abduction was allegedly given by Vusal Shabandiyev, the head of Neftchala Regional Police Office, about whom Farajov wrote critical posts on social media. Hajiyev also wrote that Shebandiyev is the police officer who tortured him when he was arrested.
The State Security Council summoned Nazakat Mammadova, a political scientist, to this institution, accusing her of disseminating information that amounts to state secrets. Journalist Farid Ismayilov, who interviewed Mammadova, was detained in front of the Presidential Administration and taken in an unknown direction.
The trial of Asghar Aghazade, who is accused of sexual harassment against activist Sanay Yaghmur, has been postponed again. Aghazade’s lawyer asked for the trial to be postponed due to Aghazed’s stomach ache. Judge Novruz Karimov upheld the claim, and the trial was postponed to August 24. Activists threw diapers at the gate of the court building to protest the decision. Sanay Yaghmur mother writer Zumrud Yaghmur wrote on her Facebook that the reason for the postponed trials is that Aghazade’s family is planning to release their son from detention using his health as an excuse. Yagmur wrote: Since they could not justify it (his release), they resorted to another way. According to the information passed on to me by someone close to the family, all these postponed court hearings were calculated to gain time to obtain a doctor’s opinion, which would indicate that Asgar Aghazade has “a serious problem” with his health, even a serious illness. They are looking for a doctor who would agree to give such a fake diagnosis. Since they know that no one will believe the authenticity of the opinion and they don’t want their name to be involved in such a lie, no doctor has yet agreed to write such an assessment. Thus, his family plans to release him and take him out of the country for treatment abroad. It was even reported that the court session scheduled for next week, on the 24th of the month, may be postponed, and the verdict may not be read. Now the reason for the games played for five weeks has become clear. Meanwhile, this is the purpose of opening a court case against me. The plan also includes keeping me busy with the case, “neutralizing” me by limiting my freedom.”
A group of NGOs working in the field of law enforcement appealed to international organizations, calling to protect the rights of two Armenians whose rights were allegedly violated in Armenia, and appealed to Ilham Aliyev to become Azerbaijani citizens. Commenting on the case, activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that “many of these people (NGO members) did not raise their voices during the torture, oppression, and crimes accompanied by the unprecedented dishonor, indignity, and immorality against our citizens in Azerbaijan since last year.”
Azadlig Newspaper reports that the electricity to the apartment of the Popular Front Party member Ayaz Muharramli was cut off without any prior notice. Muharramli wrote on social media that neither the company nor the Surakhani district electricity department considered his complaints.
Government, Transparency, Corruption
One of the major issues the active social media users highlighted was the scandalous video of two employees of the Ministry of Emergency. In the video that surfaced on the internet, the employees of the ministry were seen sharing private moments in the workplace. General Prosecutor’s Office has started the investigation of the intimate videos and photos of several employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the deputy head of the State Fire Protection Service, Colonel Zaur Mirzayev, who appeared in the video, has sexually abused his employees in his office and filmed those moments to blackmail them. Mirzayev was detained as a suspect and dismissed from his position. While the general public was outraged, the reactions by the social media users varied. According to the exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli at the time of the cost of living crisis, president Aliyev aimed to divert attention by letting to disseminate such news. Afgan Mukhtarli wrote: “Aliyev shares intimate videos with the public while making two important decisions behind closed doors: first, the price of flour, flour products, and bread is increasing; secondly, he wants to pass a law that cancels the registration of political parties that boycott elections. The price of flour rises because this field is in the ruling family’s monopoly. Both imported grain and wheat grown in Karabakh belong to them. They make money from this. The reactionary change to the Law on Political Parties is a continuation of repression. Aliyev wants to enter the post-Putin era without political rivals.”
Member of NCDF Gultekin Hajibeyli said that women in all government departments and institutions have to tolerate such treatment. Hajibeyli wrote: “The women who were humiliated, dishonored, sexually harassed and pushed to immorality in order to protect their jobs were “Ilham Aliyev‘s soldiers” in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If you ask, they would say that “there is no one working in the family except us, if we were fired, our children would starve” and they are right. Don’t we know how challenging it is to earn bread in this country?! I have seen this with my own eyes, I have experienced its severe consequences, so I am disgusted by this regime. Without exception, all government departments and institutions are in this situation. No matter how honest, educated, and professional you are, you will definitely lose to someone who comes out from behind a locked door…Those women did not come from France. They are the children of this nation. They are someone’s daughter, sister, wife, and mother. And this regime has put them in this disgusting situation.”
Exiled journalist Chingiz Sultansoy said that the incident shows widespread corruption in state institutions. “I remind you that corruption is not only taking a bribe, hiring a relative, but also harassing and abusing female colleagues”, wrote Sultansoy.
Lawyer Atakhan Abilov also pointed out the issue from the perspective of power disbalance among the genders in the workplace. Abilov wrote: “At this point, the situation of women’s rights is in an unpleasant shape in Azerbaijan, and it will not be an easy task to change this situation, which was formed during the period of independence, especially under the authoritarian regime of the Aliyevs, and which has already become a tradition. For years, articles have been circulated in the press about the fact that a number of women who were elected to the parliament won the mandate because they were someone’s favorite. Have you seen any reaction of the Azerbaijani parliament and government to this? If there is no reaction, if there is a tendency to ban not only the discussion of such issues but, on the contrary, the disclosure of such issues, then “transgressive behavior on the basis of gender” is in the essence of the current regime, and the latter is not interested in its elimination. What happened is a stain on the state and statehood of Azerbaijan. Under the current conditions, the incompetent state institutions are not brave enough to remove this stain.”
Activist Tural Sadigli reacted to the news about the scandal, saying that “considering the activities in the current government offices, the most moral thing is to make love.” Sadigli argued that attention should be given to “the bribes, looting of the state budget, house demolitions, illegal orders and orders of beatings and killings.”
Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu, on the other hand, strongly condemned those who shared the intimate images. According to Yagublu, “sharing someone’s private life or any embarrassing material is not right, and those who do this do not show any decency.”
Member of REAL party Natig Jafarli thinks that it is the public that should be blamed for such issues. “If we as a society were not so fond of “sex tapes”, the government would not use this “tool” against anyone – if it does, then the fault lies with us, with our unhealthy interest in this issue…” wrote Jafarli.
Economy and Rising Cost of Living
Meydan TV reports that the price of mince has increased to 1 manat and 50 kopecks. One kilogram of veal meat has risen to 12 manats, and lamb meat to 15 manats. The butchers say that since the price of livestock fodder has increased, the farmers had to raise the price of ground meat.
Moreover, Azadliq Newspaper reports that the sale of wholesale flour in Baku has been suspended. Currently, the sale of flour in wholesale centers has been stopped. This indicates that the price will increase as the entrepreneurs have stopped selling products in warehouses at high prices. Experts argue that it is inevitable that the cost of bread will rise.
Gowernance and Corruption
Ecoactivist Javid Gara wrote that according to the allegations, Armenians who left the villages in the Lachin region burned forests. “Representatives of a society that supports occupation and ethnic cleansing are expected to do such a thing and should be investigated and, if possible, punished,” said Gara. Activist also added that, although big forest fires occasionally happen in Azerbaijan, it has never been taken seriously, and no one ever was punished for it. “The work of the Ministry of Ecology was to cover up these fires, and almost all of the fires are caused by the ineffective activity of the ministry”, wrote Gara.
Salim Muslimov, who was the Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the Population, who is currently under house arrest, paid 20 million manats to the state during the investigation. The damage he caused to the state was estimated at 27 million manats. According to the indictment, he abused his authority by embezzling part of the money allocated to the houses built to improve the social and economic conditions of martyrs’ families and disabled people in different regions.
Commenting on the corruption case, activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that the actual scale of corruption is much bigger. Hajiyev wrote: “Now imagine that every minister, deputy minister, committee head, agency chairman, executive heads, police chiefs, generals stole at least 20 million manats from the state budget, imagine the scale of the corruption pyramid and the funds stolen from the people of Azerbaijan. The London properties themselves show the scale. Just imagine that these amounts could have been used for the opening of new jobs, the development of science and education, the welfare of citizens, the development of normal public transport, the inter-regional railway, and social protection.”
August 19, 2022