Center for National and International Studies



I have no expectations from the court, as there is no fair court in Azerbaijan, and judges follow political orders…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

An arrest warrant was issued for Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council and Musavat Party. On December 15, the Narimanov District Court reviewed the prosecutor’s submission for his detention during the investigation period. Judge Gultekin Asadova presided over the trail, and a 4-month pretrial detention measure was chosen for Tofig Yagublu for the initial investigation period. Facing charges under articles 178.3.2 (fraud by causing a large amount of damage) and 320 (making or using a forged document) of the Criminal Code, Yagublu declared in court that these accusations were false. Stressing that he was arrested due to his political activity, Yagublu stated that, despite his innocence, he had “no expectations from the court, as there is no fair court in Azerbaijan, and judges follow political orders.”

Shortly before Tofig Yagublu‘s arrest, an operation targeted the independent internet publication AbzasMedia, leading to the arrest of six employees, including its director Ulvi Hasanli and editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizi. Subsequently, two more independent media workers, Aziz Orujov and Teymur Karimov, were also arrested. In July 2023, Gubad Ibadoglu, a prominent economist and chairman of the ADR movement, was arrested. During this period, activists of the APFP continued to face torture and arrests, bringing the number of political prisoners from the party to 10 people.

Meanwhile, the authorities blocked the pension card of jailed journalist Sevinj Vagifgizi’s mother, putting her in a precarious financial situation as her sole reliance is on her pension.


According to the brother of the imprisoned economist Gubad Ibadoghlu, Galib Toghrul, Gubad had to use a cane due to difficulties in walking freely. However, the Penitentiary Service confiscated it from Gubad under orders from the authorities. This poses a significant risk to Gubad, as he could potentially fall at any time, leading to serious injuries. Despite requests, representatives from the Red Cross Committee have not been granted the opportunity to meet with Gubad. Gubad is reported to be under torture. Mirsaleh Seidov, the head of the Penitentiary Service implicated in the alleged torture and tasked with carrying out orders from above, is currently attending the UN Human Rights Conference as an honored guest.

Exiled journalist Ganimat Zahid commented on the recent arrests, saying that it is a deliberate act by the president himself in order to turn the country into a full dictatorship. Zahid: “Arrests continue. There are those who believe that Aliyev orders these arrests because of the upcoming elections, as he does not want a strong force that can stand against him. However, Aliyev is not bothered by the elections. The results are already in his pocket. These arrests are for strategic purposes. Aliyev broke the Azerbaijani society. In any case, it seems to him that this part of the process is over. But he is also aware that there is a group of critics who do not reconcile with the dictatorship and boldly express their disagreement, and it is necessary to eliminate this group as well. He knows, of course, that this active section is now deprived of the opportunity to mobilize a large part of society. The resources are not so much, the facilities are not enough. But it is difficult to calculate how the situation will change after a year or a few months. Even Putin postponed his elections because of this misunderstanding. That is, the coarse political leaders of the region can somehow see the next year, and they do not point their “telescopes” in that direction. That is why Aliyev tries to destroy Azerbaijani society. These arrests are not for the solution of a specific political situation, but simply for the complete destruction of public thinking habits in the country. The stage of Belarusizing Azerbaijan is not envisaged. Azerbaijan is transferred to the Turkmenistan mode without an intermediate stage. Starting from the middle of next year, further deepening of mass poverty in the country will be applied deliberately as a continuation of this experiment. For a long-term government, the objective is to have a docile population with clearly defined limits, entirely devoid of social pride and critical thinking. Aliyev has initiated this process.”

Elmaddin Shamilzade, an Azerbaijani political activist and independent journalist currently studying in Tbilisi, is facing threats from unidentified individuals. In a recent incident, he was assaulted by three ethnic Azerbaijanis in a location in Tbilisi, prompting him to report the attack to the police. Shamilzade has previously encountered pressure from Azerbaijani authorities, including instances of police detention and interference with his professional activities. Independent journalists and activists are urging the Georgian government to take steps to ensure Shamilzade’s safety. They highlight the recent tragic incident involving Azerbaijani blogger Huseyn Bakikhanov, who was killed in Tbilisi shortly after an attack, with his plea to the police being allegedly disregarded.

Snap elections in Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party has opted not to partake in the upcoming snap presidential election, as announced by Ali Karimli, the party’s chairman, during the VII (X) congress on December 16. Following internal party deliberations, the decision to abstain from the elections was made. A vote was then conducted during the assembly to determine whether the party would participate in the election or not. The majority of the congress voted against participation, with only 2 individuals in favor. Consequently, the APFP has formally declared a decision to boycott the election.

In its official statement, the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) asserts that conducting free and fair elections within the current climate of repression, widespread arrests, and fear is an impossibility. The scheduled early election by Ilham Aliyev on February 7, 2024, is deemed not a genuine electoral process but rather a theatrical spectacle. APFP has decided against participating in what it perceives as a mere show. While APFP remains committed to engaging in legitimate elections, it staunchly refuses to partake in a theatrical display. The party declares a boycott of the February 7, 2024 elections and urges the public to boycott these purportedly fraudulent elections. APFP insists on the electoral path to power, continuing its activism and exerting pressure on authorities to facilitate authentic elections in the country. The party reiterates its demand for authorities to establish conditions conducive to free and fair elections, advocating for necessary reforms. Throughout the 30-year rule of the Aliyevs, none of the elections or referendums reflected the true will of the people, as all were allegedly marred by extensive falsification. In recent years, Ilham Aliyev has been accused of manipulating election timing to suit the interests of himself and his family. This marks the second instance in the last three years where early elections have been held without apparent necessity for the country and its people.

As expected, Ilham Aliyev has been nominated for the presidency by the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP). This resolution was reached during today’s extended meeting of the YAP Board of Directors. The decision was unanimously approved through a vote.

Altay Goyushov, Director of the Baku Research Institute, provided commentary on both the recent wave of repressions and the abrupt snap elections, stating that the existing dictatorship under Aliyev will bring about significantly adverse consequences for Azerbaijani society. Goyushov: “The victory of a dictator in war results in the consolidation of dictatorship, and this, in turn, leads to the degradation of society. Dictatorship has the ability to elevate those who are deceitful, dishonest, and sycophantic to the elite of society. Conversely, individuals who are upright, courageous, and honest are discredited and persecuted. Dictatorship cannot tolerate those who resist its control. Even though society may engage in discussions about morality, honesty, and correctness, there is a reluctance to emulate the honest and upright individuals who are oppressed and persecuted by the dictatorship. Instead, individuals find themselves compelled to adopt the characteristics of corrupt officials, flatterers, and illiterate reactionaries in order to survive, earn a living, and provide for their families. Dictatorship exerts such a profound influence on society that its impact persists for decades. It is certain that dictatorship corrodes the values and education of society, leading it to become dishonest, cruel, and corrupt, mirroring the characteristics of the dictatorship itself. Dictatorship is something that stimulates the evil sides of individuals and forces them to give up their good qualities. Over the course of these 30 years, I have witnessed numerous individuals with the potential to achieve remarkable feats by nurturing their positive attributes. However, inclining to dictatorship has diminished their potential, revealing their shortcomings.”

Interestingly, Azerbaijan’s state TV channel, AZTV, broadcasted Putin‘s press conference live in Russian without providing any translation. Many independent journalists noted that this was a deliberate act aimed at portraying Russian as the primary language in Azerbaijan, implying that there was no need for translation into Azerbaijani. Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli suggested that the decision made by the state TV channel implies a political motive behind the move. Mukhtarli: “Accusing young people of being spies of the United States and Europe, Aliyev, on the other hand, openly turned the country into a province of Russia. The live broadcast on AzTv can be understood as a confirmation that Ilham Aliyev is Russia’s representative in Azerbaijan. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine delineates the factions in the world. Russia is on the side of evil, and on the other side is democracy. Aliyev chose evil. Because evil promised him eternal power. Aliyev has found himself a place in Putin‘s wrecked ship. The bad thing is that he will sink the country with him. Rest assured, Putin will be the loser. Aliyev will be defeated together with his master. Today, as AzTv broadcasts Putin‘s conference live, the European Union has made significant decisions regarding Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. Additionally, Armenia’s path to EU membership has been opened. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is moving towards the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization).”

December 19, 2023