Center for National and International Studies
“…The wounds and complications of war are severe…”
The FB community discusses the possible impact of Russian-Turkish aggravation on the situation in Karabagh, speculates on the role of the Minsk group co-chairmen states of France and the US and is disappointed with their unchanged approach, continues to debate the controversy of the Museum of Trophies in Baku, decries the exposed misappropriation of budgetary funds for social protection, discusses the reasons behind the deportation of migrants from Russia, demands freedom for political prisoners, and decries the reaction of the military prosecutor in the Ter-ter case violations as “a fairy tale”.
Post-war situation. The activists discuss the stoppage of flights from Russia to Turkey, interpreting it as punishment on Turkey by Russia because of its agreements with Ukraine. They argue that the Russia–Turkey tension creates both risks and opportunities for Azerbaijan. Osmangizi TV interviews Gerard Libaridian, the advisor on foreign policy of the former president of Armenia, who suggests that Armenia should have direct talks with Azerbaijan and Turkey. The FB community shares with high concern the video with the war veteran who appeals to President Aliyev, displaying a large amount of his medals and orders, but reporting his desperate living conditions and asking whether he should eat those medals instead of food.
FB continues to discuss the key issue of Iskanders. The Azadlyg newspaper reports that Russian newspaper Commersant has already written in 2018 about Russia’s supply of Armenia in 2016 with the whole range of military devices, and besides Smerch, Igla-S, Avtobaza-M, and another $200m worth of equipment, also with the ballistic rockets Iskander-M. Isa Gambar of Musavat reports that this transfer was made by Russia to achieve military parity between the parties to the conflict. He argues, that if not for this parity, then the conflict would be finished and Russia would be deprived of its means of pressure over the countries. The political analyst Eldar Namazov, in his interview to REAL TV criticised the OSCE Minsk group for absence of any successful experience of the resolution of conflict and the problematic principle of consensus. He argues that as a result of the war, not only was Armenia defeated, but the co-chairmen-states of the Minsk group: France and the US. But now they are trying to steal the victory and use the Minsk group as means of undermining Azerbaijan’s victory and of pressuring Azerbaijan. He argues that the Minsk group co-chairmen’s last statement fully reflects Armenia’s position, as they assert the unchanged mode of working, in spite of President Aliyev’s comments, because, according to Namazov, those big states try to take a revanche for their defeat. He also considers that France plays a leading role in this process, as it has historic experience in such diplomatic tricks. He considers that Azerbaijan should take a principled position in regard to their activities. Although President Aliyev asserted that the situation has changed and they should come up with new proposals, they still insist on returning to the old principles. Namazov considers that even in the old proposals, the “status” discussion is planned for 10-15 years after, so there is no need to discuss it now. The FB community continues to discuss the Museum of Military Trophies. The lawyer Alasgar Ahmadoglu refers to article 27 part 2 of the National Constitution about the right to live, which makes an exception to the cases of armed attack on the country of the foreign army. He considers, as many other FB users, that creating the Museum is the right decision, but the name of it should be “The cost of occupation”, rather than Museum of Trophies. The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil suggests an alternative concept of the Museum, as the place of creative work, rather than place of display of enemy figures, which are strikingly similar to the Azerbaijani bureaucrats, and are totally tasteless. Samir Kazimli argues that he had mixed feelings about this museum, first of all that military equipment is the tool of murder, and who knows how many young guys were killed by these enemy’s tanks and artillery. He confesses that it was a depressing experience for himself, and he imagines what the parents who lost their kids to the war would feel while watching those tanks… “The wounds and complications of wars are severe…” The activist in exile, Ramis Yunus, argues “I consider it politically and ideologically correct to open this museum, which should serve as a reminder for future generations of the crimes that the Armenian occupants have committed on Azerbaijani soil for 30 years, and it is imperative to organise excursions to this museum for all foreigners arriving in Azerbaijan”. The FB users share the story of wounded in the war Sabuhi Huseynli, whose mother Samira Ahmadkhanova watching his critical state of health has appealed to President Aliyev, Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva and the Yashat foundation, asking them to urgently send her son abroad for treatment, but to no avail, so her son has died. Azadlyg newspaper reports that the Armenian party is building posts all over the Khankendi-Shusha road by the decree of the “minister of interior” of the separatist regime Karen Sarkysian, and that if this is true, this was sanctioned by the Russian “peacekeepers”. The publication suggests that the Azerbaijan government should give explanations on this issue.
Russia’s role, OSCE and Azerbaijan’s dilemma. Fuad Gahramnali of the PFP speculates on what the Azerbaijan’s policy should be in the case of a deepening divide between Russia and Turkey. He considers that Russia may stir the Karabagh conflict to put pressure on Azerbaijan and Turkey, or it may block the opening of the corridor to Nakhichevan to prevent Turkey’s linking to the communication routes. This would put Azerbaijan in a dilemma, where it would have to choose between allying with Turkey or turning into Russia’s satellite. This would also mean the dilemma of a pro-Western course on democratisation or staying within Russia’s orbit of autocratic influence. He considers that the second choice would mean a serious blow to national security, while allying with Turkey would mean obtaining support from NATO, opening up the way for reforms and development. He concludes by arguing that the time of hiding one’s head in any “Non-allied movement” was over. Seymur Hezi comments that the co-chairmen of the Minsk group France and USA simply quietly watched how Russia established its hegemony in the region. They did not submit specific proposals either before or during the meeting with Aliyev, nor make any steps to recognise or implement the principle of territorial integrity. They attempted to return to the old principles with restoration of the status quo talks and at last, based on their last statement, they viewed the conflict as their workplace. The political analyst in exile, Arif Yunus, told Osmangizi TV that Ilham Aliyev knew that if he did not react to Russia’s peacekeeping forces, it would be too late, as Russia was preparing to station a second military base in the country. Another compromise which Russia expects from Azerbaijan is the entrance to the Eurasian Economic Cooperation Union. Meydan TV reiterates that one of the objectives of Russia in the 2nd Karabagh War was the elimination of Pashinian. The opposition activists note that Ilham Aliyev expresses an official protest to the European Union – but keeps silent in regard to Russia. The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan expressed its protest to the meeting of the EU special representative in the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, on 14th April, with the “foreign minister” of the Upper Karabagh, David Babayan. But official Baku did not express its protest to Russia in connection with Iskanders-M fired at Shusha city. They explain it on the one hand by the geographical closeness of Russia to Azerbaijan, on the other hand, by closer relations from the political point of view of the Azerbaijan government to Russia. They warn that this makes even objective protests look subjective and may provoke social protests.
Economy, governance, corruption. Habib Muntazir reports 2m manat misappropriation of the budgetary funds under the name of purchase of clothes and cacao for kids in the kindergartens. This is in spite of the monthly payments by parents for children in the kindergartens. The head of the state agency responsible for pre-school education under the Baku Municipality is Eldar Yunusov. The brother of the former minister Nazim Ibrahimov was detained again under the charges of fraud. The economic growth rate is compared in the first quarter of the year – the USA 5.9%, China 18.3%, with Azerbaijan just 1.3%. Gubad Ibadoglu, visiting professor at the Rutgers University, reports that in spite of the quickly growing number of unemployed, necessary social protection measures are not being undertaken. The state Employment agency revealed that 90,000 pensions and more than 17,000 handicap benefits appeared to be fake. That’s why the allocation of pensions and benefits was stopped and new procedures, more complicated, were launched. He stresses that people suffer not the virus these days, but poverty, and urges the government if they fail to manage the actual problems to resign. Economic experts critically assess the looking down on Luxembourg by President Aliyev in his speech about its Karabagh resolution. People are comparing – despite the small size of the country – its first world rankings on many key indicators, to Azerbaijan’s lowest ones. It seems that the president considers the physical size of a country rather than development and growth indicators as the true value if the country, comments the activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. He comments with irony that tickets from Georgia to Istanbul are $95, while brotherly Azerbaijan to Istanbul $443, “but most important is that Azerbaijan territory and the population size is bigger than in Georgia.”. The other economist reminds the readers that the biggest investments of Azerbaijan after Turkey is in Luxembourg – it constituted 25% of all during the last two years. The opposition activist and leader Tofig Yagublu has written with irony, that at last the campaign “I do not need child benefits, I need Formula-1 race” has produced results. Ilham Aliyev signed a decree about a simplified visa procedure for tourists coming to watch the Formula-1 race. This news, he argues with bitter irony, will make truck drivers who are waiting for weeks to cross the borders and are forced to give bribes of $600-700 to cross it, also happy.
Corruption in Russia. The new investigation by Navalny of Putin’s property has been widely circulated by Azerbaijani FB users. The video reveals the 150 hectares of land complete with luxurious spa by Lake Valday is already the fourth illegal property with tax avoidance. Navalny’s assistant, Mariya Pevchik comments in the video, “Why should taxpayers pay for the multibillion spa complex of the president?”
The migrants’ deportation from Russia. Activists, experts, journalists and bloggers debate the decision of the Russian government to deport all illegal CIS migrants from Russia by June 15. The economist Samir Aliyev gives statistics of illegal migration according to Russian sources: Uzbekistan (332,000) Tajikstan (247,000), Ukraine (152,000), Azerbaijan (120,000), Kirgizstan (115,000), Armenia (61,000), Moldova (56,000) and Kazakhstan (49,000). The total remittances to the CIS states made more than $11b, the major part of which went to Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The party which would lose most resulting from this decree is Central Asia. He considers that in economic terms this is not beneficial to Russia, so it is most probably motivated politically, or by intention to put pressure on Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Altay Geyushov attracts his followers’ attention to the fact that everyone speaks about Russia using illegal migration as a political means to put pressure on home countries, but nobody speaks about the unjust regimes in these countries, which have forced millions of people to emigrate to Russia in search for work. The elites of Central Asia and Caucasus state buy themselves multi-million properties, run numerous companies, live luxurious lives, at the expense of sending hundreds of thousands of citizens to earn pennies in Russia. He notes that even so, these migrants praise the very same dictators whose policies forced them to emigrate.
Social issues. The activists and journalists share and comment on the story of Maharramova Nazaket, the desperate mother of the girl who suffers from the genetic illness “Shershevsky-Turner syndrome”. Because the medicine is exceedingly expensive, the family cannot afford it and have been applying for various state foundations and structures but to no avail. She reports that she even failed to get a proper category of handicap, as they asked 2,000 manat as a bribe. She alleges that delivery of the request personally to the vice-president costs at least 1,000 manats. She argues that the much-advertised charity campaigns on state TV channels are all fake. The war veterans continue to report violations and delays in registration of their handicap and rendering respective benefits. People continue to comment on the unfair pensions in the country with corrupt bureaucrats enjoying high pensions, while decent and pure citizens are receiving miserable ones. The activists share a report by Tofig Yagublu that the famous war veteran Sahil Hasanli, whose photo with a lost arm greeting people from a hospital window was circulated on social networks yet was not registered as handicapped. The blogger Mehman Huseynov writes with irony that all the Azerbaijani bureaucrats who received “child benefits” were citizens of the UK. He reports that Khagani Rizayev, the right hand of the Minister of Finance, has bought houses and started companies for his children in London. BIZ TV discusses the situation with prices in the property market, especially in connection with the expected return of the 120,000 guest workers from Russia to Azerbaijan. The historian Jamil Hasanli attracts attention to the failure of the authorities to adequately address the social needs and problems of the war heroes. He describes the long queues of young people at the administrative offices, who have lost parts of their bodies and are living in poor conditions, among which there is nobody from the families of rich bureaucrats, 4-5 months after the war, waiting for the coupons for appointments on 16th December.
Situation in Armenia. Meydan TV reports the information of the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia, Mger Grigorian, that the government has prepared 20 aid programmes for Upper Karabagh Armenians, the number of beneficiaries of which exceeded 150 thousand people. He reported that Yerevan would render aid to Upper Karabagh for at least 7-10 years. It also lists the amount of state aid to the families of war victims and handicapped.
Visit of Lukashenka. The local media discusses the results of Lukashenka’s visit to Baku. It argues that he has taken a few million dollars from Azerbaijan in exchange for the tractors produced in Belarus, and the sale of the buses is also expected. Nezavisimaya gazeta has written that Lukashenka’s goals of his Baku visit were “money and oil”.
Human Rights. The activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev urges the population to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) on any violations of their rights until the fair justice system is established in Azerbaijan. He lists the cases related to himself, none of which were tried in a fair way, so all of them were or are being considered in the ECHR. The PFP reports that the member of the Ganja branch Shahin Hajiyev was not released after serving of 30 days terms of imprisonment but was taken to the police station. It is not excluded that they may open a criminal case against him. The human rights defenders report that in Penal Colony No.17 they create obstacles for meetings between the political prisoner, member of the Muslim Unity movement, Ahsan Nuruzade, with his legal defender, in violation of the legislation. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov reports severe tortures not only of the participant in the Ter-ter case, Lieutenant Tebriz Babazade, but also of his wife, the mother of two underage children – a toddler of 1.5 years and a 7-year-old. The activists argue that President Aliyev was aware of the tortures administered to the Ter-ter case participants. The human rights defender Fuad Hasanov posts information about torture against Ismayil Huseynov, who witnessed the shooting of a soldier before his eyes and threatened that he would follow him, if he did not sign a confession. He was charged as a result with treason and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The FB community reacts with indignation to the military prosecutor Khanlar Veliyev’s response to the publicizing and social network campaign against violations within the investigation of the Ter-ter case. The legal defender Agil Laij argues that in spite of his signature under several criminal cases opened on this matter a few years ago; today Veliyev claims that the facts published in social networks and e-media are” fairy tales”. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat and NCDF argues that by saying this, the military prosecutor confesses his own participation in the crime, otherwise he would say that the issue is being investigated or something similar to it.
The Monitoring Committee on Protection of the Human Rights Defenders, which is a joint program of the International Federation of the Human Rights and World Organization Against Tortures issued a statement in defense of the human rights defender from Sumgait city, Elchin Mammad, whose health had increasingly deteriorated in prison, but who was not provided with access to adequate medical service. It calls on the president of Azerbaijan and the government to a) guarantee the physical and psychological health and access to the medical services of the political prisoner, b) immediately release Elchin Mammad and all the human rights defenders who are behind bars, and c) put an end to all forms of repression, including at the judicial level, against Elchin Mammad and other human rights defenders in the country. The journalist in exile Afghan Mukhtarli for the first time in 4 years returned for an acceleration of the investigation of the case of his hijacking from Tbilisi and imprisonment in Azerbaijan in 2017. He showed the place where they took the black bag off his head in Kakhetia and he thought they were going to shoot him, and asked them to do it by gun, not by knife, but they only changed the bag. He said that the investigation was frozen while he was in exile. He also reminded his followers that there were dozens of street cameras wherever he was taken to, but ‘by coincidence’ all of them were under repair that day. The youth leader Bakhtiyar Hajiyev placed the video, which he calls from the series “Only in Azerbaijan”. The video depicts protest action of the 15 citizens of Turkan village who were registered as dead 15 years ago and whose lands were misappropriated. But above all, the authorities planted drugs and arrested a citizen of the village, Natig Mammadov, who was helping them to find a legal defender. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov attracts attention to the next transfer of political prisoner, a believer Movsum Samadov, into a punishment cell of the penal colony No.7. He reminds the followers that M. Samadov was transferred to punishment cells in every penal colony which he spent his term in: first in colony No.11, then two times in colony No. 12. On the 7 October 2011, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The human rights defender comments that if one criticizes the ruling party YAP, then he/she is labelled a terrorist. Samadov was first detained in 2011 for his speech at the Supreme Council of the Azerbaijan Islam Party, criticizing human rights violations, corruption and bribery. The ECHR issued a decision for the Azerbaijani authorities to pay 4000 Euro in compensation.
US policy toward Russia. FB discusses the new US sanctions against Russia and deportation of 10 Russian diplomats from the US. It points to the Russia External Intelligence Service as responsible for the cyber-attacks against the US. The US Ministry of Finance applied sanctions against Russia’s 16 companies and personalities suspected of election interference. also put prohibition on US companies for buying bonds of the Russian Central Bank, National Treasure Fund and Ministry of Finance.
Democracy and power-society relations. The ruling party YAP blamed Popular Front Party for the discrediting material reflected in “The Guardian” newspaper. Gultakin Hajibeyli quotes the late academic Khudu Mammadov, that there are seven wonders in the world, but the eighth is the indifference of the Azerbaijani people to its own fate. The former US ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich, in his interview to the BBC, argues that although officially the Karabagh conflict was declared to be over, in reality it was not, as the November agreement did not solve the conflict, but simply froze it at a new stage. He said that direct intervention of Russia and Turkey into the conflict created new opportunities to move resolution forward. He explained the disappointment of Azerbaijani population by the impossibility for the immediate return of IDPs, arrival of the Russian peacekeepers and the scale of the destruction. He expressed his regret at the criticism by Aliyev of the West and the Minsk group, and suggested that if he really wanted the participation of the West in the resolution of the conflict, he would fulfil his duties – not only economic rapprochement, but also progress in the area of human rights and freedoms. He argues that official Baku should understand that of there is interest in the country and the region shown by the new administration, it would not be about energy or security, but about the state of human rights, freedom of expression and problems with democracy. Richard Kauzlarich also mentioned in this context the using of sex videos as a means of pressure on Jamil Hasanli, who criticizes the government and is viewed as a threat, and previously on Khadija Ismayil. The FB user Ali Huseyn argues that society should not reduce its resistance to reading or even posting criticism of the authorities in social networks. If one keeps silence, it means that one participates in this oppression: “If you are silent, this means you agree; if you are silent this means you are also Ilham”. These days, he says, we should show solidarity and be with every citizen whose rights are violated, and the authorities should understand that no force can defeat people if they are united. The leader of the Popular Front Party Ali Karimli states that Azerbaijan people are facing one of the cruelest regimes, and the way to be saved from it lies through hundreds of thousands of people joining the struggle. FB users have spread and shared the video-appeal where the member of PFP Shahin Hajiyev confessed that he was forced to express his regrets on video by the authorities. He reported that resulting from the stress, his mother’s health has been seriously aggravated and he has had to stop his activities on social networks. He was detained after putting a status on his timeline- a joking puzzle “ Who is Ilham Aliyev for Vladimir Putin?” a) a friend b) an employee c) a servant d) a clown” The e-media also discusses the planned protest rally on 7th May, organized by the group of bloggers in exile. The activists share information about the decision of Navalny’s team to arrange an all-Russian protest rally on an earlier date than planned due to the speedy worsening of his health on hunger strike. The organizing committee invite people to come to the city centres all over Russia on 21st April at 19.00. Gubad Ibadoglu argues that all the money spent on hopeless trolls, managed from the centre parties and newspapers, could have been spent instead on the education of at least 150 young people in the best universities of the world. At the same time, cutting twice the number of police on each street corner in the country could save enough money to give 200,000 children 80 manats of child benefits annually. The issue of animal rights comes again to the agenda on Fb – Bakhtiyar Hajiyev calls for strict punishment for the cruel treatment of animals.
COVID-19. Natig Jafarli of REAL, based on official statistics comes to the conclusion that the average citizen has used only one mask in 40 days, which means that it has not only failed to protect them from the virus, but created the appropriate conditions for getting it. He urges the government to distribute a certain amount of masks for free.
April 20, 2021