Center for National and International Studies
“Calling on the British embassy in Azerbaijan to refute its statement and admit its mistake, the Ministry of Internal Affairs proved at the international level that there is a police regime in Azerbaijan.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
In Azerbaijan, from May 18 to June 18 has been officially declared “Human Rights Month”. According to the authorities, “whose rights have been violated should be resolved within this period.” However, the government’s announcement has been found ironic, especially in the light of recent cases of torture and violation against prominent activists and journalists.
The British embassy in Azerbaijan supported freedom of assembly in its statement and condemned the police brutality during the rally on Saturday in downtown Baku. Interior Ministry responded to the condemnation of police violence and denied the embassy’s statement, and called on the embassy to refute its assessment of the rally.
The US State Department also raised the issue of freedom of assembly in Azerbaijan after the rally on May 14. “Peaceful protests are an element of an open political system…We fully support the right of people to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution of Azerbaijan,” the State Department said in a statement.
Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that “calling on the British embassy in Azerbaijan to refute its statement and admit its mistake, the Ministry of Internal Affairs proved at the international level that there is a police regime in Azerbaijan.” Ibadoglu argued that, the fact that the Interior Minister, who has never been punished by Ilham Aliyev for the lawlessness, physical violence, and misconduct of the employees during the recent protests, has issued a threatening statement to the embassy, which violates the rules of protocol, is an indication of a lack of coordination in Azerbaijan. Ibadoghlu wrote: “according to the rules of the protocol, the Interior Ministry had to address its dissatisfaction to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and the Foreign Ministry had to inform the embassy about it. Without realizing it, the Interior Ministry has no authority to do so, not even against the Eritrean ambassador. As for the United Kingdom, five days after the statement, Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a Karabakh horse on behalf of the President of Azerbaijan, and the embarrassment of the Interior Ministry became the subject of discussion in London. It seems that the cost of a false statement from the Interior Ministry will be high. Let’s not forget that the business, capital, and property of the ruling family are mainly in Britain.”
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that he had been stopped from boarding a flight at Baku International airport. After hours of talks with the airport authorities, Hajiyev managed to get on the plane at the last moment. Hajiyev wrote: The problem I had at the airport was finally solved. The Interior Ministry ordered a “stop” for me to leave the country, and I had to disturb people I knew at the Interior Ministry in the morning. After a lengthy talk, they said that the ban was issued last year because I had witnessed a case that was opened but closed shortly after. I told them that in that case, the and should had been lifted immediately once the case was closed. Moreover, I said that it is necessary to be informed about the legal and official ban so that we check the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs before the visit and take timely action. In my case, there was no “stop on route” or “ban to leave” on the Interior Ministry’s website. Even at the airport, when I had checked in for my flight, there was not such an issue. After being detained as a terrorist for two hours and taken here and there, I finally got on the plane at the last moment. After all these, they ask why do you complain?”
Governance and Corruption
AZAL, Azerbaijan’s national airline company, has released its latest financial report, stating that it ended 2020 with a net loss of 76.415 million manats. In 2020, the company received a subsidy of 232.82 million manats from the government due to COVID-19. In addition, AZAL owes a debt of 2.2 billion manats to the Ministry of Finance. The report of the company faced backlash from independent politicians, journalists, and active social media users.
Calling the airline company a monopolistic company, blogger Habib Muntezir wrote: “AZAL, one of the monopolistic companies that bought all the planes at the expense of the state budget, built all the airports at the expense of the state budget, allocated millions of subsidies from the state budget and sold the most expensive tickets not only in the region but also in the world, announced that it actually operates at a loss. In 2019, it worked with a net loss of 78 million 770 thousand manats. Let me note that in 2020, AZAL received a subsidy of 232 million 82 thousand manats from the government. But where and how does all this money go? Let me explain. The family of Jahangir Askerov, who owns various companies, hotels, restaurants, and mansions in Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Czech Republic, England, and Turkey, has opened new companies in London in 2019-2020. The assets of MRCR Art Limited, the seventh company opened by Jahangir’s daughter in London in 2019, exceed £ 31 million. Ten days ago, Jahangir Askerov’s daughter Jamila Askerova founded another company in London, Jazmena LTD. In general, the assets of the companies belonging to the family of the head of AZAL in the UK alone are more than 100 million manats. In London, Jahangir Asbarov’s family, along with the Aliyevs family, are expanding their business.”
Journalist Seymur Hezi also criticized the national airline company AZAL asking if the company operated at a loss in recent years, why it has not been privatized. Hezi wrote: The land borders of the country have been closed for two years now and anyone who country to leave or travel to the country had to use AZAL buying its overpriced tickets. Now the company says it operates at a loss. If it is the case, then the company should be privatized, and low-cost international companies should be invited, which would be beneficial both to the people and the state.”
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli said that if AZAL operates at a loss even with huge state support, it is because of large-scale budget misallocation. Gahramanli wrote: “AZAL, a company that sells the most expensive air tickets in the world under the leadership of a looter named Jahangir Asgarov, receives annual state subsidies and acts like a monopolist, has so far made a loss of 76 million manats. Where does this company’s revenue go, why should it operate at such a loss, and how does AZAL operate at a loss when other airlines that sell so many cheap tickets are making huge profits? No one is asking. The company’s loss in 2020 alone was 76 million manats. So, it turns out that all government agencies in this country are operating at a loss. State Oil Company, AZAL, Azersu, Azerishig, Azergaz, and many others. One may say that the Azerbaijani state is operating at a loss. These companies, each of which is a monopolist in its field, receive preferential treatment from the state, control the market, sell their products at a non-competitive price, and operate at a loss. How does this happen? Because all revenues and funds allocated from the budget are stolen, and as a result, at the end of the year, a report is written that we have worked at a loss.”
Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland’s admission to NATO has been widely discussed by the Azerbaijani politicians, journalists, and active social media users. Yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Chavushoglu announced his country’s position on this issue, making it clear that Turkey is not opposed to NATO’a expansion. According to the statement by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, in exchange for Sweden and Finland agreeing to join NATO, Turkey wants both countries to declare the PKK and its affiliates a terrorist organization.
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli argued that what is really important for Azerbaijan is that the strengthening of Turkey’s position in the region is in full accordance with the national interests of Azerbaijan. According to Gahramanli, Turkey’s current stand also means ensuring security, which lays the foundation for Azerbaijan’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic space. “Turkey’s demands have nothing to do with Erdogan‘s personal interests, and they are legitimate conditions that serve Turkey’s national interests and security,” said Gahramanli.
Journalist Seymur Hezi shared a different opinion on the issue, saying that Turkey’s open opposition to NATO’s expansion poses a risk to its own security and territorial integrity. Hezi wrote: “In order for Turkey to disintegrate, it must leave NATO, which guarantees its integrity. Erdogan, meanwhile, opposes NATO’s expansion and poses an extra risk to Turkey. Thus, those who call him “Turkey’s Gorbachev” are right.”
Social and Economic Situation
Blogger Ilkin Muradov wrote about the poor economic situation in the rural parts of the country. According to Muradov, there is no drinking water in the Aghdam village of Tovuz. This village is on the border with Armenia, where clashes between confronting armies of Azerbaijan and Armenia took place a couple of years ago. In another village in the Gadabay region which is also close to the border, the residents have to cross the river on donkeys and horses as there is not a bridge. The locals managed to install a bridge with their own money, however, it was destroyed by the flood. The residents of the villages in the whole Zagatala region suffer from a lack of drinking water supply. The water pipes that distribute water from the nearby river have been crumbled and need replacement. “In the 21st century, the situation alone shows how far we have come,” said Muradov. Muradov also criticized the government for investing money in hosting the Formula 1 race instead of improving the living standards and the infrastructure in the country.
May 20, 2022