Center for National and International Studies
“It is an undeniable and disheartening reality that for the past 30 years, since the establishment of an independent Azerbaijan, one family has held sway over the country.”
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
Journalist Fatima Movlamli reports that police violently interrupted peaceful protests in front of the Milli Majlis. A police officer drove the car over a journalist while she was covering the protest.
Movlamli wrote a Facebook post about the incident. “I went to cover the peaceful protest in front of the Milli Majlis. As I was documenting the detained individuals, a PPX car with the license plate number 99-AP-634 drove over my left foot. Despite my repeated cries for the police to stop the car because it was on my leg, they did not halt until other officers intervened. My foot has swelled up, rendering it difficult to put any weight on it. We immediately proceeded to the Traumatology Hospital, accompanied by the police, who had arrived there ahead of us. However, after undergoing an X-ray examination, the doctor did not provide us with the results or any official statement regarding the injury. They only mentioned that if there is a minor fracture or crack, their hospital’s X-ray machine may not be able to detect it. As a result, I am now heading to a private clinic for a second examination. I sustained this injury while carrying out my professional duties, and I strongly believe it was intentional. I am determined to pursue all necessary legal actions in response to this incident.”
According to a report from Azad Soz, Seminara Jafarova and Khaliga Musayeva, residents of Ganja, were allegedly forcefully taken into a car by the police near the Milli Majlis in Baku around 14:00 yesterday. After this incident, there has been no communication or updates from them. They had gone to the Milli Majlis to register their complaints before this incident occurred.
On June 16, the court brought extra charges against activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who was arrested last December for alleged “hooliganism” and “disrespect for court”, which he denies. The new charges include illegal entrepreneurship, fake entrepreneurship, forgery or illegal preparation of official documents, including licenses, for fraudulent purposes, as well as the sale of such documents, as well as the preparation or sale of counterfeit state awards, stamps, seals, or letterheads, knowingly using counterfeit documents and smuggling, involving the clandestine or fraudulent transportation of goods across the customs border of Azerbaijan or beyond, as well as the fraudulent use of documents or customs identification means, or failing to declare or providing incorrect declarations.
Chairperson of the opposition National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Jamil Hasanli condemned the new charges against Hajiyev, saying that it is merely a recurring episode in the long-standing pattern of targeting NGOs, a phenomenon that gained momentum from 2014 onwards. “The point is that the Azerbaijani society watched this movie not once but several times. The allegations being made, such as the misappropriation of grants, are not presenting any novel information. These accusations, which resurfaced later, are undoubtedly aims to punish Bakhtiyar Hajiyev for his political endeavors and can be interpreted as acts of persecution. That is, all this is a continuation of the famous NGO persecutions that have become widespread since 2014.”
Meydan TV reports that, Natalya Sadygova, who went to the Milli Majlis on June 16 to voice her objection against her son’s arrest, alleges that she was subjected to police brutality. She describes the wounds on her face as evidence of the violence inflicted upon her by the policemen. She expresses her dismay at the fact that such acts of aggression were committed against a civilized individual, specifically a 63-year-old woman of a non-threatening demeanor.
Governance and Corruption
As the government commemorated the anniversary of former president Heydar Aliyev‘s rise to power over three decades ago on June 15, the opposition drew attention to the fact that the country has effectively been under the rule of a single family since its independence. Chairperson Ali Karimli expressed deep concern over this dynastic rule, urging Azerbaijani citizens to actively demand democracy. “As embarrassing as it is, it is a fact that it has been 30 years since the establishment of family rule. It is an undeniable and disheartening reality that for the past 30 years, since the establishment of an independent Azerbaijan, one family has held sway over the country. In the mere span of 32 years since the restoration of our independence, 31 years and 8 months have been marked by the dominance of this family. During this period, the government in Azerbaijan has not been subjected to elections, change, or accountability to the people. Instead, power has been transferred within the confines of the family. Over these 30 years, the government has increasingly curtailed the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Moreover, the nation’s wealth has been progressively plundered on a larger scale each passing year. Corruption, monopolies, fraud, political arrests, torture, and police violence have become the primary pillars of state governance throughout this three-decade period. These alarming trends have deeply entrenched themselves in the administration of the country.”
For the second consecutive year, Azerbaijan has maintained a “Level 2” classification in the State Department’s trafficking in persons report, indicating that the country’s government falls short of fully meeting the minimum standards for eradicating human trafficking. Secretary Anthony Blinken released the report at the State Department, emphasizing the critical need for a global alliance among governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector to combat sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Blinken stressed the necessity of collaborative efforts, saying that the collective commitment of all parties involved is required. “We need law enforcement agencies to prosecute traffickers, social workers to aid traumatized victims, and advocates to hold governments accountable,” said Blinken. Cindy Dyer, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Monitoring and Combating Human Trafficking, echoed these sentiments, urging governments to leverage the “power of partnership” by collaborating with private companies and nonprofit organizations in their anti-trafficking endeavors.
Member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Fuad Gahramanli has expressed concern over the government’s efforts to marginalize the main opposition party through the implementation of new legislation regarding political parties. He believes that the intention behind the adoption of this law is to strip the APFP of its right to participate in proportional elections by deregistering the party. “With the adoption of the law on new political parties, they want to deprive the APFP of its right to participate in the proportional election by deregistering the party. That is, instead of manipulating the votes to prevent the APFP to enter the parliament, the authorities aim to utilize the “Law on Political Parties” to sideline and outlaw the APFP, thereby preventing their participation in the elections. The authorities believe that by excluding the APFP from the political arena from the outset, they can avoid the question of “Why didn’t the APFP enter parliament?” during the next election, and successfully execute their intended deception. However, if this is to deceive the international community, then the recent statement of the European Union, the fact that the United States has recently raised concerns about democracy in Azerbaijan more loudly, and the recent statement of the PACE speakers show that it won’t be possible to deceive the West by this imitation. It will not happen, and such attempts to deceive the West are destined to fail from the very beginning.”
After yesterday’s armed incident, the Azerbaijani side closed the Lachin border crossing point. Member of the National Council of the Democratic Forces (NCDF) Tofig Yagublu called government’s reaction “thoughtless and populist decision,” saying that it would damage the ongoing peace talks. “This will have profound implications for Armenians as they could easily raise the whole world against us with the argument that “Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh are exposed to a humanitarian disaster” (there will be others). The authorities should realize that it is necessary to sign a peace treaty with Armenia as soon as possible on the basis of the conditions that are offered now and are completely in the interests of Azerbaijan. You should know that it is Putin who does not want the signing of the peace agreement and is trying to prevent it by all means. You know very well who and how is ruled by Putin…”
Sarah Michael, the World Bank’s country manager for Azerbaijan, shared some new insights regarding the country’s economy. She revealed that approximately 500,000 wage workers in Azerbaijan currently lack bank accounts, with a higher concentration of such cases found in regions outside the capital, Baku. Notably, the proportion of women without bank accounts surpasses that of men. Michael highlighted that a prevalent misconception among the population in regional areas is that opening a bank account is costly, indicating the need for financial literacy campaigns in these regions. Additionally, a lack of trust in banks acts as another hindrance to people opening accounts, prompting efforts by the World Bank to address this issue. Official statistics indicate that the country currently has 1,734,000 wage workers. Based on the World Bank representative’s statement, it becomes evident that approximately 30 percent of employees do not possess a bank account. Of the total workforce, 901,000 individuals are employed in the state sector, while 833,000 work in the non-state sector. Sara Michael also discussed public deposits, noting that only 10 percent of deposits in Azerbaijan are held within banks. Furthermore, she highlighted that around 200,000 individuals in the country still pay their utility bills using cash.
Following the resignation of Vasif Talibov, the former head of the Nakhcivan Autonomous Republic, who governed the region for nearly three decades, recent investigations conducted by journalists have revealed that members of the Talibov family possessed unlawfully acquired assets worth millions. In the Nakhchivan AR, often called “North Korea of Azerbaijan,” Talibov presided over a covert and oppressive governmental system for 27 years. Throughout his years in office, the Talibov family amassed significant wealth, including properties and businesses in Azerbaijan as well as other neighboring countries. In a report published by OCCRP, it was revealed that Talibov’s sons Rza and Seymur Talibov received over $20 million through suspicious money transfers facilitated by Credit Suisse and other banks. Moreover, they held real estate assets valued at $63 million in Dubai and Georgia. The Talibov family maintained complete ownership of “Nakhchivan Bank,” in the Autonomous Republic. However, according to the bank’s latest annual report, the family, compelled by pressure from the central government in Baku, sold their shares on February 1. More recently, Talibov’s sons, Rza and Seymur, transferred ownership of six Dubai properties, amounting to a minimum value of $39 million. Additionally, the proprietorship of Rza’s five-star hotel in Georgia has undergone a change.
June 20, 2023