Center for National and International Studies
“The current activities of Western institutions and the diplomatic corps serve to discredit the West in Azerbaijan…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Elvin Mustafayev (Atilla Khan), a critic of the government on social media, was arrested for 25 days on charges of resisting the police. Activists and opposition leaders called Mustafayev’s arrest politically motivated.
The Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli commented on the recent arrests saying that if president Aliyev doesn’t give up on repressive policies, the arrest warrant issued for Putin would be issued for him as well. Karimli: “Ilham Aliyev still does not want to draw conclusions from what happened to his friends. For 41 days, he has been quietly watching Alizamin Salayev, who has been on a hunger strike, would lose his life at any moment. He ordered shooting the protesters, including a 16-year-old, with a rubber bullet. All the dictators and authoritarian leaders in the world have one thing in common: they believe until the end that they can avoid responsibility. They think that even though the other heads of state who commit similar criminal acts are caught and held accountable, they would be able to avoid responsibility, and they can stay in power forever. However, it is also a fact that many cruel heads of state who are confident of their inviolability have to take responsibility for their actions when the time comes. History indeed teaches that many learn nothing from it. Freedom to Alizamin Salayev and other political prisoners!”
Commenting on the arrest warrant issued for Putin, a member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu said that a similar scenario would happen for Ilham Aliyev as well. “Ilham Aliyev will definitely stand before the court one day, but unlike Putin, not before the Hague Court, but before the Azerbaijani court. Elvin Mustafayev (Atilla Khan) was arrested yesterday and sentenced to 25 days in prison. Alizamin Salayev, who was arrested and imprisoned, has been on hunger strike for 40 days in protest against his illegal arrest. Leaving aside Ilham Aliyev‘s corruption and other crimes, there are thousands of cases of slandering and imprisoning innocent people, and it will not be possible for him to avoid the trial. Freedom to all political prisoners!”
Governance and Corruption
The US urges the Azerbaijani authorities to consider the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE regarding the new law on Political Parties. The spokesperson of the Department, Ned Price, tweeted that the US government is “troubled” by the recent law. The spokesperson’s tweet: “The U.S. is troubled by Azerbaijan’s recent political party law. We urge the authorities to incorporate Venice Commission and @osce_odihr recommendations and to respect fundamental freedoms, including of association.”
Activist and former political prisoner Ilkin Rustamzade argued that the current poor state of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan is also largely due to ignorance and negligence of the West. Rustamzadeh’s Facebook post: “The West is also responsible for Azerbaijan’s current miserable situation. For many years, in the name of civil society and democratic circles in Azerbaijan, they worked with such people that the public was disgusted with the whole democratization process. They left out the people who were more or less at the forefront of political activism, who devoted their lives to the political processes, and instead, they supported both morally and financially the people who were mostly irrelevant. The people who would have a good reputation and whose activities were well-known have always been sidelined. I don’t know if they did it on purpose. But the fact is that the current activities of Western institutions and the diplomatic corps serve to discredit the West in Azerbaijan.”
“A movie was supposed to be made about the second Karabakh war, but it never happened because the allocated money was embezzled”, said the actor George Gafarov. The actor shared a post on the matter, which stirred the debates on corruption on social media.
The customs generals arrested in July 2022 were released under house arrest. The head of the Operation and Investigation Department of the State Customs Committee (SCC) at that time, Major General Masum Rasulov, and the former director of the “Azerterminal complex” association under the Committee, Major General Ehtiram Khalilov was arrested as a result of the operations conducted by the State Security Service officers in June-July 2022. The generals were accused of embezzling millions of funds. It is reported that they were released under house arrest on the basis of payment of the alleged alimony – the damage caused in the criminal case. In the official statement issued by the State Customs Service about the arrest of the customs officers, it was stated that Ehtiram Khalilov violated the rules of organizing and conducting customs auctions and was accused of organizing the sale of state-owned goods and vehicles below their real value. It is claimed that General Ehtiram Khalilov carried out these works together with his subordinates. In addition, he was accused of accepting a large amount of bribes from several people. In the information of the Ministry of Defense, it was emphasized that the cigarettes confiscated and stored in the “Azerterminal complex” unit should have been sent to the relevant structural units of the Ministry of Defense for distribution to the military personnel of the Armed Forces. But instead, Masum Rasulov violated the procedural rules and handed over the cigarettes to “an employee with whom he had a personal connection.”
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Part (ADWP) Gubad Ibadoghlu warned that if the government doesn’t launch urgent economic and social reforms, there will be a massive scale socio-economic crisis. Ibadoghlu: “The social policy of the state in Azerbaijan is based not on social protection but on the exclusion of the people from social security. This will ultimately lead to a social crisis. Such a crisis has already begun, and the reason why it doesn’t lead to a social catastrophe is that there is a lack of politically active citizens, and the society has not yet reached a level that would act as a political entity. I will try to explain my point with some statistical data. As of January 1, 2023, 1 million 114 thousand 200 pensioners were registered in Azerbaijan. However, as of January 1, 2022, their number was 1 million 200 thousand 500 people. So, the number of pensioners decreased by 86 thousand 300 people in the last year. If the decline continues at this pace, most of the elderly in Azerbaijan will not be lucky enough to get the right to a pension. It should be noted that only 11 percent of the population in Azerbaijan receives a pension. No nation would tolerate a government that implements such a social policy with so much wealth. The problem is not about available funding. This situation is an indicator of the government’s attitude toward its people. In the first two months of this year, the surplus (leftover, unspent money) in the state budget is 2 billion 217 million 200 thousand manats, with which it is possible to increase all types of labor pensions by at least 40 percent. But since the government does not serve the people, it will direct those funds to construction projects in Karabakh, where it will be misused due to corruption in a closed and non-transparent environment.”
President Ilham Aliyev declared 2023 the year of Heydar Aliyev, as it coincides with the 100th birthday of his father, the former president who ruled the country from 1992 till his death in 2003. President Aliyev came to power only a couple of months before his father passed away and has been in power since then. Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Tofig Yagublu said that because of the official announcement this year, the government would perhaps exaggerate its glorification of the former president. Yagublu’s post: “This means that the number of shameless lies about Heydar Aliyev that characterize him positively will increase by one to five. Nowadays, we celebrate the Nowruz holiday. During the Soviet era, this holiday was not observed at the state level because Moscow did not allow it. Only thanks to the efforts of the former leader of Azerbaijan – the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Vali Akhundov, permission was obtained from Moscow to hold this holiday at the state level, and Nowruz holiday was celebrated three years in a row (1967-1968-1969). However, in 1970, the Nowruz holiday was canceled again. Do you know why? Because Heydar Aliyev had already come to power and everything that was national in the country was ridiculed, and the country was Russified. That is why Ilham Aliyev, in every meeting with Putin, happily reports to him about a large number of Russian schools in our country…”
March 21, 2023