Center for National and International Studies
“The new gas deal and the agreement expected to be signed between the EU and Azerbaijan in the near future should not happen at the expanse of total disregard to the violation of human rights and freedoms and the repression of activists.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
On Wednesday, on the initiative of Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council Coordination Center, a protest rally was held in front of the Cabinet of Ministers with the demand to open land borders. The rally was destroyed by police violence. According to the Azadliq newspaper, Yagublu and almost 36 participants of the rally were violently detained, and journalists were prevented from taking pictures of the scene. Despite the efforts made to prevent the action, the participants came together in separate groups and voiced their demands. In his statement, chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli strongly condemned police brutality and called on the public and the international community to protest against the prohibition of freedom of assembly and police violence in Azerbaijan. “We demand the immediate release of those detained during the rally,” said Karimli. Aziz Mamiyev, a member of the Musavat Party, was detained during the rally with the demand “Open the land borders.” Mamiya was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention.
The National Council of Democratic Forces shared a statement regarding police brutality during the rally. The statement read: “On the one hand, the reactionary regime is trying to create an image of abandoning the practice of police violence, with the intention of deceiving both local and international public opinion, but in fact, it still uses police violence against peaceful protestors. Extreme violence against peaceful civil protests remains an unchanging tradition of the ruling regime. During the rally held on July 20, 37 participants of the action, including 28 APFP activists, were violently detained by the police. The police used excessive physical force when detaining the protestors, and several of the protestors were injured. In this regard, the July 20 rally also removed this mask of Aliyev’s regime. The National Council declares that the habit of meeting peaceful political protests with the aggressive force of the police must be finally abandoned. Finally, the Azerbaijani authorities should understand that even the president has no right to violate the constitutional rights of the citizens, and the president cannot arbitrarily decide “what to do, when, how to do”.
According to the activists, another veteran committed suicide. Salamat Azizov, who committed suicide, was a participant in the Second Karabakh War and lived in the village of Uzuntep, Jalilabad region. Meanwhile, Shabran district resident, soldier Umid Heydarov, who served in Baku, was buried today. It is said that the soldier died as a result of an incident due to technical negligence. However, some sources say that Heydarov committed suicide. The Ministry of Defense has not made an official announcement. The number of mysterious deaths in the Azerbaijani army has increased in recent days.
Journalist Habib Muntazir reported that, in Lankaran, the deputy head of the executive power Rasila Arifgizi and the school principal Yegane Askarova invited a 9th-grade student to her house under the pretext of giving a certificate, and they beat up the student. The deputy head of the executive power was dismissed from her position, and a criminal case was opened against her.
Government, Transparency, Corruption
The Memorandum that was signed between the EU and Azerbaijan on increasing the export of Azerbaijani gas to the EU continues to be the main topic of discussion on social media. Different members of the opposition and activists reacted differently to the new gas deal. Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli said that although he supports the idea of a closer partnership with the EU, the new gas deal, the EU should not disregard the violation of human rights in Azerbaijan. Karimli wrote: “Today, the delegation led by the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the European Parliament, David McAlister, held a meeting with the Azerbaijani opposition and civil society activists. Azerbaijan-European Union relations, as well as the social and political situation in Azerbaijan, political prisoners, police violence, mass violation of human rights and freedoms, and election fraud, were also discussed at the meeting. At the meeting, I drew the attention of the leadership of the European Parliament Foreign Policy Committee to the concern of the activists. I said that we understand the increasing need for natural gas in the EU, and we support Azerbaijan’s export of more gas to the EU and the agreement signed for this purpose. This is in the interest of our country as well as Europe. However, there is a concern in our society that increased energy cooperation with the EU may lead to a decrease in the EU’s attention to human rights and fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan. European Union officials have assured us that increased energy cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan will not reduce attention to human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan. The agreement on the Strategic Partnership between the EU and Azerbaijan will finally be completed.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov argued that the Azerbaijani public will not benefit from the new deal while the ruling class will expand their businesses. Goyushov wrote: “With the money from gas, they (authorities) will buy new properties in London or buy a million-dollar watch from Switzerland, or they will invite some company from Germany for a high price and build an enterprise, hotel, or other buildings for themselves. Also, due to the gas, the West will strengthen its support for these people who have been in power for nearly 30 years. What will Azatbaijani subjects get? It’s a rhetorical question. Because if Azerbaijani subjects had the power to demand something, they would not be called subjects, they would be citizens. Therefore, the only thing the subjects can “get” is that when there won’t be enough gas to sell to Europe, their gas will be cut off and transported to Europeans in order not to be embarrassed in front of Europe. That’s how miserable this nation became.”
Lawyer Aslan Ismayilov believes that the new contract will help Azerbaijan to strengthen its position against Russia and Iran. Ismayilov wrote: “With this new Memorandum with the EU, not only Turkey but also the European Union will be our ally against Russia and Iran, who are constantly threatening us. This agreement will speed up the integration of Azerbaijan into the European Union and start the signing of new agreements. This, in turn, will lead to free elections in our country, protection of human rights and freedoms, and the formation of a free market economy.”
Chairperson of Musavat Party Arif Hajili said that “it is an important event in terms of Azerbaijan’s strategic interests, as well as the reduction of European countries’ dependence on Russian energy sources.” However, Hajili added that he hopes that “the interests of energy security will not result in human rights and principles of democracy being put on the back burner, and in the future, the West will not face the same problems it is facing now as a result of its policy towards Russia.”
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli argued that the new stage of partnership with the EU would result in democratization in Azerbaijan. Gahramanli wrote: “This agreement, in turn, will make the issue of integration to the West even more urgent and bring up the issue of democratic and economic reforms. The possibility of successful competition in a geostrategically important region for the West cannot be limited only to economic projects, and it can also be possible through the strengthening of European values. In the near future, this will lead to an increase in the importance of the requirements of the European Union’s expansion strategy as the main priority in relations with the countries of the region.”
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli criticized the representative of the EU for not having meetings with the members of opposition parties. Mukhtarli wrote: “The European officials did not meet with the political parties, especially with the leadership of the main opposition parties, the APFP, and the Musavat Party. It was a serious mistake not to meet with the opposition during the document signing, which is especially important for Europe, and not to learn the opposition’s position on important issues such as Azerbaijan-Europe relations and energy transport. This is also a blow to the democratic movement in Azerbaijan. This means that Europe acknowledges only one political party in Azerbaijan. This means that Europe supports corruption and bribery in Azerbaijan. Such behavior of Europe has a special role in the weakening of the struggle for democracy in Azerbaijan and the strengthening of the dictatorship. Democracy is not supported by meeting with some activists and lawyers for the sake of a meeting. What about Azerbaijan? Human rights? Political prisoners? Freedom of speech, freedom of the press? After all, for years, we all demanded the imposition of sanctions on the Aliyev family and members of the regime. Undoubtedly, Putin was a dangerous dictator for Europe and the world. Ilham Aliyev is also a corrupt dictator and thief who cracks down on 10 million people with an iron fist. The same sanctions applied to Putin should be applied to Aliyev. There are plenty of alternatives for Europe. But they still take the path of buying cheap energy and plenty of bribes from dictators. What disappoints me is that no opposition party objected to this bargain. Like the previous agreements, this agreement will also not benefit the Azerbaijani people. Millions and billions will flow to Aliyevs.”
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that if the EU disregards the situation of human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan, the new agreement will only help consolidate the position of the authoritarian regime. Hajiyev wrote: “This evening, we will have a meeting with the delegation of the Foreign Relations Committee of the European Parliament. I will tell them that they should not be afraid of Aliyev’s threats and that they should raise the issue of individual sanctions, starting with colonel-generals who violate human rights and freedoms. Aliyev should also understand that the era of Samad Seyidov, who sat next to him, and Suleymanov, who distributed money in PACE, will be behind us. However, this Memorandum and the agreement expected to be signed between the EU and Azerbaijan in the near future should not put aside the violation of human rights and freedoms and the repression of activists. Otherwise, the European Union will replace its energy dependence on a country led by an authoritarian leader and strengthen another authoritarian person by buying gas and oil. Therefore, when the European Union officials visit Azerbaijan, during the discussions of the agreement expected to be signed between the EU and Azerbaijan, they must also contact the civil society representatives and involve them in this process.”
July 22, 2022