Center for National and International Studies
“The Aliyevs treat Azerbaijan as an occupied territory and the Azerbaijani people as people under captivity.”
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
The protest taking place in the Gadabay region of Azerbaijan and the police brutality against the elderly protesters has become the center of attention in recent days. The people of Soyudli village of Gadabay protested against the creation of artificial lakes for toxic waste from gold mines belonging to the ruling family. In the viral videos circulating on the Internet, the use of force by the police against the elderly population and the deployment of tear gas can be observed. Furthermore, five individuals from the protesting group in Soyudlu village of Gadabay were arrested. Recent reports indicate that on June 20, these detainees, who were initially taken into custody during the protest against the construction of an artificial lake utilizing the waters of the gold deposit in the Soyudlu village area of Gadabay district, have now been formally arrested. Local residents have shared that these five individuals have been subjected to a 20-day administrative detention, while an elderly woman received a fine and was subsequently released. The affected residents have come forward to recount the acts of violence they experienced during the protests, expressing their demand for the removal or relocation of the artificial lake.
Moreover, Meydan TV reports that residents of the Kubinka neighborhood in Baku, who were forcefully displaced from their homes, are expressing their grievances regarding the officials. Despite their protests, the authorities have not taken any measures to address the situation.
Residents of Mursagulu village in the Neftchala region also objected to the illegal confiscation of their lands. They allege that the former mayor, Alibala Salimov, sold and leased approximately 400 hectares of municipal land during his time in office. Expressing their concerns, one resident mentioned, “Alibala is the president of the Neftchala district. He holds authority over the court, the prosecutor’s office, and anyone he points a finger at, they comply unquestioningly.”
Governance and Corruption
The press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) issued a statement about the situation in the village of Soyudlu, Gadabey. Elshad Hajiyev, head of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, claims that the executive authorities and the police have been trying to explain the situation for two months to the residents of Soyudlu village, however, they interfered with the construction of an artificial lake. “As a result of the residents’ attack on the employees of the enterprise, the police officers present in the area yesterday intervened and put an end to their illicit activities”, said Hajiyev.
According to the residents, to extract gold at a low cost from the gold mines belonging to the ruling family, obsolete and hazardous technologies are being employed. Consequently, the initial artificial lake spanning an area of 10 hectares constructed in the vicinity proved inadequate for containing the cyanide waste. As a result, a second artificial lake, covering an extensive area of 48 hectares in the Soyudlu village, is now being established for the purpose of accommodating cyanide waste.
Chairperson of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli condemned police brutality against the elderly protestors in Gadabay, saying that the country is under the occupation of the Aliyev family. “Everywhere in the country, this nation is viewed with a hostile gaze. Innocent people in various regions such as Nakhchivan, Baku, Ganja, Sumgait, and elsewhere are attacked. The government of Ilham Aliyev treats the nation as if it were an occupied territory, fostering an atmosphere of fervor and cruelty. The invaders exhibit no mercy towards the people of the occupied territories, pillaging their resources for their own benefit. Unless those living under occupation set aside blame and personal preservation and instead unite, organize, and collectively strive for liberation, this occupation will persist. The people of Azerbaijan must act in unison, rallying together, organizing, and breaking free from the grip of the police regime.”
Ali Karimli also said that the authorities had launched “a very nasty campaign and instead of being ashamed and embarrassed and apologizing to the nation for the brutality committed against elderly mothers in Gadabay, they are trying to bind those simple, hardworking people, elderly women, to the West and foreign forces”. They don’t understand how miserable they look by slandering these old mothers, these simple people who don’t know the West or the East. By unjustly smearing the name of these ordinary citizens who simply seek their rights, the regime only manages to fuel the people’s animosity and contempt. Fearing public condemnation, they claim that the police who sprayed pepper spray on the face of the old woman allegedly committed this brutality on their own initiative.
Activist Nigar Hezi also commented on the protests in the Soyudlu village, saying that president Aliyev is personally responsible for what happened. “The executive head of Gadabay represented Ilham Aliyev in front of the protesters yesterday. This executive head embodied the very image of Ilham Aliyev. It seems that Ilham Aliyev and his team have an insatiable appetite. Despite amassing a vast array of goods, properties, offshore accounts, foreign assets, islands, and immense wealth through exploiting the people’s resources, their cravings remain unfulfilled. The most prominent figure of corruption in this country is Ilham Aliyev himself. Just as we witness the downfall of Putin, it is likely that Ilham Aliyev and his team will face a similar fate in the near future.”
Chairperson of the National Council of the Democratic Forces (NCDF) Jamil Hasanli has strongly condemned police brutality calling on the government to respect the constitutional rights of the citizens. “Many times in my articles and speeches, I have said and written that the Ministry of Interior lost not only its sense of morality but also is out of Constitutional control. We have written many times that a police state has been established in the country. We have repeatedly stated that the police have become an institution that protects the family-feudal regime of the Aliyevs. We have said many times that the police have become a hotbed of crime in this country. What happened in Soyudlu village of Gadabey region further validates these claims. Police brutality is rampant in the country. Even, Mohammad Reza Shah’s SAVAK would not have dared to exhibit such reckless behavior in Iran. The ruling family’s boundless greed has reached the Gadabay mountains. They were not satisfied with oil, gas, and tar, and now they are looking for gold in Söyudlü. Without taking any technical safety measures, they created a 10-hectare artificial lake that poisons the environment and destroys people and its surroundings. Now they want to create a 48-hectare cyanide lake in the pastures of Soyudlu. The people of Soyudli are protesting against the artificial cyanide lakes that disturb their comfort, poison their lives and yards, and pose a serious threat to their livelihoods and farms. This is their civil right, human right, and constitutional right. It is illegal to send internal troops, mobilize the army, and use police forces against the population of a village. These citizens have the right to protest. An elderly woman who returned peacefully without resistance was fired at close range with tear gas, while another woman fell to the ground and was beaten by the police. It is clear from the spread of artificial smoke and fog in the area where the incident took place that gas bombs were used. Undoubtedly, the ruling family is responsible for the brutality that happened in Soyudlu. It is not about the selfishness, brutality, and cruelty of some police. More than the police, it is Ilham Aliyev‘s brutality against his citizens. As mentioned earlier, the Aliyevs treat Azerbaijan as an occupied territory and the Azerbaijani people as people under captivity.”
Member of the NCDF Tofig Yagublu said that “as long as Ilham Aliyev remains in power, the state will continue to exhibit hostility towards its own people.” Yagublu’s post on Facebook: “The villagers want to protect their lands. Instead of addressing their legitimate demands, the authorities respond by deploying troops against them. These distressing images resemble scenes from the German Nazi era, where peasants assisting partisans were subjected to attacks. Yesterday it was Khoshbulag village in Dashkasa, today it is Soyudlu village in Gadabey, and tomorrow it could be any other village whose rights are being violated.”
June 23, 2023