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Center for National and International Studies




“….Forget about Europe, we already look with envy at Africa….”

The Fb users  decry news about planned military parade of Russia in Khankendi, feel puzzled about situation with the Zangezur corridor,  are indignant with the official response from Moscow about Iskander-M rockets, suggest to prohibit Russian TV channels in Azerbaijan, denounce indifference to the fate of the dwellers of the demolished houses on Sovetski street and astonished by lack of reaction to the 170th day of hunger strike in prison by journalist Afghan Sadigov,  discuss the low rank of the country  on freedom of expression, praise Angela Merkel’s support for territorial integrity and the dialogue between political forces in Georgia.

Post-war situation.   The FB community shares and decries news about the military parade of Russia in Khankendi of Upper Karabagh. Osmangizi TV considers it a provocation, which may stir the protest, as an indicator of the Kremlin’s increasing claims on Karabagh.  Meydan TV reports that Ilham Aliyev said that the Zangezur corridor will be opened even if by force, while Pashinian said the opposite to the local citizens, and tries to predict with the politician Azer Gasimli whether this will lead to new escalation in the region. The Armenian sources reports the violation of ceasefire between Gubadli and Sunik regions. According to the other sources, Azerbaijan had hit an Armenian military plane.

President Aliyev in his speech stressed that Azerbaijan would sue Armenia along with the foreign companies – those who had illegally developed natural resources on the occupied territory – in the international courts for the damage caused as a result of occupation (with consequent demand of compensation). He also revealed the official response of Moscow to the inquiry about the Iskander-M. The response said that this rocket was not fired. President Aliyev called it an “incomplete answer”, as the question was: how did the prohibited rockets get into the hands of the Armenian party? He argues that the answer should clarify whether this rocket was officially transferred to Armenia or was illegally smuggled. The official and pro-government sources continue to publicize the “successful policies” directed toward not only national but also regional development.

Relations with Russia. The FB community stresses the absurdity of the Russian military parade in Khankendi. One of the PFP activists comments that there is no such international practice when a foreign country holds military parades on the other country’s territory, when it comes there ostensibly as a peacekeeping force. And if Russian military bases do not do it in Armenia, but in Azerbaijan – this is a clear violation of the country’s sovereignty and attempt to show itself the master of Karabagh. He notes that it has already become a tradition for Azerbaijani officials to keep silence, in response to the numerous violations of the country’s sovereignty by Russia. He comments that the issue of independence is recalled by authorities only when the West calls for democracy, freedoms and human rights. Fuad Gahramanli of the PFP argues that Armenia seems like it is more independent from Russia than Azerbaijan, which behaves as if it is part of the Russian Federation, and Russia daily humiliates the country and the nation. The journalist Afghan Mukhtarli calls the Russian TV channels “the peak of prostitution”- in relation to the propaganda of Putin’s regime. He argues that all Russian channels should be prohibited in Azerbaijan, however instead of this – all the cable TV channels in the country are Russian. Some activists, such as Natig Jafarli, argue that the process of strengthening Russia, which started with the Munich conference in 2007 is still continuing, and with the incapacity of the West to prevent the events in Georgia in 2008, then following Crimea, Donbass, Belarus, the arrival of the “peacekeepers’ in Azerbaijan has consolidated Russia’s victory. He argues that either the West does not understand the post-Soviet space, or simply allows Russia to get involved there, hoping that it will exhaust its resources and will eventually be defeated. He calls it a mistake of the West to “lose Lukashenka” at the time when he was cutting ties with Russia. Now he argues, he is pushed to the corner and most probably will agree to the union with Russia at the meeting on 22 April. He considers that if this happens, it will be very dangerous for Azerbaijan, and suggests forming a similar union (confederation) with Turkey, as the only way left to protect Azerbaijan’s sovereignty. The opposition activists assess with indignation the official Russia’s response to the inquiry of Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence about Iskander-M rockets. Gultakin Hajibeyli comments, that Russia in essence responded that rocket had not been fired, so then it was only a dream of the Azerbaijanis and their president, a fairy tale, and they saw not the rocket but Alexander (Iskander) 1 of Macedon, good night.  After this prominent reaction, she argues with irony, President Aliyev should ask for a fivefold increase of Russian peacekeepers, and to hold a military parade on 9th May, not in Khankendi, but in the city of Baku. The lawyer Agil Laij reiterates that Russia can never be a peacekeeper. It is building a quasi-state instead, similar to the one by the Dnestr river. He argues that Armenia is preparing for revanche. The FB community closely follows and praises the protests in Russia. Osmangizi TV discusses the hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of numerous cities all over Russia and the address of Putin to the Federal Congress the same day. Azerbaijani opposition leaders particularly stress that in many cases there was not involvement of police, although there were thousands of people in the streets. They report on some of the slogans of the rallies: “Putin-the-Thief”, Putin > out!”, “Freedom to Navalny!”; Ali Karimli of PFP states that, “As the great Rasulzade told, we wish Russia also a democratic governance, so this would lead to development, turn it into a democratic state, so they would live happily, and will withdraw their troops from our country, and will not mess up Azerbaijan. Let both of us benefit from being each other’s neighbours.”

Social issues. The opposition leaders call to stand for the dwellers of the demolished 8 thousand houses in Sovetskii Street, who protested for many months, claiming adequate compensation. They argue that the government who immediately gave millions to Lukashenka, is saving on its own population’s needs.

Human rights. The group of accused in the Tovuz case have been on hunger strike for the 50th day already. New legal defenders have joined the process. The e-media continues to cover the violations and details of the infamous Ter-ter case.  FB shares news about the range of protest vigils in front of the government buildings. Parents of the political prisoners demonstrate in front of the presidential apparatus, while the war-handicapped – in front of the Ministry for Employment and Social Protection, demanding their own compensation, benefits and rights. The FB sources report police putting into vehicles the protesting mothers of prisoners who were moving towards the US embassy building in Baku. The human rights defenders continue to keep in the centre of attention, the case of misappropriation of the lands in Turkan village and in particular the illegal imprisonment of Natig Mahammadsoy, who was helping the dwellers with legal aid. Afghan Mukhtarli reports on his timeline that after 4 years he has at last been recognized as a victim in his case of hijacking in Tbilisi. All these years he was considered a witness. He also expressed scepticism in regard to fair investigation by the Georgian prosecutor. The opposition and independent e-resources report the continuation of the court hearing on the Karabagh rally participants, this time on pressure during the investigation.  The human rights defender Rufat Safarov reports the tortures which one of the suspects on Ter-ter case informed him about and comments that although it was four years ago, traces still persist nowadays. The activists, journalists and human rights defenders expresses support and solidarity with the political prisoner, journalist Afghan Sadigov, who has been 170 days on hunger strike. The FB community shares with concern reports that ex-“graffiti prisoner” (he was in prison in 2016-19 for critical graffiti on the statue of the late president Heydar Aliyev), the youth leader and activist, Giyas Ibrahimov, has been deported from Turkey for unknown reasons. The Embassy of Turkey in Baku said they were not aware of the deportation.

Perception of George Floyd case in the USA. The activists share and praise the news about the guilty verdict to the police who killed detained suspect George Floyd. They assess it as a case of true justice in a democratic country and contrast it to that of the 11 suspects who died during investigation in the Ter-ter case with nobody being punished. The same people led by the military prosecutor Khanlar Veliyev are still occupying their positions and continue to get their higher ranks and medals. Tofig Yagublu stresses, that Joe Biden personally called the family of Floyd to express his condolences and apologise, while President Aliyev behaves in the mode “I was right”.

Democracy and power-society relationsThe author of Azadlyg newspaper Rafig Manafli criticises the idea that “democracy is the internal affair of the state” by those, who he called “boarded the bus of a dialogue” with the authorities. He calls it “the empty choir of the politicians, who simply label themselves “democrats”, and argues that there is no difference between such “democrats” and the president Aliyev. He notes that while they were in prison, they were very much appealing to Western organisations, but once they joined the “bus of dialogue”, they started to assert that “democracy is an internal affair of the state”. Fuad Gahramnali of the PFP reminds the FB community that Azerbajan’s rank on freedom of speech is 167 out of 180, with 40 African states ahead of it… He argues “… forget about Europe, we already look with envy at Africa”. Armenia’s rank is 63, Georgia’s is 60. But this, he argues with irony, does not matter, as most important is that Formula-1 races are held in the country. Natig Jafarli of REAL considers that there are three strategic issues which should unite opposition and power: 1) the territorial integrity-Karabagh issue; 2) protection of independence and 3) the country’s integration into the West and Turkey. The deputy chair of PFP, Seymur Hezi, asks the rhetorical question on why the national TV, which has repeatedly stated that “Putin is good, but his surrounding is bad”, does not publicise the high-level support of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan? The opposition and independent press reflect on the events at the PACE meeting and some inadequate reactions of the national MPs. The human rights defender Elshan Hasanli described the new amendments to the Law on Practice of Freedom of Religion as restrictive. The amendments prescribe all the mass rituals and pilgrimages are to be organised only by the official religious agencies; the draft was adopted by the National Parliament.

Relations with UkraineThe National Strategic Think Tank under the leadership of the former chair of Musavat party, Isa Gambar, discussed the situation in Ukraine and issued a statement that expressed full support for the brotherly Ukrainian people. At the same time, it called on the Azerbaijani government to express its full support for the ally-state of Ukraine, not only as a response to its support of the 44-day war, but primarily in the national interests of Azerbaijan and establishment of peace in the region. Simultaneously, while highly assessing the support shown to the Ukraine by the US, Turkey and EU, it calls on them not to limit efforts to prevent the new occupation operation, but to extend them by putting an end to the current occupation of the North of the country and of Crimea. Altay Geyushov quotes the Crimean Tatar’s response to the question of Russian journalist on how he was living under Ukrainian rule, “Bad, very bad!”, and then answered: “even worse!” to the following question “How do you live now under Russian rule?”.  The e-media published a post called “Zelenski called Putin to the duel.” That’s how they interpreted the invitation of the Ukrainian president to meet with Putin at any point in Donbass.

Relations with Turkey. The economist and leader of the ADR, Gubad Ibadoglu, reports that Turkish truck drivers are complaining that Azerbaijani customs officers charge them $700-750 in transit fees on the state borders and that this is often more than a half of their income. This makes them chose the alternative route via Georgia, Russia and then to Kazakhstan. Despite crossing over 2000km of Russian territory, they are not charged any fees, while for traversing 500km in Azerbaijan they have to pay from $500-750. This is only related to Turkish trucks, while the rest – Georgian, Russian, or Ukrainian ones – are exempted from it. The problem is pressing, as the Turkish trucks’ route to Central Asia is now 3 times as long, and often as a result of the traffic, they stay for days on the Russia border points.  FB users share the video appeal of a Turkish driver to cancel these transit fees in Azerbaijan. The problem emerged, concludes Ibadoglu, after the usual transit route via Iran was closed.

92 years of writer Chingiz Guseynov.  The FB community celebrates the 92nd anniversary of the famous Azerbaijani writer Chingiz Guseynov, currently living in Israel. The academic historian Jamil Hasanli writes that his books – “Magomed, Mammad, Mamish”, “Fathali Fathi”, “Family secrets”, “Doctor N.” and others – each turned into a big literary event and all remain avidly read today. In spite of facing strong criticism and dissatisfaction from Soviet officials, he never changed his stance.

Situation in Georgia. The activists follow the events in Georgia and praise the outcome of the talks between government and opposition. Tofig Yagublu argues that the outcome of the confrontation of power and opposition is the perfect example of a true dialogue, conducted with the mediator – head of the Council of Europe, Charles Michelle, unlike the ‘bus dialogue’ in Baku of the so-called opposition with Adalet Veliyev from the presidential administration.  (by calling it the ‘bus opposition’, people are referring to the meeting of Veliyev with those opposition parties in the bus to the site of the liberated territories).

Governance, economy, corruption. The journalist in exile Ganimat Zahid, the anchor of the Azerbaijan Saati program, has posted a parody advertisement auctioning the job of Kurdamir region’s Head of Executive Power, which has been vacant for 6 months. The starting price, he argues, is $100,000 thousand; the criteria: a letter of recommendation to the ruling family, access to the Head of the President’s Security Service, Beylar Eyyubov, a high education diploma, member of the Sunni trend of Islam, between 45-51 years old, with height not lower than 1m 68cm. The youth leader Bakhtiyar Hajiyev criticises the highway police service which is literally robbing the drivers on the roads. He comments that if there are 5 state agencies that suck the blood of the citizens like a tick, one of them is the Highway Police. While before they would take fines in cash, now they write bills for a much higher amount, openly confessing that a share goes to their bosses. He comments that the electronic system of fines works perfectly, and notes for certain reasons much better, than the system of distributing 190 manats of state compensation to those affected by lockdown.  He also contrasts the scale and level of developments in the international arena, such as the landing on planet Mars by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, the new contract between NASA and Elon Musk, on the one hand, and the intrigues and primitive management of the National Academy of Sciences by the ex-Head of Presidential Administration, “the grey cardinal” Ramiz Mehdiyev.

Tofig Yagublu of Musavat and NCDF compares the spending on a short tunnel in Baku city (half a billion) with that of the Georgian government on the East-West road project, including construction of 96 tunnels and 53 bridges which is less than $1b. He comments that such a project would cost, by Aliyev’s standards, no less than 10-15 billion, and notes that the “bus” opposition still argues that demanding child benefits is a form of populism. The opposition media also reports that Angela Merkel has touched upon the issue of corruption involving official Baku and the deputies of Bundestag and called it a negative event, requiring serious investigation, and that Deputies Strenz and Lintner should be held responsible.

FB has been circulating the video of the ex-MP, Head of the Khatayi regional branch of the ruling party YAP, member of the Union of Writers, Huseynbala Miralamov, while he was harassing his female employee. Meydan TV reports that his plays are performed in the State Drama Theatre. The feminist leader Rabiyya Mammadova appeals to her followers to immediately sue such employers. The opposition activist showing how routine sex videos have become in this country, shares his impressions with humour: “Today somebody wrote in my inbox – Have you already seen the video today?” My heart froze, the activist continues, but then I saw, with relief, that it was a video of ex-MP Miralamov.” People also ridicule attempts of his MP colleagues to defend him, or his own response, that it was a fake video. The next time he responded to the journalist, declaring “This is not MY telephone number!”

April 23, 2021

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