Center for National and International Studies
“….The petro-dollars were spent for buying off corrupt and unprincipled people in Europe, renovation of the historical sites and parks there and Lukashenka’s regime…”
Post-conflict situation. The e-media discusses the planned meeting of Erdogan with Putin, the Iran’s military exersises on the state borders, and “peacekeepers’ occupying activities” in Karabagh. The Osmangizi TV’s experts report that Ilham Aliyev was the first to congratulate Putin with elections, and express strong dissatisfaction with it, taking into account number of serious issues in bilateral relations. The same TV stresses that the pressure on Azerbaijan is increasing both from Russia and Iran. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that in response to the occupation of new lands in Karabagh by Russian “peacekeepers” Azerbaijan should respond by signing a defence agreement with Turkey, start serious movement towards democracy. The activist in exile Ramiz Yunus argues that “The problem of the corridor through Zangezur is directly related to the functioning of the Lachin corridor, and the sooner this is understood in Armenia, the better. Armenia no longer has levers of influence on the situation, while Azerbaijan, on the contrary, will continue to increase its advantage. The reliance of official Yerevan on the United States and France and the European Union in general were not justified. There are only two real regional players in the region, Russia and Turkey, who will try to maintain a mutually beneficial balance. Iran is not interested in confrontation with the Turkey–Azerbaijan tandem. President Biden‘s speech at the UN makes it clear that the US will no longer get involved in regional conflicts.Summary: the world is changing and the time of populists is over.” The FB community shares quotes from “ sensational” interview of the ex-minister of interior of Turkey Sadettin Tantan, that Aliyev has stopped military actions in the middle of successful operations in Karabagh because of his exceeding dependence on Russia. The Fb community decries continuing military exercises in Karabagh by the Russian peacekeepers and two foreign state’s flags in Khojali airport- those of Armenia and Russia. It shares and praises Erdogan’s quotation at the UN General Assembly that Azerbaijan has implemented the UN resolutions which stayed for years on paper and returned its occupied territories. He also said the US and Turkey are brotherly nations and allies. Overall, the speech impressed the FB community, with called it a “ powerful speech”. E-media also reports Pashinian’s “ readiness for the high level dialogue with Turkey”. The Fb community stresses that both military exercises of Russia’s peacekeepers and usage of the MI-8 helicopter Terminator there are illegal, and official Baku should have issued a warning to Russia. In general, Russia should leave the country. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP published his analysis of the situation in Karabagh. He argues that the possible Armenia–Turkish dialogue is in the Azerbaijani interests. He also notes that the recent support of Russia for Kocharian, such as the forum of Russian businessmen of Armenian origin in Yerevan and promise of 1 b. dollars of aid, is an evidence of Russia’s intention to take a revanche and to balance the influence of EU, which gave 2,7 b. EUR aid to Armenia. That’s why Pashinian is extending his space for maneuvers by trying to start dialogue with Azerbaijan and Turkey. He asserts that regardless of Kremlin’s relations with Pashinian by arming Armenia and supporting its aggressive policies Russia is promoting her own strategic interests, as this is the only way to preserve her role in the South Caucasus. At the same time, he considers, by arming Armenia Russia helps her to get rid of the complex of defeated nation and strengthen positions of Kocharian. He attracts attention to the fact, that Araik Arutyunian did not meet with Pashinian in Yerevan, which testified to Russia’s monopolizing the Karabagh issue and keeping it under her full control. This also allows Russia to make foreign states to keep her in the center of international talks on Karabagh and address predominantly Russia in these talks. According to the Armenian sources, continues Gahramanli, Russia plans to mediate the talks about opening of the railroad communication between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which would allow Russia to send military equipment to Armenia via Azerbaijan, as well as demonstrate Russia as the only power who can provide for the communication and cooperation in the region. Thus Russia’s control will extend beyond the military sphere. This in turn will increase Russia’s chances to stay in the region for more than one term of 5 years. Ramis Yunus characterizes the current stage of international relations as the situation when the old paradigms are not applied, while the new paradigms are not developed yet. He argues that creation of AUKUS proves that pragmatism won over ideology in the paradigm.
Russia and CIS. The FB community follows the Western policies in reaction to the Lukashenka’s suppression of the protest movement and praises preparation by the EU and US package of stricter sanctions against his regime. This time sanctions are extended to the Beltelecom, main banks, wood production industry etc. Elections in Russia are in the center of attention of FB community, although there were not high expectations in connection with its outcome. Natig Jafarli of REAL considers the election results proved that Navalny’ return in January was a mistake, that Russian society is not liberal, but rather is typical “left”, even the radical left. It also showed that Kremlin can very well use the confrontation with the West for its domestic purposes. He considers that in today’s Russia Putin responds to the society’s expectations, as it is conservative, militarist and left. In accordance with the REAL’s major approach- never boycott elections, he also stressed that not a single force, including Navalny in prison, called for “meaningless” boycott of elections. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF comments, that at last Russian elections by its scale of falsification approached Azerbaijani elections standards, including letting only “pocket opposition” parties in the parliament. The new people, she argues are also members of the Putin’s new “constructive configuration”. She considers that failure of Navalny’s “smart voting” is another evidence that it is not possible to change strict autocratic regimes by elections, but only by a mass popular movement. The FB community speculates on possibilities of various scenarios in Armenia with Russia manipulating the issue of Karabagh in order to replace Pashinian with Kocharian, if it is in her interests.
Relations with Iran. The journalist from the Southern regions of the country reports most recent detention of the 600 kg of drugs being trafficked from Iran and asks the question, why Iran which is so strict regarding the alcohol, does not consider sinful using of much worse substance- drugs? The MP Elman Mammadov argues that Azerbaijan does not interfere in the internal affairs of Iran, but simply has re-established control and is monitoring the part of the road which crosses Azerbaijan’s territory. The previous passage of trucks from Iran to Armenia via Azerbaijani territory was illegal. The analyst Ilham Ismayil comments, that Iran is irritated by the checks of the trucks on the Gorus-Gafan road and most importantly – by the strengthening alliance of Azerbaijan with Turkey. He also warns that Azerbaijan respective structures should watch the groups supported by Iran in the country , as the probability of their activization and doing provocations will increase. Another scandal was caused by the prayer of the imam of Tabriz mosque, who condemned Iranian Azerbaijanis protesting trucks sent by Iran to Karabagh. The chair of the Office of the Caucasus Muslims Allah Shukur Pashazade has issued a statement also disapproving the prayer of Aghai Amuli of Tabriz Mosque.
Social issues. The Fb community reports and shares another case of protest by the Karabagh war handicapped Rahib Agayev in front of the Ministry of Defence building. He reported that although he was injured in the Karabagh War 2nd he was not registered as a handicapped. The activists decry the stories of fraudulent schemes of swindlers, who get money from the parents of the war missing, promising to find and bring them back to their families. The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that from the 1st of October the taxi drivers will be required the COVID-19 vaccination passport to continue their work. The FB shares post by Roya Rafili, who was one of the Azerbaijanis deported recently from Germany, being refused the asylum there. She has now returned to the country, where she has no place to live or to work. She says that her situation is desperate and she needs a shelter for herself and two underage children. Meydan TV made a street poll in Baku about price rise on food products, which followed the price rise on gasoline.
Human rights and liberties. The issue of tortures practiced in the law enforcement structures continues to be publicized and decried by the human rights defenders and activists. It is reported that the chief of the prison 17 Shakir Ganiyev two times personally gave severe tortures to Elzamin Salayev to make him to slander the Popular Front Party and its leadership. In reaction to his refusal they gave him tortures and put him in the punishment cell for 10 days. Elzamin Salayev declared hunger strike in protest to the unhuman treatment and unjust system. The activists and journalists decry deprivation of prominent activist, member of NCDF, Vidadi Mirkamal of his pension by the government due to his opposition activities. The Fb community widely shares and comments on the report by the Freedom House on Internet Freedom 2021. Azerbaijan with 35 score is among non-free states, while Armenia with 71 score and Georgia with 77 – are among states with internet freedom. At the September 22nd court hearing of Niyameddin Ahmadov the prosecutor asked for the sentence of 15 years in prison. Ali Karimli defends his bodyguard Ahmadov calling the charges in “financing terrorism” a revenge taken by the Aliyev government. He highly praises integrity and bravery of Ahmadov and Alizamin Salayev and calls society to prevent transformation the country in Turkmenistan and North Korea– stand united for their rights and demand their immediate release. The journalist Aygun Pashayeva has complained to the president Aliyev of the Ministry of Finance, which has been violating her rights for 22 years and lost her documents. She mentions Namig Suleymanov who was the head of the apparatus of the ministry in 1999-2019, who led this process. The journalists and activists discuss and denounce the anti-feminist statement by the MP Jala Ahmadova. The Fb community ridicules her statement that “men should be first, followed by women, because God has created them this way.” Nurlan Libre explains that such women never earned anything by themselves, but were provided by men: fathers, brothers, husbands, so such statements from them are quite natural. In addition, he continues, they make up a saying, that “behind every successful man, there is woman”. Such women are shocked when someone says, that women can be successful without a man too, concludes the journalist. The Fb users are concerned with the apathy of the population, weakly reacting to the gross violation of the human rights, corruption, injustice. The human rights defender Rufat Safarli appealing to people writes on his timeline: “ What should we do? Should we hand over Niyamaddin, who is not guilty and has not done any socially dangerous deeds or actions, to the clutches of the ruthless regime?… Or do we think, that the unprecedented young man living in the conditions of severe deprivation should be taken care of by himself, his family, the organization he is member of, and couple of free media outlets?”
Governance, economy, corruption. In connection with the ongoing court hearing of the corruption case in Azerkhalcha ( state company of carpets) and its ex-leader Vidadi Muradov it is revealed that in the short period of time he misappropriated 22 m. manat. Commenting on the case, the activists consider the scale of corruption miniscule, as compared to the SOCAR’s president, or the president of the republic himself. The other ongoing court proceedings are related to Vugar Safarli, the former executive director of the Fund for the State Support of the Mass Media. It was discovered that after 5 m. manat were allocated for the construction of the apartment building for journalists, one month later Vugar Safarli transferred 1,5 m. to his personal bank account. He also confessed that 4,7 m manat on his account were made as a result of devaluation of manat. He used insider knowledge to withdraw his savings before devaluation from the bank account and then to earn by returning it after devaluation. Overall he is accused of illegal appropriation of 20 m. manat. B. Hajiyev argues with irony that the court proceedings in Azerbaijan can replace theatre performances, as introduce wide range of genres- comedy, tragicomedy, drama, absurd, tragedy… He stresses that especially interesting is when the judges leave “for consultations” – while pretending to go to consult with each other, they in fact drink a cup of tea and then return with the decision prepared in advance. “ It is free of charge, once a week, the only shortcoming is that it is staged during the weekdays at the working hours”- he jokingly concludes. B. Hajiyev makes a short post on his timeline reflecting the dynamic of the oil income and the remaining reserves in State Oil Fund. “ There was 175 b. dollars of oil income in 27 years, and only 44.1 b. dollars currently preserved at the State Oil Fund. The economist Tahir Mirkishili warns against the threats and risks to the national currency if certain measures are not taken in time to prevent its falling under influence of the other currencies. The Azadlyg newspaper writes about schemes of corruption at the Head Customs Agency with businessmen being forced to store their goods at their warehouse for the significantly inflated prices. The author reports about the “ legalization” of corruption taking place in the process.
Democracy and power-society relations. The Fb community continues discussion of the publications and posts related to the ethnic relations in the country. Many consider them artificially brought the agenda, but almost all prominent leaders – civil society or opposition– respond to the claims in the posts. Many argue, that there are no problems in inter-ethnic relations in the country, but absence of human rights is the problem of the system which concerns everyone regardless of ethnic or confessional background. They recognize the ethnic identities of all groups, living in the country, including Azerbaijani Turkic but argue that they all are citizens of Azerbaijan. Javid Gara of the Ecofront, while considering the problem being artificially brought to agenda with political purpose, recognizes that the statistics of ethnic groups is not reliable and is usually reduced. He calls for the more professional census in regards minorities, opening schools in native languages, increasing ethnic history lessons etc. Ganimat Zahid argues that this is a general problem of governance in Azerbaijan. He calls all the ethnic groups – national treasure of Azerbaijan, and it is not a problem, but an advantage of the country. But the human rights should be provided for all regardless of the ethnic background. One of the activists Ali Huseyn comments, that his wife is Talysh, his mother is Lezgi, while himself he is an Azerbaijani Turk, and argues, that in this homeland there have not been and will not be a place for segregation or discrimination. The opposition politician Yadigar Sadyghli (Musavat Party) gave an interview to Osmangizi TV, where he argued that if the ethnic minorities are considered along with the majority of Azerbaijani Turks citizens of Azerbaijan, then preservation of their languages is in common interests and is a common cause of all Azerbaijanis.
Ali Karimli of PFP describes where and how the petro-dollars were spent by the Azerbaijani government. He argues, that the oil income was misappropriated by the small group of people, who spent part of it on renovation of the parks, museums and monuments in Europe, on the purchase of an old and outdated Russian weapons, support for the dictator Lukashenka, flourishment of tourism and property market in Russia, buying off all corrupt and unprincipled people in Europe, world sports, show business, even Armenian churches benefitted from our oil income, he concludes, except for Azerbaijani people. The opposition and civil society activists share an information about the film “ The caviar diplomacy” about Aliyevs policies which started to be broadcasted at the same time- by the major corporations – RTS, RTBF, ARTE, La Une, as well as on Netflix. The opposition activist contrasts the so called “puppet of Russia” Armenia’s government celebrating the independence day, to Azerbaijan– who conducts independent foreign and domestic policies- not celebrating it.
September 24, 2021