Center for National and International Studies
“The Baku regime should show whether it represents a sovereign and independent country, or an outpost for Moscow on the Caspian.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Journalist and LGBTQ+ activist Avaz Hafizli was brutally murdered by his cousin. The 24-year-old journalist was beheaded and his genitals amputated. The brutal murder shocked the activists and journalists and panicked the LGBTQ+ community in Azerbaijan. The journalist’s colleague Teymur Karimli said that Avaz had problems with his family and relatives because of his sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ activism. He has been threatened with death by his relatives since last year. Hafizli’s friends argued that the threats began after a blogger named Sevinj Huseynova openly targeted him on social media spreading hate speech about the gay community. Although Hafizli has repeatedly appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry about the death threats, his complaints were ignored. According to the close friends of Hafizli, the murderer Amrulla Gulaliyev’s father has offered money to Hafizli’s family, and they will not complain. Avaz Hafizli was wrapped in this carpet and brought in a garbage truck. The police refused to take Hafizli’s body to the morgue, saying that they would not touch “this filth”. Both the police’s and certain groups’ reaction outraged the activists. Chairman of conservative political party Ağ Partiya Tural Abbasli made a statement about the gay community that was criticized as a justification for killings and ill-treatment. Abbasli wrote on FB: “This way of life is against humanity. Imagine that tomorrow, all men marry men, and all women marry women. How will the world develop? What will happen to population growth? Will we import children from Mars? Does Democracy mean that you can do whatever you want and everyone should tolerate?” Activist Rabiyya Mammadova argued that “as much as the government is to blame for ignorance in the country, the opposition is also guilty of what happens to LGBTQ+ community.”
Historian professor Altay Goyushov shared a similar opinion reacting to the tragic end of the journalist. Goyushov wrote: Hafizli’s brutal murder is everyone’s fault. Unless the society realizes that the degradation imposed on it in the name of national and moral values is in fact a means of enslaving it and is the cause of the current situation, and it will remain so.” Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev posted on FB to support the idea that one’s private life and sexual orientation should be respected. Hajiyev argued that “society should be more active in demanding their rights against corrupt officials instead of celebrating the beheading of someone who has not done any harm to anyone.”
Exiled writer Gunel Movlud said that blogger Sevinj Huseynova should be held responsible for spreading homophobia and transphobia. Movlud wrote: “Sevinj Huseynova shared a post about Nuray, showed her as a target, Nuray was killed shortly after; Huseynova wrote about Avaz, Avaz first attempted suicide due to excessive public pressure, then he made complaints, his complaints were not considered, and in the end, he was murdered. When Sevinj Huseynova made those hate speeches, activists complained to the authorities more than 40 times, but no action was taken. Sevinj Huseynova‘s hate speech was ignored, and she was set free. As a result, it caused, and it will cause people to lose their lives, and Sevinj Huseynova is still free!”
The youtube channel of Azad Soz was shut down. The reporter of the channel, activist Tural Sadigli wrote that the Azerbaijani government has repeatedly tried to block the channel and delete its videos. Sadigli wrote: The Azerbaijani government has used the law on the sharing of personal information in Germany for its own ugly political purposes. According to the relevant documents received from Germany, they deleted several videos from Azad Soz‘s youtube account and suspended the channel. This is a state-level operation. According to the relevant law, the address, as well as my personal information, can be given to the complainant. I have no doubt that this was one of the key issues during the recent official visit of the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan Kamran Aliyev to Germany. It was no coincidence that a criminal case was reopened against me.” Sadigli added that despite the difficulties, they will regain access to the channel and will continue the activities. Azad Soz has a big audience on youtube due to their videos criticizing the government.
Russia Invades Ukraine
On Tuesday, Russia officially stated the invasion of Ukraine. In his address to the nation, Russian president Putin has argued that Lenin and his allies “created” modern Ukraine by seizing territories from Russia. Putin’s highly controversial speech that was full of historical inaccuracies outraged the international community. Shortly after, the West expressed solidarity with Ukraine. In Azerbaijan, while the majority of the social media users voiced sympathy for Ukraine, the society was also baffled by the signing of the Declaration of Alliance between Russia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan signs Declaration of Alliance with Russia
Chairman of APFP Ali Karimli said that “unfortunately, the announced alliance with Russia will increase the threat to Azerbaijan’s independence, Russia’s ability to limit Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, accelerate Azerbaijan’s isolation from the international community, and damage Azerbaijan’s international relations.” According to Karimli, Azerbaijani people “must be ready to face more serious threats to the territorial integrity and national independence.”
Reacting to the Alliance Declaration with Moscow, the head of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that “the signing of the alliance agreement, which serves the interests of Russia, at such a confusing time, does not bode well for Azerbaijan.” “Let’s not forget that signing such an agreement with Russia also means taking on a great commitment that serves Russia’s foreign policy interests”, added Ibadoghlu.
When sharing his opinion about the declaration, journalist Seymur Hezi said that “Aliyev knows that his future depends on Putin.” Hezi wrote: obviously, he does not want Putin to fall. But he doesn’t know now that the question is not whether Putin will fall or not, but rather how he will fall.”
Member of NCDF Fuad Gahramanli argued that Aliyev’s Moscow visit and the signing of a declaration are attempts to include Azerbaijan in Russia’s aggressive policy against Ukraine. “At a time when the world is exerting political and diplomatic pressure on Russia to avoid war with Ukraine, signing an alliance agreement with Russia means supporting Putin‘s imperialist policies,” said Gahrmanli. According to him, “this confirms that Azerbaijan is in the anti-Western bloc on strategic issues and obeys Moscow in foreign policy.”
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that the timing of the declaration couldn’t be worse. Hajiyev wrote: The declaration is signed with a regime that armed our enemy, occupied territories in the countries of the former USSR, created so-called republics, and annexed Crimea. It was a day before Russia started a war against Ukraine and on the anniversary of Turkmenchay Treaty of 1828.”
Activist Nigar Hezi also criticized Aliyev for signing the declaration with Putin. Hezi wrote: At a time when even China is afraid to appear close to Russia in the current situation, Ilham Aliyev‘s signing of an alliance declaration with Putin is an insult to the country. It is to take the country to the abyss. It is disrespectful to the memory of our martyrs. In order to protect his throne, Ilham Aliyev does not refuse to fulfill any of Putin‘s instructions.”
The former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich called the Moscow Declaration “a Surrender of Sovrenighty Document”. Kauzlarich tweeted that “the Baku regime should show whether it represents a sovereign and independent country, or an outpost for Moscow on the Caspian.”
The ADW Party shared a statement that the declaration of alliance contradicts the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its obligations under international treaties and conventions to which the country is a party and has so far signed and ratified as a member.
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli wrote that “Azerbaijan has entered a very dangerous stage.” “Faced with a historic choice, Aliyev chose despotic Russia, and the people will pay the price,” concluded Mukhtarli.
February 25, 2022