Center for National and International Studies
“…Of all Minsk group co-chairmen, Russia is the most dangerous, exactly because she created this problem…”
The FB community is extremely concerned with the lack of information about the new agreement to be signed between the two states, obtained mainly from Armenian sources; comments on the speech of Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with foreigners at the Nizami Ganjavi Centre, continues to discuss the inter-ethnic tensions in Georgia and suspects Russia behind it, is shocked by the state’s neglect of the war heroes’ health and social issue;, decries Belarus Lukashenka’s “state terrorism” and defends the freedom of self-expression of the Azerbaijani singer at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Situation in and around Upper Karabagh. The activists decry Prime Minister Ali Asadov’s gratitude to Russia for its “support in Karabagh war II” during his visit to Russia. They note that even Putin admitted transferring weapons to Armenia during the war. Ali Karimli, the leader of the Popular Front Party, decries the attempt to attribute the victory price of thousands of young lives to the foreign country and demands that the Azerbaijani government should give an explanation of this statement. The activists, journalists and bloggers continue to decry and issue warnings about Russia’s role in the conflict. One of them states: “Of all Minsk group co-chairmen, Russia is the most dangerous, exactly because she created this problem”. Natig Jafarli of REAL quotes Armenian author Avetik Arutyunian who wrote that the borders of the current Azerbaijan should not be recognised because it is not the heir of the Soviet republic, but of the independent 1918-20 Azerbaijan People’s Republic (Hayastani Anrapetutyin newspaper). He comments that Arutyunian should be invited to Baku, as in those years the territory of Azerbaijan was much bigger. The activists discuss the statement by Nikol Pashinian that a new agreement is going to be signed which will be in favour of Armenia. Ali Karimli stresses again that the information is coming first from Armenian sources because the governance is more democratic than in Azerbaijan and Pashinian has to consult with various institutions and the society before he makes any decision. He argues that in essence there is not either a parliament, nor a government functioning as independent branches of power. The freedom of media is curtailed, people are tried for participating in the Karabagh rally and criminally charged, while the opposition has no conditions for its functioning. He concludes that authoritarianism is not a threat just for individuals, but also for national interests and development.
Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR calls the post-war situation strange and dangerous. He notes that instead of the usual invitation of parties to the dialogue, the leading and regional powers – such as France and Iran – suggest Armenian military aid, while Russia is supplying weapons for the Armenian army, conducts joint exercises and signs a new agreement. At the same time the US does not advise its citizens to travel to Azerbaijan, just on the eve of the Formula-1 race, and the 4th game of the European football championship taking place in Baku. Iran is the main country which can create a mess in Azerbaijan even without terror, as the number of people listening to the speeches of Khomeyni and to prayers in Ardebil and Tabriz mosques is growing. He warns the citizens of Azerbaijan to be alarmed and that the state should increase security on the borders. The activists note that the US Ambassador in Armenia before going to Khankendi in Karabagh, first visited Zangezur, and urges the authorities to be more active and take the country out of the abyss they put it in. The ruling party MP Aydin Mirza-zade reports that there are already couples who want to celebrate their marriage and have their wedding parties in Shusha. The opposition leaders scrutinise the cheering posts on the government sites responding to the new agreement going to be signed with Armenia. They recall that all these conditions were in the 10th November agreement and it is unfortunate that it took 7 months to implement them. Moreover, on the contrary, the armed Armenian groups not only were not withdrawn but are being turned into a modern army by Russia, with not a single Azerbaijani having entered the Zangezur corridor yet. Gultakin Hajibeyli considers there are probably dangerous government games behind the scenes, the shocking results of which people would know only in the end. She notes that Ilham Aliyev himself on 21st May confirmed that Azerbaijan is still under the occupation of Armenia. She decried recent fake information about an advance in Zangezur of 3.7 km by the Azerbaijani army, which only alarmed France, the US, Canada and the European Parliament and turned the Azerbaijani position of ‘victim’ into a guilty one. People also share Pashinian’s speech where he explains the situation on the border – 7 villages of Gazagh region and Kerki should be returned to Azerbaijan’s control, while Bashkend enclave in Gedabek – to Armenia. The activists express their conviction that the recent provocation in regards Zangezur is a Russian plot. Yagublu attracts attention to the fact that recently the EU representative in Armenia and the ambassadors of the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Poland. Sweden, Greece and others visited the area of the state borders. He considers that even worse than that is Azerbaijan’s getting into a trap of Russia’s provocations. He also confirms his idea by the fact that the leader of the party of Enlightened Armenia, Gevorg Gorgisian, has suggested that Russia locate its troops in Zangezur (Syunik) region. Russia is interested in the location of the third military base in Armenia. The Osmangizi TV experts discussed whether Erdogan, by not coming to Shusha, expressed his dissatisfaction with Ilham Aliyev.
The political commentator and activist in exile, Ramiz Yunus, argued that “President Biden‘s phone call to President Putin and the subsequent easing of tensions on the Ukraine–Russia border, the Biden administration’s decision regarding the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in favour of Germany and Russia, a sudden spike in tensions in the Middle East and an equally sudden ceasefire between Israel and Palestine after 11 days of conflict, clearly indicates that there is an intensified probing of the agenda of the upcoming talks between the leaders of the United States and Russia”.
Economics of Karabagh. The economic expert Gubad Ibadoglu, currently professor at Rutgers University, quotes the official statistics of exports of the so-called Karabagh Republic in 2019, worth $ 283.1m, of which 67.4 % were to Armenia, 32.5% to Russia and 0.1% – other countries. The same year, mineral resources constituted 45.8% of exports, with 39.7% of precious stones and metals, worth a total of $242m, which proves that Karabagh has been developing rich natural resources within the occupied territories.
The conflict in Dmanisi region in Georgia. The local media and activists continue to follow and comment on the conflict in Georgia. The representatives of the Azerbaijani community report cases of discrimination in the region, such as plots of lands not being sold to them: Azerbaijanis allowed only to rent land. The leading personalities of both states contribute to the prevention of clashes escalating into a wider conflict. Dashgin Agalarly posts the comment by Georgian professor Beka Kobakhidze, who argues that the Azerbaijanis living in Georgia share the history of Georgians, and they who have lived there many centuries should not be held responsible for the actions of Shah Abbas. The Professor decries the fact of the Svan eco-migrants who arrived 35 years ago, who call Azerbaijanis “unwanted guests” and the spokesperson of Patriarchy, Andria Chagmaidze, claiming the “undesirable demographic situation” in Dmanisi, which is equal to adding oil to the fire. He concludes that “We are not running things well, and one day, when the wheel of geopolitics turns bad, we may explode. In any case, we are preparing this dynamite ourselves”. On the 23rd, the local media reported mass clashes in Tbilisi between the Kurds and Azerbaijanis with one fatality. Fuad Gahramanli argues that it is Russia behind both events.
Democracy and power-society relations. The activists reflect upon the state of society and degree of critical public thinking. The journalist Ruzgar Movsum notes the degrading trends of people being apathetic in regard to the brutal and daily violations of their rights, but quickly reacting to poems, mentioning God, and the satirical poet Ibrahim Khudayi as insulting their belief. He comments: “You do not understand that in this country, the pure God who lives in yourself was killed, while you are fighting the poet”. Shamshad Aga, the journalist and activist, argues that the authorities have not only persecuted alternative thinking people, but also formed a “soft power” of others who utilise the concepts of “patriotism” and “national importance”. He concludes that in fact “on a larger scale we have lost, but still resist and struggle to win”. FB users react with indignation to the photo of the vice-speaker of the Azerbaijanani parliament with the “father of mafia” in Turkey, Sedat Peker. Yadigar Sadygli comments that “in any normal state, the MP would be immediately fired from his position as vice-speaker of the parliament, but that would happen in a normal state…” Ali Karimli, leader of the PFP, relates to the psychology of the people, who prefer to rely on God, rather than appeal to the European Court for Human Rights. He notes that the number of such people who tie their only hopes to God has increased. To confirm his idea, he quotes the Koran and assures that without trying to achieve justice by oneself, it is not correct to ask it from God. The opposition comments with irony on the news hurriedly and erroneously published by official newspapers that Pashinian has appointed his wife deputy Minister of Economy. The news appeared wrong, as the appointee was not in fact his wife, but the activists interpreted the fact of publication as an attempt to show by the officials that even democrat Pashinian (not unlike Aliyev) does not shy away from nepotism. Azadlyg newspaper posts a video showing how citizens of the village Kebirli of Beylagan region have kicked their MP out of the village. Natig Jafarli of REAL raises the issue of secularism, and how important it is, as it allows the unification all the forces in society, regardless of their confessional and other background, to confront common problems and to establish a just and fair system.
The public opinion makers comment on the heated discussions about the performance of the Azerbaijani Eurovision contestant Samira Effendi, who together with her dance group, were dressed in much too revealing outfits, lacking in taste, etc. The journalist Shamshad Aga decries the robbing of the budget under the excuse of the Eurovision contest which took place a few years ago in Baku but defends the right of self-expression of the singer. The FB community is shocked that Azerbaijan gave the highest number of votes to the Russian singer. The opposition activist in exile Dahsgin Agalargli argue, that he expects the next thing will be the erection of statues of Lenin, Peter the Great and Putin in Baku. He also notes that after Russia, the country gave the high number of votes to France and Greece. The eco-activist Javid Gara comments than before the Ter-ter events are properly investigated and those to blame are punished, there is no such thing as an Azerbaijani state.
Lukashenka’s forcing Ryanair’s plane to land. The FB community widely shares and decries the unthinkable act by Belarus’ president when he forced the landing of the Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius, in order to be able to detain Roman Protasevich – his political opponent and creator of popular telegram Channel Nehta. After landing in Minsk airport, the local authorities arrested the young activist. A total of 6 people left the plane – 2 from Belarus and 4 Russian citizens, which made media spread the news that the plane also had KGB representatives on board. The local activists comment that this case proved that the autocrats rule the ball because the Western states behave like chickens. Lukashenka’s action proved that there was zero effect of previous sanctions. The others note that this happened because stricter sanctions were delayed and so the talented young activist was arrested. The activists call it official terrorism on the part of Lukashenka. The opposition leader Tofig Yagublu comments that it may be for the best, as it will perhaps push the progressive world to move from sanctions low in effectiveness to more serious measures. He calls Lukashenka a crazy dictator and a friend of Ilham Aliyev.
Human Rights. The protest action organised on May 21 by the bloggers in exile demanding child benefits was marked by police brutality against the participants and caused a widespread and negative reaction of political and civil leaders. Tofig Yagublu calls both the President and his police “cowards”. Sevinj Osmangizi TV broadcast’s main message is that “Ilham Aliyev arrests minor children. Peaceful protestors of the May 21st rally in Baku, including mothers with young children and elderly people have been detained by police”. People call the actions of the police “barbarian” and “savage”. Ali Karimli of the PFP argues that torture has turned into a state policy in this country and listed the most notorious cases, where it was demonstrated – Ter-ter, Ganja, Nardaran and others. He assured that protection of the perpetrators cannot last forever, and one day they will all be punished. He asserts that the state should not be involved in “killer activities”. The human rights organisation “The Line of Defence” has expressed its deep concern in connection with the violent dispersal of the protest action arranged by the bloggers in exile on 21 May 2021. It reported the detention at 15.00 near the statue of Jafar Jabbarli of 30 people who were bystanders, among them women, a 4-year-old child and one handicapped, who had been taken in police cars and buses and released in distant places away from the city. Another 8 women activists, although not participating, were also detained at a distance from the place of protest, the metro station Sahil – Gulnara Rahimova, Sevinj Gozalova, Sabina Mirzayeva, Mehriban Huseynli, Matanat Mahmirzayeva, Arifa Jafarova and her daughter, Konul Ahmadova. Gulnara Rahimova and Matanat Mahmirzayeva were taken in a separate police car and received serious injuries as a result of being beaten up and insulted. Gulnara Rahimova reported that after the doctors at the Eurasia clinic where she appealed for treatment found out that she was beaten by police, eliminated the registration documents, and only gave her prescriptions. The violence was applied to the female journalists who were covering the action – Zala Kalantarli, Fatima Movlamli and a male journalist Avaz Hafizli; while pregnant Gunel Aliyeva was injured from falling down as a result of a police violent dispersal. The Line of Defence assessed the events as another attack on democracy and human rights in the country and demands that the authorities stop police violence, respect the laws of the Constitution and punish the police. The same organization and its members continue to post materials related to the Ter-ter case. The head of Line of Defence Rufat Safarov posted a photo of Polad Azizov, who was particularly merciless during investigations. Although he was arrested, he received an inadequately soft sentence, then was released during the 44-day war and sent to the front, after which he was awarded by President Aliyev. The witnesses particularly stress the role of General Major Hikmet Hasanov in the Ter-ter investigations and in controlling tortures. A female family member of one of the victims reported that she was not accepted anywhere at the official level with her complaint. The FB community is concerned with the 18-year-old military Elmir Shukurov’s death in Kelbajar and the confusing reports as to its cause. Some report that this was a non-combatant death. FB users share a photo displaying the very poor condition of his house, where they had been living with their big family and that he never managed to realise his wish to improve living conditions for them.
The FB community shares the information from the court hearing of the second group of the “Karabagh rally prisoners”. The prosecutor refused a request for a hearing of additional witnesses. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov reminds and urges the authorities to release the political prisoners Taleh Bagirzade, Abgul Suleymanov and Saleh Rustamli.
Social issues. The e-media discusses whether social benefits and compensation will be given as the price of oil had reached 70 dollars. Ali Karimli of the PFP attracts attention to the desperate living conditions of many war veterans and again demands their improvement from the authorities. He argues that they consider the country their private property, have “privatised” the military victory, become enriched at the expense of the liberated territories, but at the very least should take care of their heroes.
Meydan TV reports that the doctors asked the handicapped 28-year-old Shakir Khudavrediyev, who has a serious heart illness, for a bribe to give him his documents. The e-media continuously covers the situation with the war heroes and their families. Azadlyg newspaper posts another story of the war handicapped who exclaims in desperation after hopeless visits to various level state institutions: “We are on the verge, what can I do? Commit suicide?” The other one commented: “The leader of which country should I address?” The e-media posts a video of horrible neglect in the hospital in Tovuz region where the war injured are undergoing treatment. A group of families of the war heroes complain that the representatives of authorities when they visit only take their pictures and leave without even asking how many people died, or are injured in the family, etc. Azadlyg newspaper also reports that due to unpaid credit, the company has taken the furniture from the house of the deceased war hero. Altay Geyushov refers to the rating of the Washington University’s Medical Institute, where Azerbaijan is leading in the number of deaths per 100,000 in the world.
The meeting of President Aliyev at the Nizami Ganjavi Centre’s conference. The national media covers President Aliyev’s presentation and his answers to the questions of the participants of the conference arranged by the Nizami Ganjavi Centre on “The South Caucasus: Prospects of Development and Co-operation”. Meydan TV quotes him as saying that “the peace agreement is based on mutual recognition of territorial integrity. We are openly ready to do it, and Armenia also should recognise Azerbaijani territory within the internationally recognised borders”. He confirmed that Karabagh has always been part of Azerbaijan, and they should abandon all claims on its status, as this is not a matter for negotiation. There are 30,000 Armenians living under the control of Russian peacekeepers and they are equal citizens of the country, and “we consider them the brainwashed by Armenia citizens of our country”. After the signing of the peace agreement, we will start free trade between the South Caucasus states, while we are preparing for that, we are waiting a positive answer from Armenia.” People comment with irony on his statement that “we stopped the fighting at a perfect moment”. Ilham Aliyev stressed that while relations with Russia are more diverse than with the US, the country is open to cooperation in other areas, especially in the arms trade. He reiterated again, that the conflict was over, was resolved and that he was expecting new proposals from the Minsk group. He also mentioned that Azerbaijan has made many compromises with Armenia – in the humanitarian sphere, had transferred 14 captured troops, allowed the use of 21km of highway to Armenia, gave an opportunity for Gazprom to supply gas through Azerbaijani territory, created new communication and transportation opportunities. However, the vilification of Azerbaijanis and Turks in Armenian society was being conducted by their elite. He noted that while the patience is required currently due to the sensitive period of elections in Armenia, the next step is expected from Armenia.
Reference to history. The academic historian Jamil Hasanli tells the story of the Soviet Azerbaijani writer Sabir Ahmadli, whose novel, published in 1969 in the journal Azerbaijan caused of lot of concern among the authorities. The problem was formulated as “the denial of the saviour mission of the Soviet Army”. Because the author wrote the following: “Wherever this army was carrying death, it also died itself”. After this plenum, the writer faced difficult times. Another writer, Ali Veliyev, told during the discussion about it at the Union of Writers “I will not let Ahmadli destroy the kolkhoz I have created”. When one of his manuscripts was being considered at the publishing house, he was openly told that he was a good writer, but “anti-Sovetchik”. At a discussion of his novel manuscript “The Green Theatre”, the authorities requested a “negative opinion” from literary critic Jalal Mammadov. The latter, after hard attempts to find something negative, eventually commented: “Dear Sabir, people in your novel are unemployed. You should find them jobs.” Jamil Hasanli concludes: “Sabir Ahmadli has been hopelessly “looking for jobs for his heroes” for a long time, until the Soviet Union collapsed, but even after its collapse he could not find any. Furthermore, when he – the People’s Writer – died in 2009, Ilham Aliyev did not allow his burial either in the 1st or 2nd Alley of the Honoured, even with his son Mahammad having died heroically in the first Karabagh war.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Meydan TV reports numerous casualties in the 11-day flare up of the Middle eastern conflict with reference to the Ministry of Health of Gaza – 243 Palestinians died and 1,910 were injured. The Israeli side reports 12 deaths. It also reports the statement by the Ambassador of Israel to Azerbaijan, George Dik, that Iran is the leader in supporting world terrorism and that “although we may think we are many kilometres far from the conflict, we are in fact very close to it”. In turn, the Ambassador of Iran to Azerbaijan, Abbas Musevi, asserted that it was all lies, and called it an attempt to bring a divide between brotherly nations united as nail-and-flesh and would not allow a dirty nest to form under this nail”.
May 25, 2021