Center for National and International Studies
“Since the Second Karabakh War, the violence has surged, the Aliyevs’ arbitrariness has grown, and there has been an escalation in torture, abuse, and arrests in Azerbaijan…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms
Zamin (Alizamin) Salayev, the chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Salyan District Branch, currently serving a sentence in Penitentiary Service No. 11, has raised concerns about the inadequate healthcare services within the correctional facility. The political activist conveyed this information to the Azadlig newspaper through his family members. Zamin Salayev disclosed that he is suffering from heart disease and hypertension, necessitating frequent visits to the medical center in the penitentiary. Unfortunately, finding Doctor Elshan Isayev each time has become increasingly challenging. Salayev recounted that he, along with other inmates, has experienced discourteous treatment from the doctor. Furthermore, Salayev mentioned that when he raised his concerns with the institution’s management, he was informed that the Medical Department falls under the jurisdiction of the Chief Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice, and the Penitentiary Service does not have the authority to intervene in their operations.
Journalist Shamshad Agha has reported a concerning incident involving a war veteran named Shahin Amanov. This Karabakh veteran was allegedly abducted. A few days ago, a police officer visited the residence of Shahin Amanov and knocked on his door twice. Shahin’s children promptly called him to report this. As Shahin returned home, he encountered the police officer on his way. He asked the reason for the visit, and the officer explained they were conducting a registration and then departed, bidding him farewell. Shahin noted that the interaction seemed formal. However, on the following day, a police officer named Khosrov called Shahin, stating that the head of the 24th police division wished to meet with him. Shahin responded that he was not at home, inquiring about the matter. The officer mentioned it was just for a conversation. A few hours later, they called again, saying that the deputy wanted to meet Shahin. He informed them that he was in his yard, and they suggested they come and discuss the matter there. Shahin subsequently had been stopped by the officers of the 24th police station. Since then, there have been no further calls or messages. Notably, Shahin had recently been in a dispute with the Nizami District Executive Authority regarding repairs to the building where he resides. He had personally funded repairs for a roof leak issue. In light of this problem, the chief executive had personally reached out to him and promised to resolve the issue. However, eventually, the whole exchange of promises and requests resulted in yet another arrest.
Activist Amrah Tahmazov, who was released from administrative detention on October 20, has shared his experiences during his time in detention. He recounted that the bed sheets at the Barda District Police Department detention center were not changed during his stay. Amrah Tahmazov mentioned: “When the ombudsman’s assistant visited, they provided clean bed sheets, but upon his departure, they were taken away. The detention cell was extremely cramped, to say the least. The facility had no windows, and the interior had a foul odor. There was no heating or blankets available. I was allowed to speak with my mother only once in 30 days, with their permission, to convey my needs. They made my father to purchase a pack of cigarettes for me, even though my father knows I don’t smoke, and then the cigarettes were sold in the chief’s shop. The district appears chaotic as if it is operating under the laws of thieves. Not a single manat of the money my relatives brought for me reached me; in total, my family paid around 200 manats. In general, there was no hot water, and they did not even provide me with shampoo. A mouse would emerge from the toilet, and we used to plug the bottle to prevent the mouse from entering the cell. In summary, whatever goes on there, whatever happens to those inside, remains undisclosed.” Tahmazov also disclosed that he received threats of being re-arrested shortly after his release.
Attorney Rufat Safarov has reported another disturbing incident in which three individuals dressed in civilian clothing subjected a member of APFP named Mehman Habibov to a severe beating with a stick. As per Habibov’s account, the attackers told him that “APFP will never come to power.” The chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli condemned the attack, saying that “should the authorities fail to locate and prosecute these malicious criminals, it would essentially amount to an official acknowledgment of their involvement in this crime.”
Edalet Yusub has informed the media that the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party Board of Directors has resolved to organize a protest demonstration. The picket is scheduled to take place in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on October 31 and in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office on November 3. The primary aim of these protests is to voice their opposition against the unlawful detention and subsequent release of the organization’s chairman, Professor Gubad Ibadoglu. In connection with this matter, a formal letter has been submitted to the Baku City Executive Office. Their central demand is the immediate release of Gubad Ibadoglu, Huseyn Malik, and other individuals incarcerated on political grounds.
Nurlan Libre, an independent journalist, conducted a solitary protest outside the Prosecutor General’s Office, demanding accountability from Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev. However, the police intervened during the protest, apprehended him, and transported him to the police station. The journalist, who was forcibly taken from his residence and subsequently sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention, sought a meeting with the chief prosecutor to press for an inquiry into the torture he had experienced while in detention. However, the police once more apprehended Nurlan Libre using force.
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli commented on the ongoing repression and increasing number of human violations urging the public to stop the Aliyev regime from committing further crimes. Mukhtarli’s Facebook post: “The homeland has indeed changed since the war ended. The Violence has surged, the Aliyevs’ arbitrariness has grown, and there has been an escalation in torture, abuse, and arrests. He has begun to oppress the populace more relentlessly, using the liberation of Karabakh as an opportunity to commit further transgressions. Victories achieved at the expense of the lives and well-being of the people’s children have been exploited to suppress the people. It is imperative to halt Ilham‘s lawlessness!”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov also expressed concern over the illegal arrests of young activists adding that if the current regime continues its oppressive policies, the situation will worsen in Azerbaijan. Goyushov: “During the era of the Soviet government, there was a well-known anecdote that went like this: “We may have won this war, but the Germans are living better than us.” If the rule of the Azerbaijani dictatorship persists for another 15-20 years, you can rest assured that a similar scenario will unfold in our country too.”
Activist Nigar Yagublu also provided her thoughts on the distressing images of Habibov enduring acts of torture. Yagublu’s post: “This photo is the face of Ilham Aliyev’s regime. Mehman Habibov is neither the first oppositionist to be tortured by police in civilian clothing nor will he be the last. An Armenian who saw the attitude of the government toward its citizens because of their dissenting opinion while telling the Karabakh Armenians at the border, “don’t go, stay here, no one will touch you, your rights will be protected”, must be foolish to live in a country ruled by Ilham Aliyev. “No policeman will be punished!” We will see many more such “performances” by Ilham Aliyev‘s policemen.”
Governance and Corruption
Legal proceedings are currently underway concerning the confiscation of $20 million worth of gold and jewelry linked to Zamira Hajiyeva, the spouse of former International Bank of Azerbaijan chief, Jahangir Hajiyev. According to the London publication “The Evening Standard,” as reported by “Qafqazinfo,” the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom (NCA) has provided comprehensive information about the unlawfully acquired opulent jewelry collection of Zamira Hajiyeva. Catherine Callaghan, the attorney representing the interests of the NCA in court, argued that Zamira Hajiyeva lacked any legal justification for retaining the 49-piece jewelry assortment, which was purely a luxury commodity. Zamira Hajiyeva, aged 60, became the first foreign national to face accountability under the “McMafia” legislation targeting illicit funds in the United Kingdom. She was apprehended by London police on November 6, 2018, utilizing the “Unexplained Wealth Order” (UWO), a first-time application in the country, and was released two days later. The items in question comprise a “Boucheron sapphire and ruby serpent pendant” referred to as the “danger necklace,” which was acquired at a price exempt from VAT, amounting to £863,478. Additionally, there is a Van Cleef and Arpels “cultured pearl necklace with a diamond clasp,” originally purchased in 2008 in Swiss francs, equivalent to £310,431 at the time.
Gulu Mammadli penned an article for Azadliq newspaper discussing the prolonged and irrational procedures involved in obtaining social assistance, as well as the near-impossibility of benefiting from the government’s extremely limited financial support. According to him, the procedure continues with endless delays and unwarranted rejections, leading to a distressing cycle. Adding to the distress is the fact that disadvantaged families often lack the means or access to administrative and internet resources due to their limited knowledge. In reality, a significant portion of the population in the country is in dire need of targeted social assistance and unemployment benefits. However, only a small fraction, around 2-3% of the population, can access some form of targeted social assistance, and there isn’t a concrete unemployment benefit available. It’s disheartening that children of oppressed citizens in an oil and gas-rich nation are not provided with child allowances. It’s noteworthy that Azerbaijan currently has a working-age population of 5.2 million individuals, out of which only 1.6 million are engaged in stable employment. The remaining 60-70% of the working-age population, roughly 10-15%, earn meager daily wages of around 5-3 manats just to stave off hunger. Azerbaijan also contends with 1 million unemployed women, as confirmed by official statistics. Furthermore, 60% of the 1.6 million permanent workers receive a monthly salary of less than 500 manats.
According to another post by Azadliq newspaper, in Azerbaijan, per capita spending has surpassed 100 manats, with only a 27-manat increase in income. In comparison to the same period in 2021, per capita spending has seen a more significant rise. When measured against two years ago, the average monthly per person expenditure in Azerbaijan has surged to 111 manats, marking a 33 percent increase. This demonstrates the substantial impact of the high inflation that the country has experienced in recent years on the cost of living. Another notable observation is the comparatively lower growth in the population’s income over the same period. Based on a survey conducted by the State Security Council, the average monthly income per person in Baku, where the majority of the population resides, was 349 manats in the first half of the year. In the same period of 2021, this figure was 322 manats. Consequently, over the past two years, monthly per capita expenses have risen by more than 100 manats, while the increase in per capita income has been only 27 manats.
October 27, 2023