Center for National and International Studies
“…The Belarussization of Azerbaijan is not the way out, quite the opposite, Aliyev should urgently open up the country…”
The FB community is highly concerned with the new provocation at the borders, calling for caution before sharing new videos depicting military incidents, unanimously suspecting Russia behind these; continues to discuss the emergency landing in Belarus and arrest of the blogger Roman Protasevich and follows international reaction to it; praises Joe Biden’s congratulatory letter to Aliyev stressing the importance of human rights; is shocked by news of yet another car accident, involving this time the son of human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, and decries the absence of transparent tenders in restoration of the liberated territories.
Post-war situation. The FB community shares a report by the Ministry of Defence about the Armenian army firing at Azerbaijani positions in Kalbajar and Gedabey from the Armenian village Gekarkunik. The National Strategic Think-Tank led by the former leader of Musavat party, Isa Gambar, issued a statement where it declares absurd at this stage of the conflict to preserve Amendment 907 prohibiting any aid to the Azerbaijan state, adopted in 1992 under the influence of the Armenian lobby. It argues that for decades complaining about a “blockade” but in fact covering the fact of her occupying the neighbour Armenia is now doing everything to prevent the un-blocking of communication and transportation routes. NSTT appeals to the Azerbaijani society to start a serious campaign to lift this 907 Amendment. Tofig Yagublu, while praising the detention by Azerbaijani border troops of the 6 representatives of Armenian intelligence who crossed the borders and laid landmines, urges extreme caution and resistance to provocation in the face of the flare-up of the conflict, which only Putin will benefit from. The lawyer Alasgar Ahmadoglu, as well as human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, assert that Ministry of Defence, when reporting detention of the Armenian military who were laying the land mines, should use the accurate legal terms – not captured, but detained, because these are criminals, not troops. Isa Gambar discusses with the correspondent of the Azadlyg newspaper the problems which have been created for Azerbaijan with the obedient policy of the Aliyevs towards Russia.
The ex-minister of health and former political prisoner Ali Insanov stated that Ilham Aliyev is a head of the fifth (read “Russian”- L.A.) column in the country and did not allow full victory in the Karabagh war. The FB community shares and decries videos with desperate appeals of the war handicapped who are still victims of bureaucratic indifference to their problems. Meydan TV reports 4 main directions of post-war activities voiced by the ruling party functionary Siyavush Novruzov: 1) delimitation of borders, 2) opening the Zangezur corridor at any expense 3) transfer of the map of landmines to Azerbaijan 4) restoration of Azerbaijani territorial integrity, which should be resolved and not left for future generations. Both parties posted and spread on FB videos of humiliation of each other’s troops. Natig Jafarli of REAL considers that the events on the Azerbaijan-Armenia borders is dangerous as they should be viewed in the context of the elections on the 20th June in Armenia. “Every word and action of Pashinian and his opponents are designed for the upcoming elections”, he comments. He urges to quickly create the highest protection of the borders, so that regardless of who is in power in Armenia, the Azerbaijani state would be protected from any revanchist forces from the neighbor.
Upcoming day of independence. The ruling party posts essays dedicated to the upcoming (28 May) Day of Independence of the Azerbaijan Republic (1918-1920). Siyavush Novruzov in his posting praises the history of the republic which existed for only 23 months, yet had conducted important reforms and laid the basis of the modern nation state. However, in all his extended essay, he fails to mention a single name of the founders of the first democratic republic (very much in the tradition of this power), but instead dedicates it to the late president and ex-soviet KGB boss Heydar Aliyev. He argued that H. Aliyev managed to save post-Soviet Azerbaijan from the fate of the short-lived first democratic republic, while attributing the victory in the Karabagh war 2 to his son Ilham Aliyev, as the heir of the glorious policies of his father.
Relations with Russia. The activists continue to discredit and denounce Russia’s role in Karabagh. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF argues that Russia’s objective is to increase its military role in the South Caucasus, and relying on the incidents between the two states over the state borders to take full control of these borders and under this excuse to locate new military bases there. Unfortunately, she concludes, Azerbaijani political leadership renders all its assistance towards Russia’s achieving this goal. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat argues that he watched the videos of humiliation of Azerbaijani troops by the Armenian army with pain. He considers that this exchange of videos with mutual humiliation is most probably is a request from Putin. Watching this demonstration of hostility, he questions then the meaning of the joint Azerbaijani-Armenian commission created on the basis of the trilateral agreement on the 11 January in Moscow. The MP Elman Nasirov spoke at the Parliament about hundreds of trucks with potatoes still standing at the Russian-Azerbaijani borders at Samur checkpoint and not being able to provide potatoes to Russian markets.
Lukashenka’s “state terror” and impunity of dictators. The activists continue to discuss the reasons and consequences of the unprecedented case of state terror – forcing the plane with the dissident and opposition blogger Protasevich to land at Minsk airport. The opposition leaders argue that this is an example of how dictators nowadays are becoming more aggressive and arbitrary. But they also note that this is an act of one pushed into a corner. Ali Karimli of PFP expresses his hope that this act of Lukashenka will be met with adequate measures from the international community. He argues that perhaps the fact that there was no such dramatic reaction to the killing and cutting into pieces of the US journalist Khashogi in Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Turkey was one of the factors which emboldened Lukashenka. But he hopes that Belarus’ location in Europe most probably will cause the proper reaction. He concludes that the Azerbaijani government should draw a respective conclusion for itself: the Belarussization of Azerbaijan is not a way out, quite the opposite: he should urgently open up the country. The activists praise the reaction of Biden to the incident, who called it a debauchery which would be met with the joint reaction of the US and its European allies. They report that a few hours after this statement, economic sanctions were applied against Lukashenka and the prohibition of the usage of the airspace of Europe was imposed on Belarus planes, the measure being commended by Joe Biden. Protasevich is accused of “arranging the mass disturbance” and might be sentenced for 15 years. Joe Biden also stressed that the video confession of the founder of Nehta was given under pressure and qualified it as a shameful attack on both political freedoms and freedom of the media, and called for his release together with hundreds of other political prisoners. The FB community also shares with appraisal a report that the official flag of Belarus was replaced by the Riga city mayor with the flag of opposition displayed among those of state-participants of the hockey championship in Riga. In response Lukashenka kicked Latvia’s ambassador out of Belarus. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR expresses his confidence that the West will not compromise on this issue, as this is the last test for the West. The activists also took notice of French President Macron who suggested inviting the Belarus opposition to the G7 meeting. Jamil Hasanli compares this act of state terror with the Somali sea pirates, with the difference that Lukashenka does it in European airspace and with the help of the jet fighters MIG-29. Many opposition leaders consider that this is indifference of the Western leaders, resulting in a sense of impunity of dictators like Putin and Lukashenka which led to such an extreme incident. Arif Hajili of Musavat argues that Lukashenka created serious problems not only for Belarus, but for himself too, as by this action he totally undermined his already weak legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. He urges the Azerbaijan President to give an assessment of the situation and the actions of the person whom he was often protecting and supporting and to change his policy in regard to this dictator whose fate is coming to an end. The activists discuss that Aliyev had not yet condemned the act by Lukashenka. The FB users widely share the map of flights in Europe with none of the planes crossing the airspace of Belarus with the caption “That’s how Europe boycotts Belarus”.
Human rights. The activist community expresses birthday wishes to the political prisoner Saleh Rustamli, who was head of executive power of Gedabek region during the Elchibey government in 1992-3, whom the leader of Popular Front Party called one of the most successful appointments of Elchibey. He is a true patriot – he and all his relatives participated in the Karabagh war. He emigrated to Russia after Elchibey was ousted and started his small business from zero. Then with his profits he helped the families of political prisoners before he was arrested himself – this now being his 4th year behind bars. Karimli also reminds his followers that another political prisoner and member of PFP, Agil Maharramli, has been in jail for the 3rd year now. He calls Rustamli – “a big patriot, true democrat, good family person, and reliable friend” and congratulates him on the birthday occasion. Jamil Hasanli comments that Rustamli was sentenced to 7 years 3 months for giving 700 manats annually to the families of prisoners from his own business income. He recalls that corrupt bureaucrats who stole from the budget hundreds of thousands – even if they were sentenced, were quickly released, while those who stole billions – ruling elite- actually sentence Rustamli for many years behind bars. The activists continue to discuss who and why did not allow the investigation of the culprits in the “Ter-ter case”. The journalists report from another day of court hearing concerning the Karabagh rally case the discrediting facts proving its fake nature. These facts showed the contradiction in the testimony of the witnesses that the doors to the Parliament opened as a result of the pressure of the crowd, while in reality the doors to the Parliament open outwards, not inwards. Based on this falsified evidence, the human rights defender Rufat Safarov argues that this is a sign that the authorities are preparing to accuse and imprison again the Karabagh rally participants. He also decries some humiliating comments under the photo of an Armenian mother of an Azerbaijani war hero, who lost his life in the last Karabagh war. Javid Gara, the eco-activist, defending the hero’s mother, comments on this matter: “You can lose anything you want, but not your humanity”. Rufat Safarov also reported the failed attempt to lift his conviction at the Court of Appeal. He also posts a post-mortem photo of the Karabagh war 1 handicapped hero Azerbaijani Russian Yura Drobov, who lost two legs fighting against the Russian-Armenian occupying army and never managed to get any category of handicap, surviving on only 67 manats. The Fb community meets with huge concern the news that the older son of human rights defender who was hit by a car in 2019, Ogtay Gulaliyev, was in a car accident and suffered head trauma. Ali Karimli calls it “a vivid example of the cruel treatment of the Gulaliyev family by the health system created by Ilham Aliyev”, as initially none of the clinic accepted him. One of the activists considers that renewal of the investigation of the attempt on the life of the head of Ganja executive power, Elmar Veliyev, is sensational news. Previously the prosecutor had asked for life imprisonment for Yunus Safarov, whereas up to 18 years for the others. However, the reasons for and possible outcome of the renewal of the investigation are unclear.
Democracy and power – societal relations. The activists, bloggers and journalists share the letter of President Biden to President Aliyev on the occasion of 28th May Independence Day, where he calls on him to respect human rights and freedoms. The youth movement leader, former political prisoner Ilkin Rustamzade, reports on suspicious activities of the car following him in the street with three sporty people who looked like believers. He states that he has no problems with the believers, so if something happens to himself, the responsibility will be fully with Vilayet Eyvazov (Minister of Interior) and Ilham Aliyev. The National Parliament adopted the project law on “Shusha as the cultural capital of the Azerbaijan Republic” in the second reading. The journalist in exile Ganimat Zahid argues that the cliché that if not for dictators countries would be in a state of chaos is fake, quite the opposite – the absence of a dictator develops a smart society and stable country. The e-media broadcasts a social protest in Lek-chiplak of Gedabey with local citizens blocking the roads, demanding the lifting of artificial obstacles to the supply agricultural products to local and foreign markets. The police dispersed those strongly agitated local citizens. Bajhtiyar Hajiyev shares his experience of writing critical comments on the website of the Ministry of Interior. Responses to both comments were rude and threatening. He asks ironically: “Vilayet muellim, I am not afraid of prison. Will you send the police car to arrest me, or should I come by myself?”
Governance, economy, corruption. The economist Gubad Ibadoglu argues that AZAL and Baku Metropoliten state companies have not spent the funds allocated them during the pandemic to the assigned tasks and it may result in the increase of costs of metro transportation. He also follows the statistics of the pandemic, which he argues voluntarily is increased or decreased by the authorities depending on policy priorities (such as a sharp decline on the eve of the Formula-1 race). The FB users share news that vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva’s assistant, the Harvard Kennedy school alumni Emin Huseynov, was appointed as special representative of the president in the Agdam region. The FB community comments on 11m views of the video telling the story of Turkish mafia (Sedat Peker). The video reports that Azerbaijani businessman Mubariz Mansimov was supposed to be killed by the “criminal authority” Gulu because the former did not want to give away the business of oil transportation of SOCAR and Lukoil. He appealed for protection to Peker, so the latter prevented this killing. For non-implementation of the contract killing the criminal authority Gulu was killed instead, while Mansimov was released from prison upon him giving away the business of oil transportation. Arif Hajili of Musavat reveals the degree of co-opting of certain former activists by the government and their degrading evolution by the example of the editor of the Yeni Musavat newspaper Rauf Arifoglu, whose newspaper and his related activities became loyal to the government. Gubad Ibadoglu, an economics professor currently at Rutgers University, states on his timeline that Azerbaijan should spend its rich resources not in the weakening of its opponents, but in the strengthening of itself and that Azerbaijan’s path towards strength proceeds only through reforms of the governance. People react with suspicion and indignation to the fact that the restoration of Shusha was mainly delegated to Chapman Taylor, a British company, as there was no transparency in the conduct of the so-called open tender. The activists and journalists comment that this company, however, has been a long-term partner of the president’s family company “Pasha Holding”. The blogger Mehman Huseynov discredits yet another bureaucrat – the head of the Communal Department of the Baku City Council Rafail Mehraliyev, who has been stealing public money by means of his and his relatives’ companies and taking them abroad. But no investigation or legal action is being taken against the corrupt bureaucrat, because this money is shared between other bureaucrats – his bosses.
Social issues. The problems of the families of war dead and handicapped remain the hottest agenda of the activists and journalists. They share videos with stories of the war heroes and make strong comments in regard to the bureaucratic indifference to their fate. Azad Soz published a video of emotional appeal of the businessman who discredited the governance, corruption and mafia-style work of the president of the country.
COVID-19. The chief of presidential administration’s department of economic issues and innovative development policy, Shahmar Movsumov, stated at one of the briefings by the Operative Headquarters that all his family had been vaccinated and the rumours about side effects were not true. He argued that the information spread in social networks is often fake and urged the population to get vaccinated. The 25th May briefing announced an easing of the quarantine rules starting from 31stMay, including the non-wearing of masks in the open air, functioning of metro system, and public transportation across the country. From 10 June the Mosques will open, also big trade centres, beaches, and gyms (those without vaccinations or without any COVID passport will not be allowed entrance). However, the next day’s briefing announced the continuation of the special quarantine regime until 1st August, as well as some other restrictions. From 1st July a green passport will be required at working venues, the transport will not operate on weekends in June, attendees at Mosques are to be limited to 50 people, and from 1st June domestic flights are to be restored, The execution of the national budget during 2020 included rendering aid of 39.3m manats to international organizations for the fight with COVID-19, including 17m manats to the WHO, 3.4m to UNESCO and ISESCO and 18.9m manats to 18 foreign states.
May 28, 2021