Center for National and International Studies
“…Remember those Afghans who hanged on the wheel of the US plane? Niyamaddins. Elzamins, Agils, all are in prison because they do not want you to do the same!…”
Post-conflict situation. FB community, political and civil society leaders, citizens commemorate 44 day war and its martyrs. They honour national army and those who died or left handicapped as a result of the war. While many praise the victory, which brought back refugees to their homeland, restored self – confidence of the nation, they regret that national unity was not used to make changes in the country. Ali Karimli of PFP states that the official promises that the country will change after the war did not realize. It returned back to repressions and corruption as it was before the war, but Karimli believes that people again will mobilize and unite to change their lives. Osmangizi TV discusses the launch of second stage of Russian occupation of Karabagh and a revival of the Minsk group. The Fb community suspects that I. Aliyev prepares to give a legal status to the Russian peacekeepers in spite of their violation of the country’s sovereignty. The local media warns that the purpose of Russia is not just control over the Karabagh and the Caucasus, but the actual occupation of the Caucasus as before in the history. The activists follow events in Yerevan– the extra-ordinary parliamentary session when they will discuss the new territorial-administrative division of the country and strengthening of the local self –government. They also suspect that there might be direct contacts, or with the mediation of Georgia – between the two states, by-passing Russia. This, as many argue, is a positive development, as may lead to the sooner resolution to the conflict. Natig Jafarli comments that this scenario will lead to the opening of the borders, and all parties and regional powers will benefit from it. The issue of expanding education in Russian language continues to be the matter of concern of activists and journalists. The FB community discusses yet another appointment of the new commander of peacekeepers in Karabagh general Gennadi Anashkin. It also notes the controversial statements on Karabagh by the official sources, including the most recent interview of Ilham Aliyev to Korotchenko. B. Hajiyev considers that his interview actually confirms, not rejects, Putin’s statement on the 17th November. He argued that both were speaking about the same suggestion to Armenia, which she rejected during the war – namely for Armenians to keep control over Karabagh including Shusha, and for Russians to deploy her peacekeepers. Pashinian rejected this proposal because of Aliyev’s insistence on return of IDPs to Karabagh. The opposition comments, that the president is not clear in his speeches about who started the 44 day war either. T. Yagublu notes that in his interview to CNN Turk he said that Azerbaijan started to liberate its territories based on UN resolutions, while in his speech at the UN General Assembly he said that the enemy attacked and Azerbaijan responded. He recalled that the similar confusion was observed during the escalation in 2016.
The activists note that Russia after Erdogan’s mentioning of the “occupation of Crimea” in his UN speech “found” a virus in imported Turkish tomatoes. Some notice that once the West prepares new sanctions against Russia AZTV and all other state TV channels start the anti-Western propaganda. Seymur Hezi however warns the government, that this time the situation is more serious, and it should stay as far as possible from Putin and Putinism, as he will otherwise share his destiny. Fb community observes the West’s double standards approach in the treatment of separatist issue in Europe and in Azerbaijan. Arif Hajili notes that the leader of Catalan independence movement Carles Puigdemon was arrested in Italy simply for arranging the independence referendum in Catalunya, Spain, while Arayik Arutyunian – the leader of the Karabagh separatist regime, responsible for hundreds of deaths of civilians, bombing cities of Ganja, Barda, Terter – is safely protected by Russia and the Western states and is not in prison.
Relations with the US. The activists praise the new legislation on sanctions to 35 businessmen and bureaucrats from Russia adopted by the US Congress. Fuad Gahramanli argues, that this law is a blow not only to Russia, but to any corrupt and kleptocratic regime and will eventually be applied to Azerbaijan too. He comments that democratization is a global process and it will not be stopped by arrests of Niyamaddins and that the corrupt elite is weak and would not be able as a result of sanctions to sustain threat to their riches in the West.
Relations with Iran. Azadlyg newspaper reports that two political prisoners – the fighters for the cultural rights of Azerbaijanis in Iran – Abbas Lisani and Alirza Farshi started a hunger strike in connection with the beginning of the school year and deprived capacity of Azerbaijanis in Iran to study in their native language.
Governance, economy, corruption. The Fb community shares news that the sentence of 11 years in prison was read to the ex-Minister of Interior of Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic Ahmad Ahmadov. He was confiscated of 14 m. manat, and deprived of his rank of general and of the order “ Azerbaijani Banner” He was charged with the damage to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Nakhichevan Republic equal to 5 m 129 thousand 105 manat, and 9 m. 073 thousand 350 manat of bribes from the citizens. The Military Tribunal did not satisfy his complaint which he earlier filed to this structure.
Human rights and liberties. The Fb community continues to decry the exceedingly high sentence -15 years -asked by the prosecutor for the PFP activist Niyamaddin Ahmadov. They contrast it to the lower terms for the executors of severe tortures to the suspects in Ter-ter case– (5-6 years) – as a result of these tortures 11 people died, hundreds were left handicapped. They recall punishment of 2-3 years to the sons of the bureaucrats, who hit and kill the pedestrians while driving their cars and then are released after 2-3 months of detention. The FB reports that he was not allowed to speak on the phone with his family, and that under the excuse of him having a COVID was deprived of a meeting with his lawyer. FB community shares news that Niyamaddin Ahmadov and Alizamin Salayev started a hunger strike in prison on the 25th September. Ali Karimli appeals to the society not to stay indifferent to the persecution of innocent people- simply for being opposition activists such as Niyamaddin Ahmadov, Alizamin Salayev, Saleh Rustamli, Agil Maharramli, Taleh Bagirzade, Abbas Huseyn, Ahsan Nuruzade and other political prisoners. Many activists stress the exceedingly severe punishment sentence for the opposition member, being confident in his innocence. Seymur Hazi argues, that this case can be a litmus test for the integrity of people and that silence of some might be explained by two reasons- either they were silenced by the regime, or it is due to the loss of conscience. The tortures given to Alizamin Salayev to make him leave Popular Front Party by the head of the prison #17 Shakir Ganiyev remains in the center of attention of the FB community. Ganimat Zahid, a journalist in exile, calls him “a maniac” and asserts that all the orders on arrest and tortures are given by the president personally. He argues, that one day he will bear responsibility for these acts, but persons like Shakir will always feel the people’s hatred, he concludes and calls his followers to share so “to name and shame” Ganiyev. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP shows the absurdity of accusations arguing, that “ we are the only country where the person who hardly affords a shared rent of the flat is accused of financing terrorism, where in the absence of terror and/or the terrorist act the charges in financing it are put forward, where it is possible to finance terrorist act with 3-4 thousand manats, where no weapons were found on the terrorist, for many years who has been legally working in Germany, where the person who “finances terrorism” is the member of the party which recognizes only peaceful methods of struggle, supports democracy and rule of law.
The FB community with the reference to the legal defender Zafar Ahmadov and newspaper Azadlyg shares information that the health of Agil Humbatov seriously deteriorated and he has started the hunger strike in prison.
Azad Soz platform posts video with the police detaining protesters near the 20th January metro station. The participants of the rally protested the recent price rise. The same platform continues its series of interviews with the former employee of SOCAR, currently abroad, Ruslan Jalilov, who discredits illegal schemes and business of the company. Ilkin Rustamzade comments: “ Remember those Afghans who were hanging on the wheel of the US plane? Niyamaddins. Elzamins, Agils, all are in prison because they do not want you to be hanging on the plane’s wheel!” He asserts, that they do not leave the country but stay and fight. Rustamzade warns that their descendants will have to pay high price because their fathers kept silence and did not protest persecution of these fighters today.
Democracy and power-society relations. Azerbaijan People’s Party expressed its protest against pressure on the chair of the VIP party Ali Aliyev, who is a frequent government critic on Osmangizi TV. He was issued a warning by the General Prosecutor’s office. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov writes post on why it is so important to mobilize collective sense of responsibility in case of human rights violations and repressions of activists. He quotes the famous lines from pastor Martin Niemoller “ First they came…” and extrapolates it to the contemporary Azerbaijan and its society.
On a similar note, Ilkin Rustamzade pessimistically comments that while before free ideas dominated social media, now it is flattering which is most popular. The flatterers are followed more than independent thinkers, he considers. He argues, that before the activists deceived themselves by saying that it was a state controlled TV, and there was no freedom of media to have an alternative source of information. But after everyone moved to the internet and social media, majority is again following the flatterers. One cannot succeed in making changes in the society, which is ready to get submitted to someone, warns Rustamzade. He considers, that when people are under pressure of the ruler – they are not so much to blame for the situation, bur when they willingly follow or trust some paid trolls- then people should blame themselves for their problems. Gultakin Hajiyeva attracts attention to the struggle of the opposition activists, such as Ali Karimli, Tofig Yagublu, Babek Hasanli and Asif Yusifli, late Gozel Bayramli and Ibrahim Ibrahimli, handicapped Ogtay Gulaliyev, Saleh Rustamli in prison and now Niyameddin Ahmadov. She argues that he was given such a high term in prison only by two reasons: on the 19th October rally staying by the side of Ali Karimli until the very end, and not slandering Ali Karmili in spite of severe tortures. She appeals to the people: “ What does the society wait for? For the day when the fragmented and last remains of opposition are fully destroyed? Or when Ali Karimli, Tofig Yagublu, Jamil Hasanli are killed too? Cessation of resistance and full transformation of the country in Turkmenistan?” She concludes that rescue of N. Ahmadov is needed more for the people than for himself. The journalists and activists post appraisal messages for the resistance of N.Ahmadov. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev appeals to the society to stand for his rights. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP argues that the authorities by giving such a strict punishment to Niyamaddin Ahmadov only undermines its power. It will strengthen its image of repressive regime internationally, will increase people’s hatred to itself domestically, confirm the image of the main political rival – the PFP, it will not scare off people who were not afraid of resistance. The opposition activists criticize the statement by REAL leader Ilgar Mammadov that nobody can question nationalism of Ilham Aliyev and his government. Tofig Yagublu in response asks whether this nationalism is expressed in stealing national resources, or in monopolizing national governance by one family, or in slandering and putting in prison of one’s compatriots etc.? May be, he comments, this nationalism is expressed in sentencing innocent Niyamaddin Ahmadov to 15 years in prison? Azad Soz platform quotes Ali Karimli, that if Niyameddin Ahmadov was an Armenian saboteur he would get a sentence of 6 months only. “ Ilham Aliyev did not succeed in becoming a politician. For 18 years he occupied the position of president, has become one of the richest people in the world, but did not become a politician.”, writes Ganimat Zahid, a journalist in exile. He also comments that he eliminated the wide political spectrum, whom he either suppressed or bought off. This is not consistent opposition, whom he proved to be afraid of, but so called imitation institutions, such as the “ bus opposition” etc. The FB community shares video of what Ali Karimli of PFP called the evidence of the police regime crimes. The high way police applied violence to the father of the child whom he brought to school for the wrong parking right before the child’s eyes.
Social issues. The activists attract attention to the life threatening condition of the war handi
capped chief lieutenant Gazanfar Agayev, who was left without a state aid, and run a campaign to collect private funds for his treatment and rescue.
Governance, economy, corruption. B. Hajiyev calculates the average bribery of the bureaucrats and ironically argues that the bribes only of two structures – High Way Police and Ministry of Interior – reaches half of a billion dollars, and if there are 10 such structures – it will contribute 5 b dollars to the non-oil sector. The investigative journalist Mehman Huseynov discloses the illegal wealth of the head of the Metropoliten Zaur Huseynov and his family. He reports that they are “pre-occupied with expensive cars” and change them every year, but the law enforcement bodies have not been reacting to such a luxurious attributes of the bureaucrats.
September 28, 2021