Center for National and International Studies
“In order to survive and succeed under a dictatorship or authoritarianism, people must lie, join the general flow of flattery, turn a blind eye to injustice, give up their rights, and surrender to fear…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
The participants of the rally “Freedom for Saleh Rustamli!” held on December 1 in Fountain Square who were arrested have been recently released. However, Ilham Huseyn, one of the five people arrested during the rally, is still in jail. According to the head of APFP Ali Karimli, the regime demonstrates special hatred and hostility towards APFP member who has been detained numerous times on bogus charges.
Mammadov Ganjavi, who was detained on suspicion of drug trafficking and theft, died at the Police Station, and his body was returned to his family the next day. The Ministry of Internal Affairs denied the allegations of torture and argued that shortly after his arrival, Mamamdov’s condition suddenly worsened, and he died straight after. However, Mammadov’s family said that there were bruises and signs of injuries on his body. The Ministry has recently also denied accusations that opposition leader Tofig Yagublu was subjected to torture at the Police Station, despite the footage of Yagublu being violently attacked by the police that went viral and caused public outrage. Yagublu’s daughter activist Nigar Hezi said that the minister of the Internal Affairs Vilayat Eyvazov is not interested in opening a criminal case and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
As a protest against the new media law that is expected to put further limitations on online media activities, independent journalists held a protest in front of the Milli Majlis. The journalists shared a statement raising awareness of the regime’s desire to ban free speech in the country completely.
With the delayed release of Saleh Rustamli and all political prisoners, the issue of political prisoners remains unresolved.
“Rudeness and Flattery prevailed in the country; if there is eminence, the reason is the lowness.”
On the day of president Aliyev’s birthday, pro-governmental public figures and some MPs shared their good wishes in an extreme form of idolization which was called “disgraceful flattery” by the activists and independent thinkers. While MP Tahir Karimli called president Aliyev Malikmammad -a hero in an Azerbaijani fairy tale, MP Musa Urud went even further in saying that Aliyev is of equal importance with the Sun. Urud’s much-critisized post reads: Today, Ilham Aliyev illuminates his native Azerbaijan like the Sun that has given light and life to our world for millions of years. I wish Mr. Ilham Aliyev a life as long as Sun’s!”
Opposition politician Tofig Yagublu was among those who criticized the excess flattery expressed by the pro-governmental politicians. Yagublu argued that among the damages that have been done to the Azerbaijani people by the Aliyev dynasty, the culture of flattery that was created purposefully is also very instrumental. According to Yagublu, the herd of flatterers inflicts terrible wounds such as corruption, election fraud, and violations of the laws. Yagublu also added that contrary to the belief that Ilham Aliyev is not a legitimate president, and the people did not elect him, he thinks Aliyev was elected by the people and is quite legitimate. Yagublu explained his argument saying that “Azerbaijani people by being passive, indifferent to its fate, negligent to the future of its children, unwilling to live with dignity, not demanding the rule of law, turning a blind eye to unprecedented corruption, tolerating humiliation by the family rule made Aliyev a legitimate president of the country.”
Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli linked the excessive adulation with the authoritarian nature of the regime. Gahramanli argued that the authoritarian regimes not only oppress and exploit peoples but also change their nature. “In order to survive and succeed under a dictatorship or authoritarianism, people must lie, join the general flow of flattery, turn a blind eye to injustice, give up their rights, and surrender to fear”, added Gahramanli.
Governance, corruption, transparency
Despite the protests of the independent journalists and the activists, the Milli Majlis has adopted a controversial new media law. According to independent media representatives, turning this bill into law will open up ample opportunities for restricting freedom of the media and expression in the country, as well as unwarranted interference in the activities of journalists. The law contradicts the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the European Convention on Human Rights, and other international treaties on freedom of expression and the media to which Azerbaijan is a party. Moreover, the draft version of the law was sent to the parliament without prior public discussion. According to journalist Elshan Gasanov in late 2019, Russia did the same by introducing a law on “foreign agents”, banning the activities of independent media and organizations, and arresting NGO leaders. The amendments to the law have been criticized by international organizations, sanctions have been imposed on Russian officials, and Russia has been isolated by the Commonwealth of Democracies.
Head of APFP Ali Karimli, in his FB post, addressed the public calling the newly adopted law on media “a threat not only to the media, journalists, but to all, and any attempt to silence the public completely.” Karimli argued that although the country ranks 163rd in the press freedom index and ranks among the world’s most brutal regimes, the government is still unable to control public opinion. Karimli wrote: The target is online media and journalists who are still committed to independent journalism. They want to create a situation where it is no longer possible to bring their corruption crimes under the light. They want to create conditions so that ordinary people do not have brave journalists to gather and talk about social problems such as disability benefits, pensions, and child benefits. Introducing a single register of journalists in the new law also serves this purpose. In doing so, they want to eliminate the few remaining independent journalists. Therefore, as a society, we must be mobilized to defend the last remnants of free media. Let’s prove that we will never give up our freedom of speech. Let’s prove that we are a society that deserves free media and is ready to make sacrifices to protect it.”
Meydan TV reports that Turkish alternative rock band Mor ve ötesi chanted “Democracy is impossible without free media” during a concert in Baku.
Head of NCDF professor Jamil Hasanli shared a photo of the first family in a mosque questioning their respect for religion and lack of virtue and values. Hasanli wrote: This is one of the creative forms of modern piety: Plunder people’s property, wealth, and the state budget to enrich your family, deposit taxpayers’ money in your secret offshore accounts, do low-level deeds such as buying properties worth billions for your children in London at the expense of stolen money, and then come to the Upper Govhar Agha Mosque to pray to God.”
Post War Situation. Problems of veterans and families of the martyrs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan has submitted a Note of Protest to the Chargé d’Affaires of France in Azerbaijan. The reason was the visit of the presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse to Khankendi, Karabakh, on December 22. According to the Ministry, the visit of the French politician is illegal. President of the Regional Council of Île-de-France Valérie Pécresse is a Republican candidate in the presidential election of 2022. Pécresse and the French citizens who accompanied her in the visit to the region were declared persona non grata by the Ministry. Head of Democracy and Progress Party Gubad Ibadoghlu reacted to the statement by the Ministry arguing that “such an attitude could be understandable before the war because then Lachin and Shusha were under occupation” however now, added Ibadoghlu “after the liberation of our lands such statement is ironic.” Ibadoghlu continued: If Karabakh is indeed ours, why don’t we have the right to check the foreign citizens coming to Khankendi via Lachin and Shusha who are not allowed to enter Azerbaijan without a visa? What is the point of blacklisting people who came to Khankendi without any obstacles and holding meetings only after their visits? What is the use of creating such a ridiculous situation? Why are there no checkpoints and border control on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border in Lachin? How long will this last?”
Journalist Parviz Hashimli wrote that a young boy whom Ilham Aliyev met in Shusha on Saturday is the nephew of Vusal Musayev, a war veteran who committed suicide in a military hospital because of the physical wounds of the war and post-traumatic stress. Despite his family’s continuous request, the Ministry of Defense did not give Musayev the status of martyr. Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev wrote that the case of Musayev should remind the public and the government that the concerns of war veterans and the families of martyrs should be addressed immediately.
Economy and Social Issues
According to a decree signed by president Aliyev, the salaries of police and other law enforcement officers have been increased by 20%. However, independent experts believe that in the face of rising prices, a slight increase in wages could hardly help. In his column written for Azadlig newspaper Nemet Aliyev argues that it is clear that the recent orders of President Ilham Aliyev will not be enough to compensate for 43% of the losses caused by rising prices of imported products. Aliyev wrote: the presidential decrees to increase salaries, pensions, and other social benefits will neither significantly improve the living standard of the population nor will it be enough to restore it to the previous state. Because the funds allocated for these purposes in next year’s state budget are not able to compensate for the billions of losses caused by the rising prices. For this reason, official and unofficial promises that living standards will improve next year are far from reality. Everyone must keep an eye on their budget calculations and prepare for the challenges of the coming year.”
Head of APFP Ali Karimli once again reminded his followers that they should join the opposition in their demands of child benefits. Karimli wrote: How many people do you think demand child support in the country? Child support should not be the demand of only the opposition. Millions of people need to join this call of the opposition to make the government pay child support. The government’s statement that “we do not have the money to pay child support” is a lie.
December 28, 2021