Center for National and International Studies
“Ilham Aliyev‘s support for Russia’s imperial policy at a time when even Russia’s closest allies are distancing themselves from it is illogical and can only be explained by a desire to strengthen solidarity among authoritarian regimes and slow down the global democratic changes that await the region.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Member of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Salyan branch Zaur Ahmadov was detained by two civilian police officers. Azadliq newspaper reports that Ahmadov was taken to an unknown destination, and only hours later, his family was informed that he was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. According to Ahmadov’s family, Salyan Police Department rejected their request for a meeting. Ahmadov is one of the many members of the Party who were arrested on trumped-up charges, according to human rights lawyers. One of the members of the Party, Alizamin Salayev, who has been on hunger strike for more than 110 days, was sentenced to four imprisonments despite the calls from human rights organizations for his immediate release.
Governance and Corruption
Sunday marked the 105th anniversary of the first democratic Republic in Azerbaijan. Despite its historical importance as the first democratic government in the Muslim world, the Azerbaijani authorities demonstrate considerably less interest in commemorating the ideals and founding fathers of the first Republic that lasted for two years between 1918-1920. While the government changed the name of the public holiday from “Republic Day” to “Independence Day” a few years ago, the state-controlled media every year devotes airtime to the glorification of the former president, Heydar Aliyev who ruled the counter from 1993 till 2003, when his son came to power after his death. Chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli said that despite the government’s attempts to eradicate the memories of the Republic, it would not be possible to remove it from public memory. “Neither the 70-year propaganda of the Bolsheviks nor the jealousy and slander of the family rule could remove the founder of Azerbaijan’s independence from the memories of our people. We commemorate our national leader Muhammad Amin Rasulzade and our founding fathers with respect and gratitude, who did the greatest service in declaring the independence of Azerbaijan, establishing the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, keeping the national government standing for almost two years, and keeping the ideology of national independence alive even after the occupation of Azerbaijan. Long live Republican ideas, freedom, and justice! Happy Republic Day!”
Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces historian Jamil Hasanli said that it is “a historical irony” that after a hundred years of the establishment of the Democratic Republic in Azerbaijan, family rule prevailed. “Today is their day, not only the Republic’s birthday but also the day of the founding fathers. What an honorable people they were. Today is not only Independence Day but also Republic Day. Not every independence means Republic. Our founding fathers built the building of independence on the foundations of the Republic. It is such a great irony of history that the monarchy “celebrates” the Republic: on Independence Day and Republic Day, not the fathers of the nation who sacrificed their lives and property for the Republic, but a KGB general, communist first secretary, and Politburo member, Heydar Aliyev who fought mercilessly against that Republic, its founders, and values for nearly half a century, is on the corner of the nation’s TV channels. Such a “symbiosis” of history could hardly be found anywhere.”
Member of the NCDF Tofig Yagublu said that the police intervened in the gathering of the opposition leaders in front of the Resulzade’s monument to commemorate the anniversary of the Republic. Yagublu: “Alizamin Salayev, who fights against the regime that turned the Republic into a monarchy, is spending the 111th day of his hunger strike in prison. Freedom to Alizamin Salayev. The authorities do not allow flying the flag of the European Union in Azerbaijan, which is a member of the Council of Europe. There was police intervention at Rasulzade‘s commemoration event. Today, as the National Council, we held a holiday event dedicated to the 105th anniversary of the Republic in front of the monument of Muhammad Amin Rasulzade in Novkhani. Ilham Aliyev, who once sent the ISIS flags to our rally at the Mehsul stadium, this time ordered his police to take down the flag of the European Union, which we raised at the rally. With this act, he showed that he shares the same mindset as ISIS. What else could explain the hate for the EU flag?”
On Sunday, Turkey held the runoff elections, which were widely discussed by the Azerbaijani public. Meydan Tv reports that the mayor of Bolu, Turkey, Tanju Özcan appealed to Ilham Aliyev, asking him not to interfere in the elections in Turkey. According to Özcan, many Azerbaijani pro-governmental politicians are involved in the propaganda in favor of Erdogan and his Party AKP.
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADWP) Gubad Ibadoghlu said that the elections in Turkey should inspire the Azerbaijani voters to be more active in the upcoming elections. “As for the people of Azerbaijan, who have become fans of the elections in Turkey, we must force the authorities to hold free elections in Azerbaijan, at least at the level of Turkey. This should be an important problem to be solved by everyone who wants to see the future of the country bright. In this regard, the greatest responsibility falls on the political opposition and civil society. We should turn the citizens of Azerbaijan not into a group that watches the elections in other countries, but into a nation that demands the elections in its own country.”
Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli argued that the future of democracy in Azerbaijan is much more dependent on Russia’s defeat than a governmental change in Turkey. “The main geopolitical factor affecting democratic changes in Azerbaijan is connected to Putin‘s Russia, not to Turkey. Therefore, Russia’s defeat in Ukraine will open new opportunities for us. However, in all cases, as a nation, we should bear the responsibility of fighting for our rights because in no case an external factor leads to changes in exchange for the silence of the people.”
During his speech at the meeting of the Supreme Economic Council of the Eurasian Economic Union, which was held in Moscow, President Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan never had a territorial claim against any country and it desires only to achieve the opening of transport communication with the neighboring country. President’s statement was considered as the denial of his government’s previous claims about the Zangazur corridor and Armenian territorial integrity. In Azerbaijan, the opposition believes that the Eurasian Economic Union is Putin‘s project for restoring the USSR.
Journalist Seymur Hezi said that Aliyev‘ ’s attendance at the meeting puts the national interests in danger. “We cannot have any future with Putin, with Putin’s Russia, or with imperialist Moscow. All these initiatives are harmful as well as inappropriate.”
Chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli also said that Aliyev‘s participation in the summit of the Eurasian Economic Union together with the leaders of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan is “an act against the national interests”. Karimli: “I remind you that the Eurasian Union was created on the initiative of Russia as an alternative to the European Union. The presidents of Cuba and Tajikistan also participated in today’s summit of the Union in an online format. Look at the countries that Ilham Aliyev wants our country to integrate with. Russia’s participation in this imperial institution excludes integration with the European Union. The Eurasian Union, together with the CSTO, was conceived as the foundation of Putin‘s new imperial project, “USSR-2”. Ilham Aliyev‘s support for Russia’s imperial policy at a time when even Russia’s closest allies are beginning to distance themselves from it is illogical and can only be explained by a desire to strengthen solidarity among authoritarian regimes and slow down the global democratic changes that await the region. Even at a time when Russia is weakened and isolated, if Ilham Aliyev does not say no to this country’s imperial projects, imagine what would await us if Russia wins in Ukraine. The one-man rule in Azerbaijan not only takes away our rights and freedoms, not only robs our national wealth but also creates a grave threat to our state independence.”
May 30, 2023