Center for National and International Studies
“A rise in diseases such as cancer, kidney problems, heart conditions, lung ailments, and bronchitis has been observed in the areas near the artificial lake built for the purpose of extracting gold.”
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
The tension in Soyudlu village, located in the Gadabay region, continues unabated. Local villagers have reported that the waste generated by a nearby gold mine is causing detrimental effects on both the environment and human health. On June 27, additional forces from special police units arrived in the village, deploying four buses. According to residents, the police have issued threats to suppress any future protests using force. A circulating video on social media features an elderly woman resident alleging that a policeman named Bahram ordered the targeting of specific areas on women’s bodies, with the intention of causing injuries that would be difficult to present as evidence of violence. Mukhtar Babayev, the chairman of the government commission established for Soyudlu and the Minister of Ecology, recently visited the village again. However, he did not address the residents with any specific information. He mentioned that the results of the analysis conducted on samples taken from the soil, air, and water in the artificial lake where waste from the gold field was dumped would be available on June 28. In response to the situation, activists in Baku have formed the “Söyudlü” working group, dedicated to safeguarding the rights of Soyudlu residents. Since June 22, access to the village has been restricted, preventing journalists and activists from entering the area. Numerous local residents have been arrested, raising concerns among their families regarding potential instances of torture.
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Ali Karimli has called on the government to promptly release the individuals who have been arrested in Soyudlu. “The government’s decision to seize the Soyudli community has triggered widespread public protests across various social media platforms. By its own actions, the regime is inadvertently fueling public discontent against itself. Is Ilham Aliyev aware of the intense anger that the people demonstrate in response to the police violence inflicted upon the residents of Soyudlu?”
In a demonstration of solidarity with the people of Soyudlu and to protest against the growing threat of cyanide contamination across Azerbaijan, independent activists decided to hold a peaceful civil action. This event is scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 2, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. in Fountain Square, Baku. They have released a statement inviting the public to join them in their cause. The statement emphasizes the long-standing danger faced by the residents of Gadabeyli, as well as the entire nation of Azerbaijan. It criticizes the prioritization of gold extraction and financial gains over the well-being of ordinary citizens, with their lives being disregarded by the gold mining industry. All individuals who possess a conscience and the means to participate are urged to join the protest, showing collective support for Soyudlu. The action aims to raise awareness about the poisoning of the population and calls for a rejection of this hazardous practice. The statement clarifies that the protest is not politically motivated but rather a civilized and peaceful form of expression. The action outlines several demands, including the establishment of a transparent group, including independent experts, to inspect the first artificial cyanide lake and implement necessary measures. Additionally, it opposes the construction of a second cyanide lake in Soyudlu, calls for the removal of the village from its current state of siege, and demands the release of those who were arrested during previous Soyudlu protests. Furthermore, the statement advocates for holding the policemen accountable for their harassment of the people of Soyudli. The organizers have duly submitted a request to the Baku City Executive Authority to hold the civil and peaceful action, ensuring compliance with the Republic of Azerbaijan’s law on free assembly. There are no legal obstacles for the event to take place.
On his 51st birthday, Oktay Gulaliyev, a human rights activist and a member of the Coordination Center of the National Council, was remembered by the human rights defenders and the opposition. Gulaliyev has been an unwavering advocate for democracy and a vocal critic of the Aliyev regime and was the first person to expose the Tartar crimes committed against army personnel. Tragically, in 2019, while crossing a street after a press conference regarding an anti-torture campaign, Gulaliyev was struck by a car, resulting in a severe skull fracture and brain injury. The opposition and human rights defenders strongly believe that this incident was not a mere accident but a deliberate act orchestrated by the regime to silence Gulaliyev. Since the accident, Gulaliyev has remained in a coma, rendering him unable to continue his activism.
Chairperson of the APFP Ali Karimli said that Gulaliyev made great sacrifices to restore justice for the victims of the Tartar crimes. Karimli’s Facebook post: “Oktay Bey himself informed us – the members of the National Council Coordination Center – about the threats to his life. He was well aware that his life was in grave danger. Despite being urged to remain silent, he did not remain silent until the end and fearlessly exposed the culprits behind the Tartar crimes. Oktay Bey willingly sacrificed his own well-being to uphold justice in our homeland and solve Tartar crimes.
Tofig Yagublu, a member of the NCDF, referred to Gulaliyev as a “living martyr” and accused President Aliyev of being responsible for the tragic car accident that left Gulaliyev unconscious and immobile in bed for the past three years. “He has been unconscious and immobile in bed for the past three years, and this is the act of Ilham Aliyev. Of course, the capabilities of medical science are much higher than the capabilities of Azerbaijani healthcare. Azerbaijani healthcare, although limited, should facilitate the transfer of Gulaliyev to the world’s most advanced clinics for treatment. However, since the current regime is unlikely to provide such assistance, we should hope for a change of power in the country. Ultimately, the prospects of Gulaliyev‘s recovery depend more on the establishment of democracy than on medical advancements. Long live democracy, and long live Ogtay Bey!”
According to Meydan TV, Aslan Gasimov, a resident of Erchivan village in the Astara region, has been unjustly arrested on false drug charges. His mother, Ravayat Gasimova, expressed her frustration to Meydan TV, stating that they were unable to obtain any information about her son’s whereabouts or the reason behind his detention for several days. Eventually, they discovered that he had been accused of drug-related offenses. “Aslan visited Karbala some years ago when he was single. During the visit, he saw Azerbaijanis there, and they took a picture together. Based on a photograph taken during a that visit to Karbala they have arrested him.” In the photo, Aslan happened to be standing with some Azerbaijanis who were later arrested on drug charges. Ravayat Gasimova condemned the inhumane treatment and oppression her son endured after his arrest, mentioning that he was subjected to severe torture. She also disclosed that he was transferred to a prison in Kurdakhani, located in Baku. Ravayat Gasimova added that her son worked day in and day out to support his family, earning a meager income of 10-15 manats per day. She insisted that the accusations of drug possession and espionage were baseless, a fact known not only to their relatives and neighbors but also to the local policemen who were familiar with everyone in the village. She questioned the logic of accusing someone living in an iron wagon of being involved in espionage or drug trafficking. “His struggles to provide for his child were evident, and he had been attempting to secure social assistance throughout the year, but his efforts were fruitless. Imagine even a person living in such circumstances was denied social support”, said Gasimova.
Governance and Corruption
According to the state media, the health authorities arranged medical examinations to assess the well-being of the residents in Soyudlu village. A team of 16 medical professionals from Gadabey District Central Hospital visited the village for this purpose. It was noted that no significant health issues were found in the approximately 30 individuals who underwent examination throughout the day. However, Dr. Elchin Javadov, an expert in Technical Sciences, voiced a different opinion. According to him, during the construction of the artificial lake, safety regulations were disregarded. Javadov argued that the artificial lake contains cyanide acid and lacks proper concrete or waterproofing, both in its front and bottom sections. Presently, the lake spans an area of 10 hectares, but its upper part remains uncovered. As a result, both the environment and people suffer from the detrimental effects of cyanide acid through leakage and evaporation. Javadov expressed concerns over the impact of these cyanide lakes on the agricultural productivity of numerous villages in the region. Many areas have ceased to yield fruits and other agricultural products. Potatoes, in particular, are on the brink of extinction as they spoil quickly. Furthermore, a rise in diseases such as cancer, kidney problems, heart conditions, lung ailments, and bronchitis has been observed in the affected area, according to Javadov’s statements.
Negotiations between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia commenced on Tuesday In Washington DC. The talks are scheduled to span three days. Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the US State Department, announced that US Secretary of State Blinken would engage in discussions with both ministers throughout the three-day negotiation period. Miller emphasized the belief that direct dialogue plays a crucial role in resolving the issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia and attaining peace.
Several matters were previously agreed upon during meetings held in the United States and Brussels. Despite reaching agreements on territorial integrity, border delimitation and demarcation, and the opening of communications, the implementation of these agreements has proved challenging. Fuad Gahramanli, a member of the APFP, suggested that this meeting appears to focus on the execution of the previously reached agreements and addressing Russia’s involvement in the process. Gahramanli: “The interventions by Russia disrupt negotiations mediated by the West, essentially obstructing the peace process. Therefore, progress and the conclusion of a peace agreement will be difficult unless the leadership of both Azerbaijan and Armenia adhere to the ceasefire and implement the negotiated agreements, free from Russian influence.”
June 30, 2023