Center for National and International Studies
“…. Ah, Azerbaijan! How many rebukes we have received, not to claim your rights, but only to say your name!” (M.E.Rasulzade) “
The FB community widely celebrates the national day of independence, in contrast with its passing almost unnoticed at the official level; expresses their concern with the tension on the state border and interprets this as a Russian-designed trap; follows closely the misunderstanding in relations with Turkey in regard to construction of the music school in Shusha; decries the killing of Azerbaijani citizens by police in Russia and the Tovuz region in Azerbaijan, criticizes the policies of national development; reacts negatively to the expensive high-rise building of the Ministry of Economy, and welcomes the Western sanctions against Belarus.
Post-war situation. Social networks are discussing the situation in the conflict zone. Isa Gambar, the ex-leader of Musavat and currently the head of National Strategic Think Tank, argues in his interview with the Zerkalo newspaper that Azerbaijani-Armenian relations and various problems, including that of the Zangezur corridor, should be resolved in direct negotiations between the parties without any mediators. The experts and political leaders discuss the statements by Western organisations and government in regard to recent tension at the state borders, including the US State Department’s calling for a return to the original positions. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that Azerbaijan will have to pay a high price for raising – on the advice of Russian foreign minister Lavrov – the issue of the borders and Zangezur corridor. Osmangizi TV experts consider the incident on the state border a provocation, apparently designed to make Pashinian appeal to Russia and the CSTO. They say that Russia is encouraging both parties to confrontation, saying “the rabbit will run, while greyhound will catch” and expect more provocations on the eve of elections in Armenia. The military experts consider that this is also being done to bring Russian border troops into Azerbaijan. The political leaders assess the possibility of transforming the tension in a third Karabagh war. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reports that in these two weeks the Armenian army fired on Nakhichevan and wounded a soldier, a landmine exploded in Kalbajar and killed another, the agreement of 9th November is not being implemented – the Armenian armed groups have not been withdrawn from Karabagh, the Girmizibazar-Shusha Road is not reopened, the Zangezur corridor not launched, and the Gazakh region’s villages and Kerki have not been returned to Azerbaijan. The issue of return of those captured, of missing persons during the conflict, is being discussed by the activists and human rights defenders. Some of them recall that in the area of Girmizibazar there was a trap arranged by the Armenian army, where hundreds of Azerbaijani troops died in the first Karabagh war, but nobody came to pick up the bodies, so they were levelled by bulldozer. Some also recall seeing mass graves during the 2000s. The Azerbaijani side reports 4,000 missing in the first Karabagh war.
Relations with Turkey. The e-media reflects the controversy of the Baku reaction to the suggestion of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Turkey Dovlet Bahchali to build a music school in Shusha city named after Uzeyir Hajibeyov. The leader of the party told that while they collected funds for this construction and prepared the project, they discovered that the Azerbaijani government had prepared its own project for this school. The foreign ministry of Azerbaijan later stated that the misunderstanding had been resolved. The opposition and civil society negatively reacted to the inconsistency of the Azerbaijani officials in their relations with the Turkish partners. Natig Jafarli of REAL argues that the best Universities of the world, such as Turkey’s High School of Medicine and Engineering, should be invited to help to build high level Universities in the liberated territories, so it would produce well-educated cadres for the government. Gubad Ibadoglu considers that all problems which come up in relations of Turkey and Azerbaijan should and can be resolved in open discussion. Tofig Yagublu comments that President Erdogan will visit Shusha on one of “the most tragic days in our history, the ‘National Salvation Day’” (the national holiday celebrated by the ruling elite to mark the day of accession of Heydar Aliyev to power in 1993 – L.A.) and along the only road under control of Russians and Armenians. He wonders whether Putin will arrange any provocation during this visit.
Relations with Russia. The FB community shares and decries the news about shooting in Russia of a 19-year-old Azerbaijani called Vekil Abdullayev by police for violation of road rules. The video shows that in the absence of any threat to the police, the young man was initially shot then beaten up by the police. The activists call upon the society, the Azerbaijan Embassy in Russia, the Azerbaijani government and the Diaspora organizations to react to this “horrible event, which is reminiscent of the case of George Floyd in Minnesota”. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP analyses Russia’s role in the recent tension on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. He argues that this tension serves Russia’s objective to increase its military presence in the region. Gahramanli considers that Russia’s military presence as peacekeepers in Azerbaijan cannot obstruct Pashinian – whose chances in the elections are rather high – from European integration, as in Karabagh, Armenian and Russian interests coincide with Russia’s protecting the Armenian community there. So, by creating tension on the state borders, Russia wants to boost hostile relations and perceived threat to justify bringing in more troops. He argues that Lavrov’s statement about the readiness of Russia to assist in the demarcation process and the fact that tension took place right after the visit of Lavrov is convincing proof of that. He concludes that in order to prevent a new war, preservation of stability and integration in the West is extremely important, and that the recent statement of the US state department is rather caused by concern with Russia’s imperial ambitions.
Celebration of 103rd anniversary of Azerbaijan Republic. The leading political and civil leaders assert the importance, relate the history and difficult circumstances of the creation of the first Democratic Republic and congratulate people on its 103rd anniversary. They compare and contrast the policies and ethics of the founders of the republic to the contemporary, post-Soviet rulers. The leader of the Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, stressed that the founders created on the ruins the state which served its people, they did not enrich themselves at the expanse of the state, did not leave official positions and riches to their children, on the contrary – sacrificed their personal and family interests for those of the Republic. “They left us the shining ideal of the Azerbaijan Republic”, he concludes, “In spite of all the difficulties we have lived through, I believe our flag will not be taken down, and as our national leader Rasulzade said, the day of truth will triumph”. The leader of Musavat party, Arif Hajili, reported that the party visited the grave of M.E.Rasulzade in his village Novkhani near Baku. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR, Agil Laij, Gultakin Hajibeyli and many others posted status dedicated to the republic and its founders. They share photos of M.E.Rasulzade, stressing how even the images reflect his integrity and decency, and share quotations from his speeches and publications. The journalist in exile Ganimad Zahid comments, that although the Republic existed only for 2 years, its ideals has inspired many generations ahead and it was restored after 70 years of Soviet occupation. He also stressed that then again the struggle continued, as for 50 years one family forming a dynasty has occupied not only people’s physical riches, but their political-moral identity. He argues that the struggle is unequal, but it will not stop until the Republic is not restored. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP asserts that the struggle is about “returning the values which were left to us by the Republic founded by M.E.Razulzade”. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev lists the reasons why the current authorities are not so sincere about the anniversary, noting the contrast in values and policies between the two. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov stresses that he wishes that the Republic would replace the dynastic regime. The journalist Shamshad Aga congratulates with the day of Republic everyone- including those “who do not understand or do not share its values” because it will ultimately be restored!” The blogger Mehman Huseynov expresses his gratitude and respect to the founders of the first Democratic Republic in the East. He regrets that the name of the founder was removed from the streets, universities, libraries, TV channels, but it will never be removed from the people’s memory. He lists 15 cases of removal of the Rasulzade name from public places all over the republic by the current authorities, commenting “This is how our history is being deleted”. The academic Altay Geyushov argues jokingly that only Azerbaijanis can celebrate the day of the Republic while having built the feudal monarchy. His wish for people is one day “to save your lives from the master’s obedience and become a citizen of the republic”. People comment that this year, unlike the previous ones, the president did not even come to the modest monument to give a speech devoted to the occasion. Yadigar Sadighly of Musavat comments: “Again the whole world, except for the president, congratulated us on 28th May – the day of the Republic. I wonder whether there is another country like ours?” Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR reports the joint meeting of the Board of Federation of American Azebaijanis and Supervisory Council in New Jersey, which besides the discussion of its current issues and adoption of decisions, marked the 103rd anniversary of the Azerbaijan Republic.
Human Rights. Ali Karimli of PFP and others report the death of Yashar Ramazanov from beating and torture in the Tovuz region police station with reference to Channel Turan’s video material. He argues that torture along with corruption is a state policy and urges his followers and every person of conscience not to stay indifferent to the facts of torture. The political and civil leaders share and post statements denouncing this case. Gultakin Hajibeyli notes that Azerbaijani citizens were killed by police in Russia and the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan, but there is zero reaction from the public. She comments that Indira Gandhi was right – it is easy to wake up a sleeping nation, but not one who pretends to be asleep. Perhaps the door of each should be knocked on, but by then it will be too late, she concludes. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat and NCDF argues that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is a criminal structure. He ridicules the official statement by the police major, the departmental head of the press service of the Ministry, Elshad Hajiyev, that Ramazanov died as a result of falling down, resulting from feeling bad. Afghan Mukhtarli, the journalist in exile and a former political prisoner, who was hijacked in Georgia and tried in Azerbaijan, posts his comments on the occasion of the 4th year since it happened. He recalls that at that time, the operation against the so-called “Tbilisi group of opposition” was conducted based on the instruction of Ilham Aliyev. Mehman Galandarli was arrested and then killed in Kurdakhani prison, Gozel Bayramli was imprisoned, while seriously ill, was not allowed medicine and soon after her release died, Georgian citizen Ferman Jeyranli, doctor and head of the clinic, was arrested and is still in prison. He expressed his conviction that both Ilham Aliyev and Ivanishvili would be held responsible for the crimes they committed. The human rights defender Rufat Safarov reports the emergence of serious problems in the blood circulation of political prisoner Polad Aslanov, and in spite of numerous complaints, he was not transferred to the medical facilities. The activists and journalists raise and decry again the violation of animal rights, in connection with shooting stray dogs. The animal protection activists point to Baku City Executive as a state agency responsible for the shooting of dogs.
Governance, economy, corruption. The blogger Mehman Huseynov argues that he managed to reveal the illegal deeds of the employee of Baku City Council, Rafail Mehraliyev, in literally one day: he misappropriated and took out of the country 300m manats with the help of the company registered on the name of his wife. But the officials, such as his boss Eldar Azizov, preferred to keep silence as part of those millions is shared by himself. Natig Jafarli of REAL posts a video of the speech by the MP of his party, Erkin Gadirli, that if the law on the status of Shusha is adopted it cannot be referred to Presidential decree and calls this speech “the lessons of the Republic in Parliament”. The economist Samir Aliyev questions the procedure of the recent elections of the executive director of the State Agency of Support to NGOs at the meeting of its Supervisory Board. He argues that there was little information about the procedure and lack of transparency in this process. The number of iron-ore and gold fields in the liberated regions of Azerbaijan – Gashgachay, Elbeybash and Agduzdag – were given for 30 years’ exploration and development to Turkish companies. However, there is no information about the Soyudlu field (Zod), which according to the guess of the economists may as before be under the control of the Russians. Gubad Ibadoglu argues that 160b in oil revenue was spent on the marble, stone and luxurious office buildings of state companies and agencies instead of used as human capital. He speaks about the highest customs and fees (18%) for the import of electro-mobiles, smartphones, etc and concludes that a system has been created that deprives citizens of owning modern technologies, smartphones, high speed internet and modern cars. So the idea is to actually prevent development of human capital, which serves the political purpose encouraging human capital – young people – to emigrate from the country. Thus, the country will move backwards and will again sell 15 barrels of oil or 750 kg of cotton or 1 ton of tomatoes in order to buy 1 smartphone. The activists discuss and decry the enormous new building of the Ministry of Economy. Mehman Huseynov reports that the building of 168 metres height cost 150m manats from the national budget, which has cut the hundreds of thousands of handicapped benefits of 100 manats. Yadigar Sadighly argues that if the country has so many employees of the Ministry of Economy to fill this building, then the economy of such country must be in a desperate condition. The historian Jamil Hasanli comments that the COVID environment in the country is “digital and controlled” – the authorities either raise statistics or lower them depending on their aims, such as the ensuring the approaching Formula-1 race event in Baku. He assumes that perhaps after the race the statistics will rise again, as it serves the tool of protection of the ruling family, repressions against its opponents, restriction of people’s Constitutional rights and depriving them of the right to protest. “How can it be that when the number of infected drops it is possible to conduct Formula-1 races, music festivals, European Summer Games, but not a protest action or wedding?”- he concludes. Nigar Hezi mentions the launch of the new metro station “8th November” (the military victory day). She notes that the construction of this station, with the planned name of “Jalil Mammadguluzade” (a famous writer) dragged on for 5 years. But it seems that they were waiting for the war, she concludes with irony. She hints that they gave the new name to the already built station and put it into operation, most probably having “saved” the money which was supposed to have financed the construction of the new station.
Social issues. The FB users continue to share complaints and information about the failure of the war handicapped to get any respective registration. The FB platform Azad Soz argues that the money sent to the families of the war dead was misappropriated by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Ilkin Rustamzade broadcasts a report from the home of the young war handicapped Dadashov Eyyub Familoglu who has had a crisis from his wounds and could not afford treatment, and whose family appealed to the authorities to help.
Democracy building. The historian Altay Geyushov debates the definition of intelligentsia and argues that it is not enough to be highly educated but one must critically approach the regime and political power to be called this name. He comments that even the creator of the “fuzzy physics” American professor Lutfi-zade cannot be called this name, as he was accepting money from the authorities and closing his eyes to repressions in the country. People share a status by Khagani Jafarli writing about geopolitical choices of Azerbaijan. He argues that Azerbaijan is surrounded by three regional powers – Iran, Turkey and Russia – two of which either are or moving towards religious states, while the third one – Russia – is a patriarchal authoritarian state. He also discredits the policies of Erdogan, who aims at the formation of a “religious and pious” generation and turning museums into mosques or building mosques in the place of parks. The number of mosques in Turkey has already exceeded those in the officially Islamic state of Iran. He gives the increasing statistics of crime in Turkey, in spite of 33% of 10,000 private schools having a religious connection. As the political economic, ethical environment in the region is formed by these three powers, Azerbaijan has the only way out – to resist this influence and to follow the path shown by the enlightener Mirza Fatali Akhundzade – the path of freedom of thought, science and culture.
“Re-election” of Assad in Syria. The FB community worryingly follows the events in Syria – the “re-election” of the 21 years in power 55-year-old Bashar Assad with 95.1% of votes, who will stay in power for another 7 years.
The situation in Belarus. The FB community shares and comments on the Western reaction to the recent incident with the plane in Belarus. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR considers that the imposed sanctions may lead to collapse of the transportation system and in general of the whole business in the country, and along with deprivation of the SWIFT system, it may result in the same situation as with Ashgabat. The FB community shares information about thousands of trucks from Belarus stuck on the borders with Europe. “How to defeat the cannibal?”– starts his status about Lukashenka the deputy leader of the PFP Seymur Hezi. He argues that for years they were telling the foreign partners that dictators are capable of all unthinkable deeds, they would disagree saying that there are red lines, which they would not cross. But Lukashenka showed that the concept of a red line does not exist for him, there is only one – his own line – which exists. Seymur Hezi comments that while he disagrees on many issues with Emanuel Macron, he fully supports his idea to invite the leader of opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to the G-7 summit, as the whole world should know this person. She is a symbol of democracy and the struggle with oppression and should go there and give a speech on how to defeat a cannibal. He concludes that Lukashenka is not the last dictator of Europe, as there is an even greater and more threatening dictator behind him, whose one feet is even in Asia. The world nowadays is facing tough dilemmas and if the West does not make the right choice, it will undermine its own strength. The activists note that the protests in Belarus, in spite of the “military/fascist” style of government, do not stop and people daily come to rallies, flash mobs and vigils in Minsk and although they are not massive, they are of high importance. Ali Karimli of PFP argues that “Lukashenka has moved closer to his end”.
June 1, 2021