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Center for National and International Studies




The dominating topics these days are arrest of the opposition leader Tofig Yagublu and other activists, problems in the country emerging in relations to coronavirus, reaction of the government to the epidemy, arrest in Turkey of the businessman Mubariz Mansimov.

Tofig Yagublu, before his arrest wrote on his timeline: “Ilham Aliyev in his congratulatory Novruz Holiday speech mentioned coronavirus and warned the opposition. He should have in fact openly stated that this virus was spread by the 5th column the opposition and because of that the opposition should be eliminated.

He also commented on the promise of the president to give his 1 year salary to the foundation of struggle against the virus. “ Wow, – he wrote- having stolen all people’s life salaries to the offshore companies Ilham Aliyev told that he will transfer his 1 year salary to the foundation.. It appears that he lived only on his salary….”

The FB users widely share the information which Tofig Yagublu spread when he was experiencing attack at the parking lot which led to his arrest. He wrote:

“ SOS! Dear friends, I have faced a serious provocation. My car was hit in a demonstrative way while being parked near the 8 km market and I was attacked- these are prepared people.”

His daughter NIgar Hezi reports on the 22nd at 16.28  about the provocation against her father. She comments that not only they hit her father’s car while it was in parked condition, but started a fight blaming him for hitting their car. In addition, they asked for ambulance for them in the police station, as if one of them had a heart failure. She concludes: “The greatest threat is Ilham Aliyev!”

Later herself and other activists, informed that he was held in the police department incommunicado. NIgar Hezi made a series of posts related to the fate of her father.

“-They have brought him to the court,

-Here is the attorney appointed by the state

-There are new roads, courts, prisons awaiting us..

-But we are waiting for our father

– He was in prison for more than 3 years. There was so much happening to us while he was there. But nothing softened the heart of the respectable. Even when we lost Nargiz (her younger sister – L.A.) he sent him to prison again. Then he released him, but then again giving him tortures put him under 1 month of administrative arrest. After that arrest my father got serious problems with his health. He still was not satisfied and arrested him again. The one who requests this arrests is Ilham Aliyev. But one day he will responsible for all this. I am proud to be the daughter of Tofig Yagublu”.

Gozel Bayrmali shared the information that the legal defender Elchin Sadygov was not allowed to the police department where they held Tofig Yagublu.

Mehman Huseynov, the blogger and ex-political prisoner, comments on the arrest of Tofig Yagublu that he has a high respect for this politician, whom he is proud of and that the government is always after such dignified, courageous, decent and pure citizens, because it is afraid of them. He writes that Yagublu stands for his principles and the people should defend such courageous activists. The Azerbaijani government, he considers, should be ashamed for their dirty deed, and it seems that they still do not understand that imprisonment is not the way out.

Khadija Ismayil comments on the decision of the court to imprison Tofig Yagublu for three months. She compares the speed of decision in this case  ( 1 day) with the decision which is still not made ( 4 months) , although the consequences are much more grave- in the case of Oktay Gulaliyev, who was hit by the car. She lists a number of inconsistencies of this investigation, proving that court did not have enough evidence and decision was politically motivated.

Rasul Jafarov joins this line of argument and anticipates that this indictment will be recognized by the European Court  of Human Rights as the violation of 5 and 18 articles.

The FB users widely share and comment on the arrest of Tofig Yagublu. The activists, both in the country and in exile, run the internet campaign in defense of Tofig Yagublu, including Ramis Yunus, Hikmet Hajizade, Seymur Hezi, Fuad Hasanov, Arif Mammadov, Ulvi Hasanli, Parviz Hashimli, Latafat Malikova, Gozel Bayrmali, Ilkin Rustamzade.

Yadigar Sadyghli a former political prisoner recalls his experience in the same Shuvelian prison: “ Compared to this prison, Kurdakhani prison is a sanatorium. While it is for 700 prisoners, its real number was two times higher. In my 79 cell there were 10 beds and 16  prisoners.  The younger ones stood in a queue to sleep. In fact, by law for each prisoner there should have been 4 sq meters of space, and not 1,5 sq meter at best as in our case. In these 3 months I did not manage to read a single book, as there were no conditions for that.The conditions were actually so unbearable that when in spring 2014 there was a choice of sooner, but prepared in haste  court hearing  or later court hearing with greater defendants evidence- Yadigar Sadyghli had chosen the sooner court decision just to get out of Shuvelian detention center.

Ali Kerimli posts on his timeline: … “ Everyone should know. I have spoken on the phone to Tofig Yagublu soon after his information on FB that there was a provocation against him. He told me, that when the attackers hit his car and then insulted him, he realized this was a provocation. He locked the car doors and closed the windows. Not only he did not fight with them ,but even did not respond to their insults. Those who planned this provocation should know, that he did not get an inch into the trap, which they prepared. There is not a reason, nor an excuse for him to be indicted. And the government should behave seriously. At least, when the whole nation is facing threat of virus epidemic, should abandon its nasty methods!”Later Kerimli  reports, that they started a criminal case against  themember of the Coordination Center of the National Council Tofig Yagublu based on the article 221.3 of the Criminal Code on hooliganism. This allows regime to sentence him from 2 to 6 years in prison. He stresses that while all  over the world all the states are strengthening their national solidarity, the Azerbaijani government sees it as another opportunity to crack on its opponents. He concludes by pointing to solidarity of all who are struggling for freedom as the only way out of the situation.

Gozel Bayramli of PFP reports that the member of the Supreme Council of the PFP Anar Melikov was called to the Jalilabad police station, and then taken from there without any justification to the court, where he was accused of violation of the article 211 ( Violation of the regime of quarantine during epidemics) and sentenced to 10 days of detention. Thus the first “ virus prisoner” appeared to be the member of the Popular Front Party.

Gullu Jangirova, an activist in exile,  comments that “ President came out and said that he would silence the opposition and thus has given the signal to the government dogs and already the attacks against the opposition started.” She appeals to the people to defend the true popular leader Tofig Yagublu.

Ordukhan Babirov, an activist in exile, comments, that “ the worst virus is Ali- Pashayev virus. We should learn how to save ourselves from this virus. This dynastic regime is also behind the provocation against Tofig Yagublu. If we together in solidarity, then we can win over this regime, so the savior is our solidarity!”

Arif Mammadov, a diplomat in exile, posts on how to arrange the defense of the businessman Mubariz Mansimov and comments on the arrest of Tofig Yagublu, that “ the person behind this provocation is well known. Leave Tofig bey free!”

Seymur Hezi reports about arrest of Tofig Yagublu and comments  that “ declared by the president Aliyev the operation of isolation has started”.

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev comments that it seems that government instead of fighting the virus is fighting the opposition.

Ulvi Hasanli also discredits the appeals of the government to the national unity, calling them fake,  as they are interested only in how to preserve their power. In this crisis of epidemics they started their hunt for opposition- Anar Melikov of PFO was arrested for 10 days, Tofig Yagublu encountered provocation. He concludes that this looks like implementation of the instructions the hint on which were in the president’s Novruz speech.

The human rights lawyer Alasgar Ahmadoglu reports that based on the information provided by the students brought  from the Turkey to Jalilabd region for a quarantine, there is a high probability for  the healthy people getting infected in those conditions. He urges the government to use all its rich resources to create necessary hygienic and sanitary conditions to protect health of people in quarantine places.

Gubad Ibadoglu posts a letter – appeal to the prime-minister of Turkey Erdogan to release the businessman Mubariz Mansimov, who, as the director of Palmali company invested so much in the Turkish economy and was involved in charity activities. The letter is signed by a few prominent intellectuals of Azerbaijan. Hacibala Azimov, Rustam Behrudi, Adil Geybulla, Gulu Mehheremli, Jamil Hasanli, Gubad Ibadoglu, Saleh Mammadov..

In connection with COVID-19 he also suggests some urgent measures to the government, such as shutting down the major markets- Sadarak, Bina, as well as major Malls and provide for compensation to all of them.

Gunel Movlud, a feminist and a writer in exile explains why as she thinks there are little number of deaths from virus, even among the elderly in Norway. She considers this is a combination both of a effective health system, but also a life style of the old people, who allow them to confront the threat of a virus as “ lions”.

Seymur Hezi comments on the German economy decline statistics calling it an indicator of the serious global crisis and transformation of hunger and epidemics in the new enemies.

Ali Inglabci reports that at this very moment the  medical employees dressed in protective clothes and police are forcibly putting one of the taxi drivers into the ambulance car and taking to the hospital, in spite of the driver crying that I do not have a coronavirus, this is an ordinary flu!!!”

Zohrab Ismayil warns in his video commentary that the government should be prepared for greater losses and expenditures.

The FB users share an information about hunger strike in detention by the businessman Mubariz Mansimov.

Gubad Ibadoglu compares the number of tested in Russia and Azerbaijan, while speed of the tests in the US and Azerbaijan, and concludes that both the number of tested, of tests and the speed of their processing is lower in Azerbaijan as compared to these states.

The journalist Hezi Bey posts the interview with the head epidemiologist of the country, which allegedly was deleted by REAL TV, and that was left only on myvideo site. He comments that doctor Ibadulla Agayev was saying shameful ideas about the virus and after the intervention of the journalist said totally opposite ideas. “Look in which hands the whole country’s health and lives are left. Do not take this person seriously and just stay home!”

Ulvi Hasanli, the youth activist, comments on the letter of complaint addressed to the president Aliyev by the employee of one of the presidential administration’s department  Gulsel Safarova. He writes that this is an irony, that she does not get any responses from the state structures to her complaint. But what was she expecting – that her loyalty is eternal guarantee of her social security and safety? He warns that there will be many more cases like and that people should be ready, as the major crisis is ahead- the price of oil falls to 20-30 dollars and will not be recovered and effects of pandemic will exaggerate its effects.

But it may also have the other effect. After it is over – everything will become more evident. The oil revenues so far providing the strength of this regime will decline leading to the contradictions within the regime itself. Of course , this will have hard implications for the vulnerable layers of population, but will damage the oligarchs as well.

Cavid Gara comments that in such crisis the politicians are not usually able to make objective decisions, as under influence of various interest groups, so they rely on the scientists instead, as the interests of the public become primary. And this way, they also put the responsibility away from themselves and the decisions become best for the constituency. Of course, this does not apply to our case, he concludes. He also lists the service businesses which should be shut down, like barber’s, dentists,  etc.

Ali Kerimli of PFP suggests that small business employees should all be released for the holiday with the government paying the compensation. Of 1.6 mln people working on the contract basis, 700 thousands work in the private sector. In addition, more than 3 mln are self-employed. The fact is that 2/3 of able bodied population does not have a work contract or a permanent job in the country. He suggests the authorities ceratin amount of aid to all those who worked in the private sector and reminds that it is not so much important to save national reserves, but to preserve the state and people’s trust in it.

Ilkin Rustamzade comments on peculiarities of the struggle for democracy in the country: “ You are locked at home just for a week and there are some of you who already is getting mad. Now think about those who are in prison. For years you stay in the place which is like a coffin. In addition, next to you are not your family members, but the representatives of the state structures who are trying to suppress and eliminate you. Besides, trying to break your psyche the permanent offers to be released, pressures, locking on the punishment cells etc. Then upon your release, someone, who struggled for 3 months for the right to wear shorts using some term which he learnt from google, tries to prove that you are backward…”

Natig Jafarli of REAL also mentions difficulties which realization of the ideas of government compensation to the population and other anti-virus measures will encounter. He focuses on the shadow economy and a significant number of able bodied population who works without the contract. The same concerns the rents, as most of the parties do not sign the rental agreement. The idea of cash as dangerous in terms of virus spread and should be replaced by the bank transfers also is not sustainable, as the proposal to move to mainly bank transfers  suggested previously as means of legalizing the economy  remained incomplete and did not succeed either. Jafarli brings example of the Chinese hieroglyph which is the same for expression of  “crisis” and “opportunity” and suggests that we should use this crisis to turn into opportunity to cure our systemic economic and other “illnesses”.

He also comments that there is 1 bln manat is decided to be given to fight with virus and its consequences, but the directions of expenditures will be defined only in the end of the month, and there are no specific mechanisms of the spending,  and what about the expenditures of the donations transferred to the Corona Virus Foundation? “I would be happy to transfer 100 manats to that Foundation if I know that it would be spent on the compensation for students who returned from abroad and who were in quarantine. My neighbor said, that he would be happy to donate to that foundation if he had a job”. He also reported that he was fined for the first time for the car parking repeating his daily routine while waiting for his coffee in the café. He reminds that the meaning of fines is not collecting money, but to ease and put in order transport movement in the street during the traffic jams first of all. And there is no traffic these days!”

Rasul Jafarov suggests that the virus creates additional threats to lives of being held hostages in Armenia Dilgam Askarov and Shahbaz Guliyev, in connection with that the Azerbaijani party or with help of the foreign mediators should get guarantees of the safety of the citizens, otherwise this may create conditions of all sorts of provocations.

Altay Geyushov writes about absurd appeal by the authorities via TV to the rich businessmen to donate to the foundation for aid to the population. Elsewhere in the world the state is helping business, while in our country the state, which usually creates all obstacles for entrepreneurs’, wants this help from them. He notes that each Universty has transferred 100 thousands to this foundation, but the total sum has not reached the price of the watch of the SOCAR’s president Rovnag Abdullayev’s son.

He also comments on the post by the Habib Muntazir ( journalist in exile)  about the government tenders in regards struggle with coronavirus: They are hopeless, impossible – in this mess and crisis still trying to get some profits. Habib Muntazir writes: 3 days ago the Ministry of Economy was hosting a tender related to the tests of diagnostics of the virus infection. The winner of the tender was Zeytun Pharmaceuticals company, which received 419 844 AZN. The head of the company Bahruz Shiraliyev as they say is the relative of the Minister of Health Oktay Shiraliyev …. The latter is in turn the relative – the cousin- of the vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva. Overall just in one March month the Ministry of Health has  transferred to this company more than 314 mln and it became the winner of  various tenders”.

Ilkin Rustamzade comments on the grim story behind the success of struggle with virus in China. He informs the readers that the dramatic facts hidden in totalitarian China are getting revealed. The investigative journalist Jennfer Jeng reported that the leading Chinese mobile companies ( except for China Unicom) in February lost 16 mln customers. According to statistics 8 mln transferred from 4G to 5G ( new numbers)  What about the rest 8 mln?  They also report that cable TV and internet companies have lost 14 mln subscribers, but taking into account that 70% of customers are using the same providers of the internet and cable TV, this comes like 8 mln. The broadcasted satellite images of the air pollution above Wuhan city allows to suggest that this is the result of work of crematoria.

Rasul Jafarov of REAL posts the photo of the letter of gratitude which people who spent some time in quarantine in the hospital left for the nurses and guards for their touching and caring service.

The academic and activist Altay Geyushov analyses in historical perspective the reasons of Azerbaijans lagging behind its neighbours in terms of political liberalization. He reminds that almost none of the Soviet Azerbaijani leaders’ behavior   since perestroika (1985) was driven by a strategic vision. Unlike leaders in Armenia and Georgia they would not anticipate direction of the events  regionally and globally, and that’s why were behind them. He writes, that “we are digging a deep well for ourselves to fall into.. Or more precisely, this well is made by the authorities for the whole country to fall down, while we are silently watching and waiting with our heads down when  with our children in the arms will fall into this well”

Gubad Ibadoglu reports about critical situation with Azerbaijani students who did not manage to leave Turkey in time and are stuck in the airport in Istanbul. Due to disinfection the students are removed from the airport, but they do not have places to stay. Majority of them are female students. In spite of the decision on the 17th March by the operative headquarters formed near the Cabinet of Ministers to arrange the charter flights to the country for the students, there are still students waiting in the airports of Istanbul and Ankara to be sent back home. Gubad Ibadoglu urges the government and respective structures to resolve the issue immediately.

Natig Jafarli comments on the situation with small business formed in connection with the epidemics.  He reports that during last three days he has been receiving  dozens of calls, messages, letters from businessmen- their situation is very difficult. Some are reacting with indignation to the proposal to let the employees  to take their days off, while continue to pay their salaries. They ask how can they pay salaries, if they do not earn anything and in addition they have to pay the rent.

One of the café owners in the city center wrote, that he met the premises owner whom he paid 9,000 manats monthly and told him, that his earnings are closed to zero and e cannot afford the rent. The house owner, scratching his belly,  answered that this is the price of his object, and if he goes down in price he will not be able to raise it again, so he suggested to move out for 2-3 months, and then move again, when café owner can afford paying the rent. Jafarli comments, that most of the owners of these houses are officials, bureaucrats and because of that their thinking is not business oriented and is primitive.

He urges the government to deal with these and other issues, such as hundreds of thousands mortgage, credits debts, urgently, otherwise in 2-3 months the government will have to pay much greater price. Instead of obliging the banks to pay to the Coronavirus foundation the government should declare discount on their taxes, so they would freeze the interest on debts.

The decline of economic activities close to zero will directly affect the income of the budget. SOFAZ will transfer planned 11 bln manat, but where will the government get the other 13 bln manats? “In general, is there any scenarios developed in this country? Were the models built? Or they hope to resolve the situtaion with the help of prayer and making nazirs ( donations in the mosques and sacred places – L.A.)?”

Ilkin Rustamzade considers that the government’s repressions against opposition were prepared in advance, before the decline of oil prices, or coronavirus, and it is purely an act of revenge. He reports that since his release from prison his telephone number was hacked  and monitored, bringing some examples. Dozens of intimidating messages to him were coming from the whatsapp US telephone . numbers. These were special e-numbers offered by the service e-sim Numero specially designed for the social networks. Yesterday, he writes,  the assistant to the Nasimi prosecutor’s Vugar Guliyev called and told: “ Orkhan, I am calling you in connection with 15 people, who beat you up.” Then somebody called me today asking: “ Gulam is it you?”. He did not write about it yesterday as there was more important issue of Tofig Yagublu.

March 23, 2020

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