Center for National and International Studies
The FB users celebrate 28 May – the Day of Independence of Azerbaijan Republic ( 102 anniversary of creation of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic in 1918) by posting, sharing and commenting on the history, and comparing it to current state of affairs in the country. They also condemn the continued persecution of activists, especially the recent attacks on the activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, discuss the scandal with multimillion property of the Foreign Minister’s son in NY and reaction to that of the spokesperson of the ministry, Karabagh and the decision of the ECHR on the case of Ramil Safarov.
The FB users share the round table by the National Strategic Think Tank ( under the chairmanship of Isa Gambar) devoted to the 28th of May- National Day of Independence, the participants of which spoke about the importance of that period of Azerbaijani history. One of the speakers, a historian of the period, mentioned that while ADR is called the first democratic republic of the East, Crimean Tatars were the first to establish their parliament and adopt the suffrage law for women in 1917. Also, they share the video about the memory of the republic and M. E. Rasulzade a lot of postings are related to the sense of jealousy of the current leadership and step by step elimination of the symbols of his memory. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev brings the chronology of this process on his timeline. He shows how starting from 1999 the names, statues, memorial desks devoted to Mammad Emin Rasulzade were removed from public places all over the country. But, he concludes, in spite of these attempts to delete him from the people’s memory, today they share, commemorate and cherish his name in their hearts. In spite of the quarantine, all the opposition parties traditionally visited the memorial of the M.E. Rasulzade in his home village Novkhani near Baku. FB users shared the video how the artist Peri Miniature was not allowed to paint the portrait of the founder of Azerbaijani Democratic Republic M.E. Rasulzade at the fountain square and had to go to the deserted oil field to continue her work. Natig Jafarli critically assesses the state of political relations in the country, calling regionalism a tragedy, as it is the result of lack of ideology or serious programmes of political parties and the movements of Azerbaijan.
The topic of corruption of bureaucrats continue to be on top of the FB themes. The most recent scandal is related to the 4,5 million worth apartments regiestered on the name of the foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s son in New York. The FB users indignantly comment on the response of the Ministry’s spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva that “this is a personal matter of the mister Minister”. Ilkin Rustamzade contrasts these costly apartments to the people’s who failed to receive 190 manats as a pandemic compensation, and unable to buy bread to their families. Natig Jafarli writes about futility of Azerbaijan’s government reliance on gas income because of the filled gas storages in Europe ( for 70%), and fall in consumption due to pandemic. He stresses that while the country spent 25 bln dollars on the South Gas Corridor project, due to the fall of the gas price the country will have for a long time to sell gas to Europe and to re-pay the credits, so all – government, people, nation- should abandon their hopes connected to the income from the gas sale. Gubad Ibadoglu reveals the total amount of the resources spent on compensation for the damage of pandemic.- 533 mln 257 thousand 000 manat. This number was reported by the Ministry of Finance. By 19 May 2020 of this amount 159 mln 757 thousand manat was allocated to the Ministry of Economy (69 mln 119 thousand for the salaries of the hired workers, 55 mln 637 thousand for the support of the microbusiness, 35 mln for the credit subsidies), 244 mln manats to the Ministry of Labour and Social protection to pay 600, 000 people 190 manats twice in two months, 229 mln manat and 15 mln manat for provision with temporary jobs of the unemployed). At the same time, AZAL was given 86 mln 900 thousand manat, Baku metro – 2mln 600 thousand. And 40 mln manat for the credits discounts. He concludes, that this number contradicts the official amount stated both by the president 3, 5 bln manat -and vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva – more than 3 bln manat. He also analyses the amount of corruption in the Ministry of Culture and comes to conclusion that the amount of 10% which they were leaving in the Ministry was the smallest as compared to the other ministries and calls it: “The small fish is caught, the whales are safe”. He argues that true fight with corruption would be disclosure of the contracts and expenditures of the 4,9 bln of the budgetary funds in the Parliament. He also mentions the videoconference between the company Signify and the president Aliyev about installation of 33 thousand of LED so 50% of energy would be saved. While he is praising the project, he thinks that this is not a problem to be discussed at the level of the president but rather at the level of the local executives of the two cities, or mayors.
The FB users continue to share the information about persecution of activists. They report and share about hijacking of the PFP activist Ruslan Amirov and bringing him to the 11th police department ( this is the second of arrest of the activist in the last two months- first time he was detained for the “violation of the quarantine rules”). D18 movement awarded Tofig Yagublu the title “ The republican of the year” This was the second award the family of Yagublu received from the D18 movement– the first one was given to Seymur Hezi ( husband of the daughter of Tofig Yagublu, ex-political prisoner). The activists also quote the publication of the Amnesty International, who writes, that at the times of COVID-19 spread in the prisons, the Azerbaijani government not only continues to keep political prisoners behind bars, but taking an advantage of the pandemic tries to silence her critics by putting them in prison on bogus charges. The Amnesty International in particular focusing on the persecution of PFP activist Niyamaddin Ahmadov demands the Azerbaijan authorities to cease politically motivated arrests and release all political prisoners. The FB users widely discuss and condemn the campaign against activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who is attacked by the youth branch of the ruling party YAP in the internet and social networks. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR considers that this attack is an indicator of the absence f political culture and intellectual exhaustion of the young members of the YAP – ruling party. He also assess it as a logical result of its policy, as it showed that the current regime needs unintelligent, absent of patriotism, and of cultural or political values, with slave psychology young careerists. The topic of individual responsibility and initiative is raised by B.Hajiyev in his recent posting, where he argues against the conformist’s attitude that it is better to be cautious and wise, than to be persecuted. The posting was praised by Ali Karimli, the head of PFP.
The FB users widely share the statement by the National Council condemning repressions against opposition. Gozel Bayramli deputy chair of PFP reports about 245 membership applications filed in an electronic form to the party just within 36 hours. The activists and journalists also share quotation from Richard Kauzlarich interview to Osmangizi TV that the situation with the blockade of Ali Karimli is tragic.
The topic of official corruption and reforms continues to be discussed on FB. Gubad Ibadoglu recalls that most of the heads of regional executive power in the times of Elchibey were pure and decent and worked transparently, like the ones in Imishli or Salyan regions. Yet, they were also some who did not work transparently such as in Fizuli or Beylakan regions, but compared to the current ones even them looked clean and pure. He stresses that the problem is not the cadres, but the system, which should be reformed. Jamil Hasanli of the National Council discredits on his timeline the system of Ilham Aliyev based on corruption. He discloses the mechanism of misappropriation of state fund by the Aliyev’s family through the arrangement of the big projects, such as European games in Baku, which cost 8 bln dollars, and the role of the minister of sport and youth Azad Ragimov as a manager of the projects. He mentions that all ministers without an exception are involved in this corruption scheme, including the Chief of the Border Troops, director of AZAL, and minister of customs Kamaladdin Heydarov. He writes: “ First vice premier Yagub Eyubov spends 800 thousand euros at the dentist, while the former minister of communication Ali Abbasov was getting the package of 300, 000 manats monthly. Tagi Ahmadov, the ex-director of Baku metro paid the criminal general of Ministry of National Security Akif Chovdarov a bribe of 3 mln dollars. The court assessed the property of Chovdarov as woth of 33 mln manats. The former minister of security Eldar Mahmudov turned the country into a big market. The riches of the head of the presidential administration for 25 years Ramiz Mehdiyev will be enough to support his descendants for 30 centuries. The son of the foreign minister owns 4 mln worth apartments in New York. All of them are members of the ruling party of its political board. The group of organized crime, pervert gangs are mining, destroy and rob our country for the sake of the “ state”. Why the corruption has been flourishing at such a high level in our country? Because the president Ilham Aliyev is at the head of it. This network ousted the state, stole the defence, and threatens the nation’s existence. The last means to bury the country by the corruption and… do not worry- our corrupt religious institutions will bless the burial.” PFP activists commemorate Hasan Karimov, one of the founders of the Popular Front, participant of the national liberation movement and who was the head of executive of the central district of the capital city Sabayil during the Elchibey rule. ( 1992-1993). He was so pure and decent, that according to an exit poll his constituency gave him majority of votes during the parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2010, in spite of official “victory” of Fuad Muradov. Gubad Ibadoglu makes his comments in regards the popular among economic experts that Ilham Aliyev runs the country as his company. In fact, he considers it irrelevant. First, companies usually spend their own resources or credits, while the current government is using people’s money and spends the foreign debts. Secondly, companies usually give reports to their shareholders and pay their employees normal salaries, while our government neither reports on expenditures to the people, nor gives them an adequate social protection. He concludes, that the current governance does not respond to any state management, nor corporate management rules, but rather to feudal way of running the state, when the latter reminds of the village. Everything in this village belongs to the feudal owner, where he makes people work in the farms and then takes the collected harvest as much as he wants and the rest sells to the people. The subservient pay for the harvest with their so hardly earned money and thank God.”
Some timeline spaces have been devoted to the discussion about the controversial figure-the first secretary of Azerbaijan Communist party Abdurrakhman Vazirov. Some activists focus on his positive sides and consider him misunderstood by the public, while others do not assess him positively because he continued to serve Central ( Moscow) Power, while he was in power in 1990-1991.
Gubad Ibadoglu criticizes those who ridiculed one of the newly appointed head of executive power in Agstafa region Seymur Orujov for his poor command of English. Gubad Ibadoglu stresses that knowledge of English is not an indication of the quality of the executive head and lists the traits which he/she should have. In the end he concludes that in general the institute of the executive power should be eliminated and instead people should choose their self-government representative in local elections. The FB users also actively discuss the investigation of anonymous couple of Azerbaijan officials and their money laundering machine in the UK.
Karabagh issue continues to be the topic, which is discussed and commented on, in particular in the limelight of the decision of the ECHR in regards Ramil Safarov. Nurlan Libre compares his story to Varujan Karapetyan member of the terrorist organization ASALA who spent 17 years in prison who was amnestied and received at the high level after extradition from France. Yadigar Sadyghli comments on Karabagh that “every reasonable person should understand that we can return Karabagh only with the Armenians living there. Nobody will accept ethnic cleansing there, so we should prove that we can leave peacefully with Armenians. Armenians in turn try to prove that we cannot and try to justify their claims of independence exactly by this argument. For instance, the refusal of Arsenal’s player Mkhitarian to come to Baku and the scandal around it served exactly this purpose. Everyone knows, including Mkhitarian himself that nobody would even touch him in Baku, but he served the cause of his country, even sacrificing the interests of the football team, which pays him a salary. In this regard the action of Ramil Safarov was against the cause of his country. The heroism very often is not doing something but abstaining from doing something, to control one’s own feelings for the sake of the higher cause. National cause and rational thinking – these traits should be developed within the society”. Ramis Yunus analyses Karabagh issue as an instrument in the hands of political leadership in the country. Arif Mammadov, a diplomat in exile comments, that only in Azerbaijan they built the water reservoir and bridges for the separatist regime and call it wise foreign policy. “ Until when we will continue to be a tolerant nation”, asks an ambassador.
May 29, 2020