Center for National and International Studies
The leading topics these days are the protest action of students in front of the Ministry of Education and arrest of the 18 year old Rustam Ismayilbeyli, increased pressure on Ilkin Rustamzade, the clash between the passengers of the metro and the policemen, corruption scandals of bureaucrats, the illness of the ex-political prisoner and the candidate in the recent local election Mehman Huseynov, speech of the president before the refugees, the Karabagh issue, commemorate the 4th of June 1993- the coup d’etats, or colonel rebellion, which overthrew democratically elected Elchibey, discuss the protest and disorder in the US related to the killing of George Floyd by the policeman.
Continued repressions against the government critics is widely shared and discussed. The campaign with the hashtag #stophostility was started by the Youth Branch of the Popular Front Party with the purpose to stop persecution of young activists and release political prisoners. Ali Karimli asserts absurdity of the reaction of the government to the students’ protests – fining each of them, and detaining Rustam Ismayilbeyli for 15 days. He calls an absurd charging students who cannot pay for the lectures which were not read and exams which were not held and calls for demanding immediate release of the young activist. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev contrasts punishing the protest participants ( 3 people fined for 100 manats, 2 people for 200 manats, and jailing one for 15 days) with the reaction of the government to similar events in the US based on his personal experience, where the leadership of the university tried to satisfy the demands of the protesters. Hezi Bey comments that there are not people with normal thinking and they simply eliminating education system of the country. The bloggers, journalists and activists participate in the uniquely compassionate fundraising campaign to support treatment of cancer of Mehman Huseynov– (the blogger and activist)- the illness, which was most probably caused by the stresses of persecution and tortures in prison. Khadija Ismayil tells the history of his illness and total non-professionalism and lack of attention by the local dctors due to political reasons. Mehman did not want to stay abroad for treatment, but was convinced by his brother and doctors that this is an urgent matter.The FB users note that this is the third case of cancer diagnosed at political prisoners. Ilkin Rustamzade, the NIDA leader, who is under increased pressure from the agents and trolls, sending him intimidating messages, reports about the Hyundai car 99-AP-206 which brought police who broke in the apartment of his parents. This was done under excuse that some Jacques Roland wrote a letter to French President about terror against the activist and that the investigation of this fact was launched. FB users also cover the protest rally of the mothers of Karabagh war victims. Opposition activists discuss the military coup of 4 th June 1993 which ousted democratically elected president Elchibey and brought to power former communist boss Heydar Aliyev. Gozel Bayramli of PFP commemorates this day by reminding that it was a military rebellion by Suret Huseynov, with the support of Russia and under leadership of Heydar Aliyev, which put an end the second time the people’s government was ousted and the autocratic rule was established. She concludes that the struggle for the 3d people’s government was going on and that the victory is undoubtful, because this is the path which was laid by M.E Rasulzade and Elchibey and democratic values. Other activists, (such as Yadigar Sadyghli), consider this a defeating behaviour of the president Elchibey, who they consider could stand up to the rebellion, mobilize people’s support and win the battle. Gozel Bayramli also reports that the political prisoner, the former head of the Goranboy region executive power, Karabagh war veteran Saleh Rustamov, who serves his term in prison N. 13, was threatened with new criminal charges against him. The FB readers has been sharing video of clashes between the passengers of the metro coach in Baku with the policemen who wanted to fine those without masks. There was a range of views reflected in comments starting with praising people, who pushed police out of the coach and finishing with the cautious and critical statements in regards behaviour of passengers who did not wear masks. Bakhtyar Hajiyev writes about importance of personal activity of each citizen contrary to the instructions contained in the conformist popular sayings like” let the snake which does not bite me, live forever” and urges the readers and his followers to take the active stance and get involved in the struggle.
Seymur Hezi attracts attention to the fact that since opening of the criminal cases neither PFP activists Niyameddin Ahmadov, nor Seyid Mammadzade ( Bakuvi) were allowed to meet with their family members or the legal defender.
FB users continue to discuss the issue of corruption of officials and their families. Natig Jafarli reports that during pandemic quarantine on the 2nd of April a new enterprise was registered in Azerbaijan (Naftalan Central Sanatorium) whose owner 28 year old Elvin Badalov is the son of the SOCAR social policy vice-president Badal Badalov. They also share an information about 3,3 mln worth property in New York on the name of Zaur Akhundov, the president of the Silk Way company which belongs to Aliyev’s family. The FB users also share and comment on the curses used in her messages and moral terror campaign by the Aysel Shukurova against the author of the report about opening of the criminal case against her father by the department of the Fight with Corruption. Her father is the “mini-oligarch” – former director of the Elevator – Repair State Enterprise Gudret Shukurov. Gubad Ibadoglu reports details of the corruption of the “ considered to be the most pure” foreign minister and compares it with his official salary. He writes, that official monthly salary of the minister is 1925 manat which is 70% of the monthly taxes and communal expenses in only one of the two apartments in NY owned by his sons. He reminds that the monthly rent of these apartments , which are worth 2mln50 thousand dollars and 2 mln 200 thousand respectively, starts with 7500 dollars , so the income from renting out both of them is at least 11.800 dollars monthly, which is 10 times higher than his official salary. Hebib Muntezir publishes the long list of companies and property of the Minister of Culture and his family not only in Russia, Lithuania, Panama, Turkey, Malta, but also in Azerbaijan, which he accumulated in 26 years while a minister. The list includes near 30 companies and 12 properties. The FB users also discuss the criminal case against the brother of the former prosecutor Zakir Garalov and his connections to Armenia with the reference of Gununsesi.org Altay Geyushov mentions highly inflated amount of finances which are allocated to the restauration of the poet Ashig Huseyn Bozalqalnli’s house museum in Tovuz region- 751 thousand manats “as if he lived in the palace”. He comments, that in fact his house might be hardly worth of 50 thousand mana, so most probably they have misappropriated the budget money, that the late poet never saw in his life. FB users also share an information about few apartments in Switzerland owned by the ambassador Khanum Ibarhimova and her husband Aydin Huseynov. The latter said, that it was their private issue.
FB users continue to discuss the Karabagh issue and criticise the speech of the president Aliyev at the meeting with refugees. Ruzgar Movsum in response to the statement of Aiyev that if his father was a president during the early years of war with Armenia, the lands would not be occupied. He reminds the chronology of occupation in 1993 of the Jabrayil (18 August), Fizuli (23 August), Gubadli (31 August and Zangilan (29 October) regions, which took place during Heydar Aliyev’s rule. The former foreign minister Tofig Zulfugarov places the comments criticizing the MPs activities on Karabagh issue. He calls their geopolitical speculations at the “ chaykhana” level ( tea -house) rather than adequate to high international arena. His statement caused a lot of supporting comments both criticizing the Minsk process, absence of professionalism of the diplomats and MPs, and the governance in the country.
The topic of coronavirus related state aid and economic situation continue to be in timelines of the activists and FB users. Gubad Ibadoglu reports that the official number of the state aid is increasing, as the last videoconference of the president Aliyev with the Asia Developemnt Bank he mentioned 3,8 blm manats, which is higher than the one he announced previously -3,5 bln manats, while Ministry of Finances confirmed 533 mln manats. He suggests two possible reasons for this divergence. First, that 3,8 bln is spent, but only 533 mln to the support from coronavirus, while the rest is divided between the presidents family and his ministers. Or only 533 mln is spent, but the president is bluffing in order to boost his image. He also warns that Azerbaijan is moving towards borrowing again. By 1 January the external debt of Azerbaijan was 9.091,0 mln dollars, or 18,9% of GDP. Contrary to the statement of the president that the debt is decreasing, he is talking to EBRD and ADB about new borrowing, which exceeded 3 bln already with only ADB. He anticipates that with continued borrowing the debt may exceed 20% by the end of the year. This is in spite of the signed by the president on 24 august 2018 decree about national strategy on decreasing the foreign debt. He also shows the decline of the income from the sale of oil since February. Natig Jafarli of REAL analyses the improved climate for the change of the oil price. He explains it by a few reasons: the extension of the agreement between OPEC and Russia to decrease oil production until the end of 2020, gradual exit from the pandemic quarantine and increase of demand, fall of the dollar rate due to the disorder in the US. The FB users intensely discuss the exit from quarantine and sharply increased number of infected. They question the quality of the experts and people responsible for the decision making in this area. Habib Muntazir critically approaches the statement of officials, that this are people who lack discipline are responsible for the increase of infected in the country. He argues that this happens because of total loss of people’s trust in the government. Both him and Bakhtiyar Hajiyev describe the dire situation in the country, full of official corruption, injustice, arbitrary rule, prisoners and tortures. Gubad Ibadoglu stresses that one of the reasons of increasing number of infected in the country is lack of bank account holders, so they get infected through using cash. Only 29% of adult population have bank accounts in Azerbaijan ( compare to 48% in Armenia, and 61 % in Georgia, with the world average 67%). He suggests number of preventive measures, such as 1)for the Central Bank to conduct disinfection of the banknotes and coins 2) in the public places, such as shops and restaurants the change should be given in special plastic covers 3) those who can use the card operations in any possible cases.
The FB user continue to share and discuss the situation with protests in the US and solidarity actions in the world, Gubad Ibadoglu considers that the protests and disorder is the combined result of social-economic and governance factors. The psychological environment created by pandemic, hate speeches of the president Trump, the way media and CNN covered events caused tension in the US society. Coupled with aggressive behavior of the police made public to search for solutions at the other level. Currently the clashes are not between people of different colors but between the people and the police. He concludes, that there are lessons to learn for many countries, including Azerbaijan. He points especially to the hate speeches on all sides. This is aggravated by the worsening living standards, difficult social-psychological atmosphere caused by pandemic and results in the violent protests.
June 5, 2020