Center for National and International Studies
The FB users continue to discuss the events of last weekend in Yasamal, the surge of infected and problems in health system in connection with it, the pressure on activists, the corruption of bureaucrats, relations within the opposition camp, the official “Day of Revival”, the Karabagh issue.
The police violence during the weekend 5-8 June remains one of the hottest topics on FB. Altay Geyushov comments on the Yasamal events, that it revealed that the tactic- “ I do not see anything, do my own business, do not get involved in politics, hide quietly in my home” does not work. “They come and take you naked from your home. In other words, even if you do not get involved in politics, they will find you and make you get involved. Start gradually get interested in politics, may be your childern will have a better life”- concludes Geyushov. The director of Turan agency Mehman Aliyev writes that the events in Yasamal manifested the new stage of confrontation between the state and people. He mentions that while before there were also cases of police behavior, it has never been protested by population as this time. He considers, that light sentences and even release of the people who were detained, as well as apology by one of the policemen is an indicator, that the government felt the threat and specificity of the moment. However, this does not mean that the officials are ready to surrender- the Aliyev’s following speech did not contain any condemnation of the police behavior. He concludes, that the 6-8 June events in Yasamal show, that the government is not ready for cooperation with society in the name of changes, while the society’s need in changes is pressing. He urges for dialogue, but warns of any sort of its imitation. The activists and journalists share and comment on the video where the sister of one of the detained during Yasamal events “expresses her gratitude to the authorities”. They say, that it is obvious that the video was organized by the authorities and most probably is recorded under pressure, similar to the numerous “gratitude” letters, which are “sent” from the ordinary citizens to the president. Nurlan Libre also mentions citizens participating in “ give police a flower” day, ironically mentioning:” Police in turn should give a club to the citizen”. Gozel Bayramli of PFP calls this “ a flower show”. Nurlan Libre also notes, that Minister of Interior tries to improve image of police by making some to buy bread for the citizens, or relieving 5 national heroes of fines, but this does not have an effect, because people do not perceive as sincere measures and do not trust the law enforcement organs.
People discuss the situation with pandemic and failure of the national health system to deal with the crisis. Ali Karimli shares the status by Seymur Kazimov, the journalist, who lost his father to coronavirus and wrote an open letter to the TABIB’s chair Ramin Bayramli, where he asks the questions about the ineffectiveness of the health system in fight with coronavirus. He gives a chilling daily chronology of father’s illness and criminal lack of response, coordination and professionalism of the emergency health system in the country, which resulted in the death of his father. Yadigar Sadyghli considers that the government lost the battle to the COVID-19. He lists the reasons- absence of citizen’s trust to the government and state institutions, the government was not prepared to the battle a-priori as never exercised the function of serving its citizens, so when the time came – it failed. The other side of it – cadre policies, as the nepotism, clans, regionalism, – at the catastrophic level. And of course, corruption. So from the very beginning we did not have a chance to win this battle. Gubad Ibadoglu contributes to the analysis of this crisis situation with the virus. He considers the main reason is that the elite is busy enriching itself. There is less than 40 bln left of 150 bln dollars income generated by the oil development in the last 15 years. But some other civilized country would turn this 150 in 300 bln dollars. He stresses absence of professionalism of bureaucratic institutes. He refers to the president’s statement that we gave aid to 29 countries in the world, but in spite of the water supply project worth 1 bln dollars ( Oguz Gabala Baki) there is now a shortage of water in many regions of the country. They resolved the water problem of Iranians and Armenians by the agreeing to the Khudaferin water project, but left their own citizens locked in their homes during pandemic without water. He criticises the government for softening the quarantine too early, and that instead they could prolong it for another month, allocating aid for the low income families. But because of the money they did not do it- opened the metro, shops, restaurants- which started the second wave of infection. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev commenting on president Aliyev comparison of coronavirus statistics with Armenia, where the situation is worse, suggests him to compare results with more successful countries (like Georgia, where the number of infected per million is 4.5 less than in Azerbaijan) and conduct more serious battle to achieve better results. He also stresses that in spite of obvious crisis with pandemic in the country- overloaded clinics, shortage of personnel and equipment- people are still questioning the very existence of the virus. He explains it to total absence of trust to the state and the government. Ilkin Rustamzade also focuses on the same problem and lack of people’s trust in their government. He states that the health system collapsed, and soon the natural selection will start, older people will not be accepted to the hospitals and be sent homes to die. And the people are not to blame for that. Gunel Safarova invetsigates corruption in acquisition of medical equipment. She quotes the record that ECMO’s price is 6 mln dollars., while according to her own searches the price is 100-500 thousand. She mentions that there is an “appointed” MP behind this business.
The issue of relations within opposition camp and democratic community is shared and commented on. Gubad Ibadooglu, reminding the purpose of the platform BIZ ( We) – solidarity- announced the action of solidarity on Sunday 14th where invited all the citizens to come out to their balconies and wave the flags and sing the national anthem. The video of its happening was placed on FB. Seymur Hezi of PFP lists the reasons “of Aliyev’s defeat by Ali Karimli”. 1) Factor of confidence, or tension. The Karimli’s reaction of confidence followed the president’s speech calling for fight with opposition as traitors. He continued to come up with constructive proposals of dealing with pandemic, which the president had to follow. As a result, Ali Karimli was put in communication blockade, so his messages will not reach the population. 2) People’s support. 3)International support 4) Relations with opposition. Ali Karimli also shares the comments by Tofig Yagublu from prison. Yagublu ridicules the attempts by president Aliyev to attacks Western democracy with reference to the events related to George Floyd. He stresses the big difference between the policies in the US and in Azerbaijan, reflected in the fact of punishing the police, who mistreated the citizen, while in Azerbaijan- the country’s leader at the highest level declared will not be punished. The events in the US also proved that there are no limitations on the peaceful protest there. Ali Karimli speaks about miscalculation by president Aliyev of the possible reaction to his repressive policies during pandemic by the international community which appeared to be significant. He reminds that reaction by the PACE co-rapporteur Stephen Schennach was followed by the interview of the PACE German member Schwabe to the radio Freedom, who said that the actions of police in Yasamal will be included in the CoE special report on pandemic. Besides, Dunja Mijatovic, the CoE commissionaire on Human Rights also mentioned Azerbaijan in her interview to the Voice of America among countries, who are using pandemic as an excuse to restrict freedom of expression and assembly. Activists share the photo and information about street attack on the ex-defense minister ( 1992-1993) Rahim Gaziyev and stress that in contrast with the big police operation against the dwellers in Yasamal, who threw garbage at the police, the police reaction to this case is not visible.
The issue of corrupt bureaucrats and ineffective state institutions remain high on agenda. Hebib Muntezir attracts attention to the beneficiaries of the strict quarantine– Aptek-online which belongs to the AzeriMed LLC , the owner of which is the uncle of the president Jamil Aliyev. He also discloses nepotism, corruption and clan relations in the official elite circles. This time he lists the property and companies of Elmir Ismayilov, who is a student of law department and is usually accompanied by the numerous bodyguards. He is the son of the former head of the apparatus of the Ministry of Military Industry Uzeyir Ismayilov, he is also the brother of the ex-minister Yaver Jamalov, and son-in law of the a businessman Alikram Jamalov. His father owns companies UR.EL LLC and L.Mir LLC, while his son Elmir has a transportation company MAYAK in Turkey, which has offices in Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Georgia, China, Iraq. He owns 5 most expensive luxury cars. His uncle Uveysi Ismayilov is the deputy head of State Customs Committee and has a monopoly on marble in the country. He is son- in law of the former prosecutor General Ramil Usubov. The other example is the list of cars owned by Elnur Mammadov, the son of the brother of the former minister of transport Ziya Mammadov – ex-MP Elton Mammadov ( although they have state plates) – Aston Martin DBS, Mercedes G-Class, Brabus G V12, Aston Martin Rapid, Hummer H 1, Hummer H2, BMW X5, Bentley Continental GT, Porsche Panamera. He lists also the property and business of the notorious MP for 15 years and head of executive power of the Dashkasan region Ahad Abiyev, which consists of 9 flats and villas, 37 businesses and property in the Southern regions ( Masalli, Astara) and 9 close relatives occupying posts in the government. Muntazir concludes the list of the bureaucrats by the newly appointed Vusal Rajabli ( son of the MP Hadi Rajabli) to the position of the secretary of the Ministry of Energy. Vusal Rajabli was a president of the humanitarian organization Hayat, which according to Muntazir has been stuffing its pockets with the millions of the state subsidies. He presents the list of his property and business, which is registered on the name of himself and his wife and comments that now the kids of the bureaucrats who have been insulting and humiliating people for years, are now being appointed to the new positions. He also jokingly comments on the prohibition by the Operative Headquarters to walk somebody’s dog during the quarantine, that since there is no instructions on how they will determine the owner, he assumes that they will ask the dog. If the dog cannot answer, the person will be fined. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev also comments on this point. He stresses that there were a lot of complaints that people who are sick with pre-conditions need a fresh air, but the permission was issued for the dogs. Activists and journalists also discuss ineffectiveness of the state agencies, as representatives of one ministry – that of Internal Affairs- gave two contradictory announcements prohibitions during lockdown. ( one – by the representative of the State Highway Police Aliyev that it extends only to the Lenkoran city, while Zahidov the spokesperson of MIA- that it extends to both the city and the villages. Fuad Gahramanli of PFP shows non-professional decision of the Azerbaijan Airlines to prohibit usage of other people’s bank cards when booking tickets online. Gubad Ibadoglu comments on the allocation of significant sums from the budget through the closed tenders to the feeding the stray cats, ( 883 thous.500 manats) and painting the roads (5 mln 556 thous 976 manats). For the former – it was given to Old City Reserve Agency, for the latter – BNA ( Baku Transport Agency). He asks how much of this money will be really spent on cats food? He also reminds that in last three years the government allocated 21 mln 425 thous 938.05 manat for painting the roads. He jokes, that apparently the yellow line on our roads are painted by golden water. He comments that the corruption never stopped during the pandemic, and the money was stolen through the closed tenders by the corrupt officials and thieves- entrepreneurs- leaving the population in desperate dream of 190 manats. Unless there is transparency and accountability the situation will not change, he concludes. He also comments on the rules of the strict weekend lockdowns by the Cabinet of Ministers which allows to walk the dogs, but only by the owners themselves. This exception led to the sharp increase of dog’s price at the local markets. Natig Jafarli of REAL jokingly comments about the appearance of the new term “ itveren” ( the one who gives his/her dog for lease) (This sounds like “Ishveren”- informer in Azerbaijani language – L.A.). He also considers the prohibition of walking in the streets and parks absurd.
FB users continue to discuss the issue of persecution of activists. Altay Geyushov stresses that if Aliyev does not want to release Tofig Yagublu, the duty of every Azerbaijani is to demand his liberation. Ilkin Rustamzade warns democratic community not to focus, respond and pay attention to the statements of some representatives of power, as this will not have any effect and only distracts them from the major goal. He comments that these people, “who occupy government positions and whose sons are driving Bentleys in the normal society will not be even entrusted a role of shepherds. They do not have conscious and rely only on force and horse ride the rest of society. They will continue to do that until people do not show their true place.” Members of the PFP share the writing “Who won , who lost?” by Fuad Gahramanli, who asserts that Aliyev’s repressions of Popular Front Party and National Council had a counter-effect, which expressed itself in the growing number of party membership applications, while failure to give people support to cope with the pandemic social problems significantly undermined people’s trust in the government. The international reaction is another proof of that. Starting with the State Departments’ statement in defense of Tofig Yagublu, there was a condemnation of the blockade of Ali Karimli and arrests of the PFP from the side of the US Helsinki Commission, PACE, as well as the case of police violence in Yasamal district. He concludes, that the attack on opposition not only did not weaken it, but did not intimidate the society, and rather weakened the position of the government itself both inside the country and abroad. The lawyer Javad Javadov was issued a warning by the Bar Association’s chair Anar Bagirov for defending rights of the person who was given tortures. People continue to discuss the event on the 5-8 June and the reaction to it in the society. Ulvi Hasanli calls throwing the garbage at a police a form of the protest, but even if there is a violation of law, the citizen still is a subject of human rights, and there is no justification of the police violence, as some people do after Fazil Gazanfaroglu.
Activists and journalists discuss the Karabagh issue. Erkin Gadirli MP of REAL prepared the draft law on occupied territories of Azerbaijan and gave an interview about it. Rasul Jafarov comments that there is also a need to prepare a law on the missing persons and there is a sufficient international legal context for that. FB users share a statement by the three MEPs (Marina Kaljurand, Trajan Basescu, Zeljana Zovko) who object the EU support for the 3d road project connecting Gafan region of Armenia with Hadrut in Nagorno-Karabagh through the occupied Gubadli and Jabrayil regions “because it strengthens illegal occupation.”. Seymur Hezi calls this statement a stronger reaction, than the government’s one to the events in Shusha.
The state of economy is widely commented on by the experts and politicians.
Gubad Ibadoglu comments that the economic crisis has officially started. In spite of the decline of production and economic activities, the number of unemployed contrary to the world trend has decreased. He explains it that during the application to the state aid, many people has legalized their employment status. He quotes the State Statistics data which disclosed the decline of the GDP in January -May 2020, as compared to the same period last year by 1,7%, including non-oil 2,1%, and GDP per capita- 2,5 %. In various sectors of economy the decline was – industry- 0,4%, agriculture- 3,6%, transport (10,3%), passenger’s transportation ( 24%) increase was observed in information and communication-4,5% Natig Jafarli of REAL contrasts the reaction to the cancellation of the FORMULA 1 rallies in Singapore, Japan – on the one hand to the one in Azerbaijan– on the other. He said in all other countries they are upset with the cancellation, while in Azerbaijan – people are happy about it. He comments that this is not surprising, because in Japan and Singapore- the rally is as a business project source of income in the area of tourism, services etc. for the population, while in Baku- e this is not a business project, but the project of an image, with the funding from the budget, while the beneficiaries were the Minister of Sports and his son., but the losers were the citizens of Baku. Natig Jafarli comments on the value of national currency and that officials (Elman Rustamov, Samir Sharifov) earlier assured the experts that Azerbaijan has a positive saldo in the balance of payments and this prevents manat from devaluation However, by the second quarter the deficit developed during the first quarter will increase further. The government turned the issue of value of the manat into the symbol of political stability and damages both economy as a whole and a real sector in particular. Last time during the crisis of 2015 by this artificial delay of devaluation in just two months they wasted 10 bln dollars- as a result they lost both 10 bln and had to devaluate manat three times in 2015-2016.
The activists react and comment to the 15 June proclaimed by Heydar Aliyev as the “Day of Revival” (Qurtulush). Fuad Gahramanli of PFP calls the arrival to power of Heydar Aliyev as a result of the coup d’ etats by colonel Suret Huseynov in 1993 as the beginning of 27 years of consistent decline of the country- and he made our country known as the place where the human rights are violated, where corruption is an official policy, democratic values are suppressed. Khadija Ismayil describes ironically the meaning of the “revival”- “ so you ( meaning Heydar Aliyev– L.A) prepare the provocations in the country, which is in the state of war, sign a ceasefire with Armenians in Nakhichevan direction, which allowed all the Armenian forces to focus on attack in Karabagh, distract the active troops from the defense of the country to the coup d’etats, by means of it transfer power into your own hands, surrender 6 regions to the enemy once you got power, make half a million people IDPs, then imprison anyone who voice protest, turn the republic into a monarchy, rob the country, and then expect praising all that. I think this is called a Stockholm syndrome, is not it?”
June 16, 2020