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Center for National and International Studies




The FB was dominated by discussions of ineffectiveness of the state coronavirus policies, president Aliyev’s meetings and speeches, bureaucratic corruption – both at the low and high levels, crisis in economy, people’s growing dissatisfaction, the fire at the Sobsan factory, reaction of the president to the scandal in the Fairmont Hotel, the president’s Aliyev online conversation with UN Secretary General Gutierrez.

The situation with coronavirus and the state policies are actively discussed. Most recent article in Zerkalo on this topic was widely shared, as it stated that Georgia has resolved the issue because it did not have TABIB, like in Azerbaijan.  The author meant that in Georgia they attracted professionals in the medical field, rather than created a structure with “suspicious personalities”. Some directly argue that quarantine regime should be abolished, along with the Operative Headquarters. People point to the discrepancy between the official data in the speech of the president and the real situation. Gubad Ibadoglu lists these inconsistencies; the high number of beds and refusals of accepting patients to the hospitals, 3 bln manats allocated, but no reports on spending them are given, agricultural 3% of growth is not sustainable, as the access to the markets are blocked and there is shortage of water everywhere, the president justified the economic decline by the fall of the oil price– but why in 17 years in the office he did not resolve the issue of or dependence on oil, the president boasted that only in 6 months the tax  and customs agencies contributed 423 mln manats to the budget- and this is during the decline of economic activities, when the business should have been relieved from the burden of taxes? The news that 21 medical personnel of the state Medical University’s Clinic got infected was widely spread on FB. Habib Muntazir reports 57 infected medical personnel in two clinics of the Medical University. Total more than 10 doctors died of virus and more than 1000 personnel got infected. The salaries are low- 352-435 manats, many of them never received an additions to the salary which were allocated by the decree. People complain about lack of coordination between various parts of the government. The lawyer Samed Rahimli wrote that he cannot get the work permit for two days , in spite of a law which allows it. Bashir Suleymanli reports the elimination of all the work permits for private business on the 6th July, requiring their renewed registration and thus making their lives even more miserable. Most FB users agree, that the reason of the quarantine not giving results is poor governance. They report that the police head of Neftchala region Vusal Sarbandiyev invented new way of fining people. He detains people without masks in the tea houses, bring them to the police station and gives them half hour to get 202 manats- in this case they will be relieved the next day. In most of the cases the fines are given in a form of cash. The heads of executives with the policemen on  their side are making raids in the regions, free from the strict quarantine regime and collect 1,000-1500 manats from people, threatening to arrest them if they do not pay fine. ( For instance, the executive of the Agsu region Vahid Tagiyev and the police head Fakhraddin Abbasov are robbing people, getting cash in the streets with no official receipts or protocols.) Habib Muntazir reminds that according to the Administrative Code the pictures of videos of the detained cannot be made without the consent of the person. In spite of that, the practice of making videos and photos of the detained and then leaking them to the internet is widely practiced by the authorities. Activists are ironic about president’s call to Gutierrez and offering him support in technical logistics of the next session of the General Assembly of the UN devoted to the COVID-19, while the whole country is in the dire conditions. They report that Fairmont Hotel apologized before the citizens, and express their wish that the government would also apologize after the violence in Yasamal district. Natig Jafarli of REAL argues that there are two groups of countries depending on their COVID-19 strategies 1) with lockdown of the economy and substantial aid to the population decreased the infection.2) without interrupting economy, but with strong health system and rules of safe behavior of population preventing the spread of the virus. In case of Azerbaijan, he continues they destroyed both the economy and did not establish normal communication with the population to be able  to change their behavior…Khadija Ismayil comments that this is not just that the government does not make right steps. But it is also that the civil society, which could have helped to make those steps is deprived of this possibility. In addition, there is no reliable statistics in the country- there are lies everywhere – at the local TV and international forum. She considers that the country has never been in such difficult situation before: shortage of water, pandemic, corruption, environmental crisis. Is there a way out? There is, but you will not get it from your friends in Israel, or patrons in Moscow– only from your society. People quote the number of 70 thousand people fined reported by the officials, and ask them to report also the money which they “earned” through corruption within the framework of measures of fighting the virus. They also discuss the arrival of the foreign medical experts from Russia and Turkey to the country to help to fight the virus, which destroys the official myth about virus being defeated in the country. People complain that even with high fever the hospitals refuse to take them. Khadija Ismayil points to the source of unpopular decisions in regards pandemic. It is Operative Headquarters, whose head is prime minister Ali Asadov, who in turn gets the instructions from the president Aliyev. Baktiyar Hajiyev suggests that the authorities have two weeks to change the situation: either they will take serious measures until the 20th July so it will reduce the number of infected ( to 100 per day)  and then soften the quarantine, or by extending the regime they will only inflate people’s anger and frustration. If they chose the second way, they will have to give substanatial aid to the business and population. However, they may end up neither improving health safety of population, nor helping them financially. Habib Muntazir reports cases of wrong testing. This time it was in the hospital owned by the minister of rail ways Javid Gurbanov. Habib Muntazir also reports that at the opening of the Ministry for Emergency Situation’s module type hospital instead of the new ambulances they put the old ( 2010) cars of Renessans- MMC enterprise which belong to Medistyle Hospital, which in turn is under patronage of former minister of National Security Eldar Mahmudov.

People continue discuss the situation in the government, relations within official elite. The article by Eldar Namazov (formerly with Heydar Aliyev administration, but then- in opposition) caused a lot of criticism by the activists. They are refuting his argument that Ramiz Mehdiyev was blocking the attempts of reforms by the president Aliyev and his wife. Fuad Gaharamanli refutes the statement by the department head of the presidential administration Adalat Veliyev that “ unprecedented rapprochement is observed  between the government and opposition in the name of the national values”. He argues that none of the true opposition met with him, and there are no common national values between the two. The FB users discuss and share news about fire on the factory Sobsan, arguing that this is an arson reflecting ingroup fighting. Many are concerned with the health and environmental consequences of the fire- the city is full of smell, there is fog above the area, and that the waste is flowing into the Boyuk Shor lake, contaminating it. The experts refer to the presidents Aliyev statement, that “ shameful event took place at the Fairmont Hotel” with surprise, as the hotel belongs to the president’s family. Altay Geyushov refutes the attempt to show the arrests of the bureaucrats as fight with corruption, calling the latter the “life artery” of the system. These arrests are needed to show that the president is pure while the rest are corrupt. Geyushov argues that Aliyev himself is at the core of corruption. Natig Jafarli of REAL comments on the speech of president Aliyev about state of economy that he did not speak much about real state of economy. He disagrees with his assertion, that even if the price of oil will stay 14 dollars the country will be able to revive. Jafarli comments that quite opposite even if the price of oil stays 44 dollars for two years- the economy will experience serious shocks, as results from the model of our economy. People also react to Aliyev mentioning the dire situation in Armenia, responding that they have no connection and interest in what is going on in Armenia– the president should be accountable and report why the situation is so bad in his own country? They also share news that the lead epidemiologist of the country Ibadulla Agayev, who has been 28 years at this position, has resigned after the interview.  “At last we also saw the resignation!” – comments Yadigar Sadyghli.

The injustice and violation of rights is another continuous topic. Rabiyya Mammadova, a feminist activist, condemns the authorities system of fines by posting a photo of a poor dressed woman, who went out to work for subsistence in spite of quarantine and was fined for 200 manats ( for many – it is a monthly salary) Mammadova  appeals to her followers that before its too late they all come out to protest the quarantine, because lockdown has never been adequately compensated to the people. The other case – the beating of the teenagers by police and attempt to hijack them in the private car- which happened in Khatayi region on the Ilgar Zulfugarov street is strongly condemned by the FB users. The issue of independent internet media- TVs channels as an important means of formation of the public opinion and  enlightening and education of the public is also among the top subjects of FB. Gubad Ibadoglu appeals to his followers to watch and actively share the programs of the internet media such as Azad Soz, Osmangizi TV, Azerbaijan Saati, Meydan TV, Status TV, Kanal 13, Aksiya TV, Operativ TV, Xural TV, Obyektiv TV, Radio Freedom, BBC, Turan agency, Voice of America. He also suggests to create the National Association of the TVs to coordinate their activities and to follow the principles of ethics and professional standards. The activists discuss the strongly critical of TABIB letter published by the infected  TV anchor Garib Azer quicky becoming popular, in spite him being quite pro-government before he got infected and his approach that the “president is good, but the rest are bad”. Ganimat Zahid reports the corruption investigation of Lutfi Gadirov the former art director of the State Orchestra by the General Prosecutor’s office on fight with corruption. Natig Jafarli of REAL reports that the investigation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs showed that all the tenders had the kickbacks, and while this is not something new and this happens in all ministers and state structures, the main outcome of this is that their awarded to the non-professional enterprises. He notes that the winner of the tender announced by the BNA (Baku Transport Agency) was Alpina Parking Consulting Ltd – 2mln 100 thousand manat – and this is just for advises. Nigar Hezi reports the conversation with her father Tofig Yagublu who is in prison. He is outraged by the degree of slander, fake witnesses and lies which are used by the authorities in his case. He said, that he never faced such an absurd, shameless, impudent, unjust slander. She mentions also lies by the investigator Ramil Aliyev. Jamil Hasanli reports the cyberattack of the program dedicated to the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev by Osmangizi TV, who was hit by a car and is undergoing treatment in Turkey and suggests, that while Osmangizi has been attacked n various ways by the authorities, this attack shows that the issue of Gulaliyev is a sensitive one for them. Ali Karimli posts a photo at the wedding party where three PFP activists (Mammad Ibrahim, Bakhtiyar Imanov, Emil Salim) are focusing on their phones working  and not being able even to relax at the party.

Economic policies and its shortcomings remain a hot topic on FB. Natig Jafarli of REAL explains that increase of the meat import in the country during the pandemic on 11% is explained by the damage to the local meat industry caused by the official policies of cotton growing.  Gubad Ibadoglu reports how the owners of the pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies, who are bureaucrats benefit from pandemic, selling the medicine on inflated prices. He shares the letter from the doctors of the country who reveal the crisis with medical devices and medicine.  It says that the price of the officially sold for 50 manat favipravir medicine at the black market is 5,000 manat. The FDA recommendations is remdesevir and favipravir. The survival of the patients depends on their immunities, as the death rate of those who are under the oxygen apparatus is higher than 90%. There is shortage of medical devices, which are not imported in the country anymore. The doctors argue that if the favipravir produced by Turkey could have been imported, the death rate would be substantially decreased. The promised increase of the medical personnel 5 times was never realized, reaching only 2,5 times. They work 7 days now, and then spend 14 days in the hotels on quarantine, where the food is of low quality. Ibadoglu comments that the country who showed generosity in donating 10 mln dollars to WHO ( compare to 1 mln by Russia), is saving on its own doctors fighting coronavirus.In fact, many doctors are resigning from their jobs, as 10 has already died, and 1500 were infected.




July 10, 2020