Center for National and International Studies
The dominating topics on FB are the causes and consequences of resumption of hostilities in Tovuz region, repressions of Popular Front Party activists, pandemics, violent incidents in Los Angeles and Brussels between the Azerbaijani rally participants and the Armenians.
The FB community continues to discuss the causes of the fighting on the state border in Tovuz region, reactions to it at the official and societal level. The assistant to the president Hikmet Hajiyev stated that the purpose of Armenia is to occupy more lands of Azerbaijan. Erkin Gadirli an MP and REAL member stated in his interview, that because Armenia does not recognize the Azerbaijani state borders it can attack at any direction. He argued that there was no legal basis for Russia’s role in the game against Azerbaijan. The FB users comment, that while in May Azerbaijan has delivered 1 mln worth aid for pandemic to its friend Serbia, a private Serbian company as the minister of communication of Serbia confirmed has supplied Armenia with 1 mln worth weapons. The activist warns that the petition sent to the Congress by the society – on the one hand and the Congress’ request for the Defence and the State Department to prepare an information about the IDPs caused by the foreign occupation of their countries –Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine– on the other -should not be directly tied. The author of the amendment Steve Chabot directly relates the fact of occupation with Russian regime of Putin. However, the official circles are celebrating the amendment, while they have never mentioned the role of Russia. Ilkin Rustamzadeh, recently resigned from NIDA and declared leaving FB, posted a statement that he condemns the repressions against the activists post-rally on the 14th July. He states that instead of uniting on Karabagh issue, which people are sensitive about, the authorities started repressions against the opposition.
The FB reports that there was a 4 thousand wise rally of Armenians in LA. The local Azerbaijanis came to the alternative rally, but in a small numbers ( 10 times less) , reflecting the relatively recent phenomenon of Azerbaijan Diaspora, as compared to the Armenian one. They were surrounded, isolated by the Armenian crowd and 7 of Azerbaijanis were injured. Similar events took place in Brussels, where the female journalist was injured by thrown stone. The human rights defenders, lawyers commented on these events, stressing that Azerbaijani diaspora is too young and too weak, it does not even have its single TV or radio channel abroad. They should be cautious as Armenian diaspora, much better organized and powerful in the West, may drag them in various provocations. They also argue, that the Azerbaijanis abroad are not capable to influence public opinion in the West. In spite of the injuries received by 30 Azerbaijanis from the 10 times greater crowd of Armenians media in LA portrayed it as “attack of barbarian Azerbaijanis.” Ganimat Zahid considers that the blame is on the Azerbaijani authorities who instead of helping the Diaspora, tried to get control over them. For the time being, the government should leave it alone. He stresses that it is never late to start and the age of Diaspora institution is not so important anymore – resources and intellect- can make Diaspora powerful and effective even in the short time frame. The FB users shared the video of beating by a few Armenians of an Azerbaijani to the lost consciousness condition. People comment on incapacity of the MIA even to cover these events properly in their international briefings.
People share and express their condolences on the death of the most committed to the Musavat ideas and values, the most consistent activist – member of Musavat Party Yashar Turkazeri, Jamil Hasanli wrote that he was very educated, highly committed to the democratic ideas, and totally fearless activist starting from the late 80s. They used to say, that usually opposition members were detained at the public rallies, while Yashar Turkazeri – on the exit from home, as they knew how powerful and visible was his participation in the rally, loudly shouting “ Freedom”. “Every stone, every piece of ground has the traces of bleeding head of passionate fighter for freedom, independence and democracy Yashar Turkazeri.”- concludes Hasanli.
The topic of persecution of PFP activists continues, so does the campaign on demands of their release and of stopping the repressions. The update of the arrested is that by now 7 of 24 PFP members were released, so there are 16 left imprisoned. Against 5 of them ( Asif Yusifli, Bakhtiyar Imanov, Ramid Naghiyev, Ismayil Hasanov) the charges were brought One comments, that this is not surprising that after such a prominent rally, the authorities started to arrest the activists of PFP, as they try to blacken and eliminate all that one is proud of in this country. The FB community shares the statement by the State Department issued on the 20th July, which reflects the persecution during pandemic by the Azerbaijan regime and has the call to stop using pandemic for repressions. Numerous activists, journalists, civic and political leaders such as Khadija Ismayil, Anar Mammadli, Arif Hajili, Akif Gurbanov, Sevinc Osmangizi, made powerful statements condemning the persecution of the PFP activists. Many other activists demanded immediate release of the opposition party members, stating that the criminal cases are fake. The lawyer Shahla Gumbatova posted a statement, where she discredits the official policies in the times of COVID crisis as an excuse to suppress its political opponents. She stresses that they are not allowed to meet with their defenders and this causes suspicion of their maltreatment, as well as is an indication of violation of their rights and of principle of presumption of innocence, which has not been followed so far in the country. Ilgar Mammadov of REAL gave a sceptical statement, which caused critical reaction of many FB users. On the one hand he states that he does not believe in their criminal accusations, on the other hand he blames the PFP and NC for the “ troll attacks” on REAL party, as well as calls the arrested PFP members – the victims of the deceiving policies of the PFP leaders. Rasul Jafarov of REAL and a human rights defender attracts attention to the fate of Jeyhun Aliyev the only one who is still in prison of Seid Dadashbeyli case, with sentence of 13 years 9 months. He is due to be released in October 2020, but because of being ill (Hepatit C and other) wants to use the legal opportunity to be released earlier. Ali Karimli spreads the last statistics on persecution of PFP members. Before the pandemic there were 10 political prisoners – PFP activists. Today 28 members of PFP are under criminal and administrative punishment behind the bars, while two – under the home arrest, 7 after interrogations were released. He places the full list of the arrested. The FB revealed the information that because of the severe tortures and resulting heavy injuries two members of the PFP Ayaz Maharramli ( the Board member) and Ramid Nagiyev ( member of the Organizational Committee of the PFP) Kurdaxani detention center refused to accept them in such condition. The police has taken from his home the PFP activist Fuad Gahramanli on the 23d July.
People continue to discuss the speech of Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony of distribution of flats and cars to the families of war victims and handicapped in Khatayi district on the 21st July, where he attacked PFP yet another time. Meydan TV has interviewed Ali Karmili, who responded to this criticism. Most importantly, he discredited this attack by stating that there is no evidence proving the guilt of these people in the events in the Parliament. Although there were cameras at the entrance to its building, but noneof the records were submitted or revealed to the court. He also argues that the true purpose of president Aliyev is merely to eliminate the opposition Popular Front Party. He asserts that because of the lies and fake cases opened against the activists, the public does not believe the official information about the war too. The FB posts cover how the son of the PFP leader Ali Karmili’s advisor Mammad Ibrahim was detained. He was detained on the way back home by the police along with 117 other participants to the 37th police department, where they were kept for 24 hours followed by the release of 101 people, including Ibrahim’s son. However, later hey changed their decision and ,mentioning his father’s name and taking away his telephone, informed him that there is an order from the head office to keep him there. His father who went to the police department witnessed that they kept Mehdi( his son) and 18 more people there. After 3 days they released 7, but 11 young people, among them Mehdi and teenagers of 15 years old and younger stayed in the department. The questions were not about the meeting, but about his and his family members’ party affiliation. After 4 days ( instead of 48 hours maximum) of keeping him there, they opened a criminal case based on the 139-1.1 article of the Criminal Code( deliberate spread of the contagious illness representing a threat to other people’s lives. On the 22nd the activists remind that it is the 4th month since Tofig Yagublu was re-arrested. Jamil Hasanli of the National Council congratulates the newly formed Human Rights organization “ The line of defence” consisting of prominent human rights activists and posts their statement with the assessment of the recent events in connection with the attacks on the state border and repressions against the participants of the rally in Baku. They post the full list of detained – total 30 people with their terms of detention and criminal cases, opened against some of them. The statement appeals to the authorities of the country to respect basic rights of the citizens such as – freedom of expression, assembly, and the right to the just and fair trial, and to receive the legal aid, and demand to stop limiting people’s rights and freedoms. Hasanli also informs about growing support to the draft law subby the Congressman Jim McGovern “ Act on Protection of the Human Rights During Pandemic” and posts excerpts on FB. The draft law mentions Azerbaijan, Salvador, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Philippines and other. (Earlier the petition initiated by the opposition and civil society urged the Congress not to adopt the pro-Armenian amendment about sanctions in connection with the Karabagh conflict, arguing that the sanctions should not be directed against people, but against the authorities- L.A.). Bakhtyar Hajiyev comments that the president should replace his speechwriter and showed a few inconsistencies in this speech. In particular, when the president said that it is better if those, who broke glass windows in the parliament volunteer to the front. The president also said that after that 50 thousand people came to volunteer to get to the front.
Pandemic remains a hot topic of FB. They report about numerous Azerbaijani citizens, who want to return home, demanding it in front of the embassy of Azerbaijan in Tblilisi, Georgia. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR comments on the active attraction of Shahmar Movsumov (head of the Economic issues and Innovative Development of the presidential administration) to the official meetings on pandemic issues, such as the last one at the Operative Headquarters. However, he warns that while Movsumov is a diligent and more open- minded cadre as compared to the others, the attraction of him to the dealing with highly uncertain situation with virus looks like a “set-up”, the reasons of which are not clear. However, the other civil activist criticized Movsumov’s statement that “ those who still did not withdraw 190 manats from their banks, might not need them”, commenting that so many people exhausting in long queues to the banks were giving up the hopes to ever get this money. It is supported by Natig Jafarli who asserts that by blocking the state aid on the recipients accounts undermines the trust in the bank system further. G. Ibadoglu quotes the president in his last speech before the war victim’s families that by now 5 mln people were given a state aid and questions this number. He writes that he made an independent investigation and did not even count more than 1 mln people. People complain that the State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Resources under the chairmanship of Akim Badalov have not been paying their salaries for 4 months.
The corrupt officials is a never ending topic on FB. The activists and journalists share the publication in Ukrainian newspaper that the MP Elmira Akhundova paid a bribe of 1 mln to the Foreign Ministry to become an Ambassador there. The details of the background of the unpopular head of the Military Headquarters for 27 years and deputy defence minister Najmaddin Sadikhov are shared on FB. He is a relative of the family in power- his son is married to the daughter of the vice-president’s Mehriban Aliyeva cousin, and he owns huge properties, including 6 storey apartment and the villa on 1,5 hectar land in Yasamal district, few villas in Badambar district in Baku. The journalists report that the new minister of foreign affairs Jeyhun Bayramov has come to the ministry with his team and appointed relative of Mikail Jabbarov and formerly the head of the department at the Baku City Education Agency the head of the Administration of the Foreign Ministry, his former advisor Elnur Mammadov also appointed to the new position. Natig Jafarli analyses the transfers of the SOFAZ to the budget. While the January- June transfers were 5 bln 675 mln manat, the income from the sale of dollars is 6 bln 817 manat. He asks what has happened – after all other expenditures- to 902 mln manat?
Relations within the opposition camp – the subject of comments of FB users. Natig Jafarli comments on yet another illegally recorded meeting of the PFP and NC opposition politicians by Mozalan, which he calls the ZoomPark, and where they insult REAL party and mention the journalist Mehman Aliyev. Fuad Gahramanli of the PFP comments that the persecution of PFP is not just the repression of one party – and those who keep silence risk to loose the last space for a free thought and speech. Those who think that elimination of PFP will free the space for themselves are mistaken. Picking the destruction of PFP as the target , the purpose is to eliminate the political space, the conditions for political activities and critical thinking. He calls to approach this issue not as the problem of one party, but as a matter of principle- protection of the critical thinking and politicls.
The FB community posts comments and congratulate the journalists with the International Day of Media. They ridicule that the president Aiyev awarded notorious director of ANS TV Mirshahin with the order of Service to Homeland and comment, that they insult the memory of Zardabi (the founder of Azerbaijani media in the 19th century). Altay Geyushov especially stresses the damage to the people and the nation caused by the state controlled brainwashing and not free media. Natig Jafarli of REAL congratulates national media by presenting statistics. He argues that strong media together with strong civil society means strong oversight mechanism,and those countries develop where the media is independent. The latter is also dependent on financial factors, including advertisement, which is in a dying condition in the country. Last year its amounted at 60 mln dollars, and this year will be reduced by 30%. The so called commercial TV channels are financed mainly by the state subsidies – of 76 mln manat allocated in 2019 for the TV and radio state channels 20 mln was given to the commercial ones. In addition, there is a meaningless Fund for the Support of Mass Media. In Georgia with the population 2, 5 times smaller than in Azerbaijan the ad market turnover is 2 times bigger. ( 130-150 mln dollars). This is because there is a free market in Georgia, while monopoly based bureaucratic “capitalism” in Azerbaijan.In spite of all that, he congratulates the courageous journalists of the country, which overcome the difficulties of the system.
July 24, 2020