Center for National and International Studies
The most discussed topics this week are: an ineffective government’s policy of fighting pandemic, with criticism targeting Operative Headquarters which has no medical experts, no representative of media or civil society to provide for professionalism, transparency and public control; the controversy surrounding softening of the quarantine regime, and naming the street in Gabala after the recently killed in the border hostilities general Polad Hashimov. The fate of the political prisoners, in particular Fuad Gahramanli , who was tortured ( by some sources- not being alive) but still not allowed to meet with the family members or a lawyer; the mobilization in defence of persecuted and in protest of the official policies of greater number of social circles, such as writers and poets, musicians, who previously were just observers; as well as the statement of the Azerbaijanis in exile in Sweden; corruption of bureaucracy – are the other most shared and discussed topics. The economic experts, journalists and political leaders analyse and follow the revision of the budget in the parliament especially reduction of the education and science expenditures. The FB community also closely follows foreign reaction to the events in the country – discusses the appeal of the US ambassador to the OSCE to its permanent council about repressions in Azerbaijan, continues to share and comment on the initiative of sanctions by the S&D group in the European Parliament and report by its shadow rapporteur on Azerbaijan Izabel Santos, as well as report of the Amnesty International. The FB users react to the explosion in Beirut and to the decision of the president Aliyev to give the country humanitarian support of 1 mln dollars.
The Fb community widely comment on the softening of the quarantine and comments on its controversy. The activists and journalists stress that while cancellation of the SMS permission is a positive measure, the opening of the beaches serves the benefit of the oligarchs. They report prohibition of visiting public beaches, violation of which is punished by fines, but allowing the access to the expensive public beaches, which belong to the bureaucrats. They compare the struggle with pandemic in three Caucasus states (Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR) noting success of Georgia and suggesting that the outcome of struggle is dependent on three factors: good governance, public’s trust in the government and corruption. Elshan Hasanov, human rights defender stresses, that the only professional – lead epidemiologist – has resigned, while the minister of health has not been visible from the very beginning of pandemic and nobody- a journalist, NGO representative or public leader – is monitoring the activities of Operative Headquarters. He argues that the struggle with pandemic was turned into political struggle and there were dire results of it- thousands of people were fined, criminal cases were opened against 50 of them, dozens were administratively detained, while the population turned into a home hostages for 6 months.. “The country, he writes has turned into a local prison”. Experts warn that because of the softening of the quarantine after the 5th august without proper state aid to the unemployed and business, there will be a new wave of the infected.
The FB community also discuss the rumours that the name of the recently killed at the state border general Polad Hashimov was given to a street in Gabala named after the other hero of the WW2 Hazi Aslanov. The FB users stress that there are 4 streets named after the family members of Ilham Aliyev, and none of them were attempted to be replaced. The issue of continued repressions is widely discussed and the activists argue that the issues of Karabagh, and COVID-19 are government’s tools of to finish an opposition. People share an information of the death of the oldest MP ( 82 year old) Fattah Heydarov, who is the father of the minister-oligarch Kamaladdin Heydarov and compare him with the general Polad Hashimov and respectively the Alleys of Honour they are going to be buried: Heydarov -in the Alley of Honor 1, while honest and pure general Hashimov- in the Alley of Honour 2 .
The FB community worryingly shares an information about the absence of access to imprisoned and tortured Fuad Gahramanli of PFP neither to the family members or his lawyer . The last news were that he refused of his lawyer. The PFP leaders report the searches in the houses of their activists and member of the presidium of the PFP Ayaz Maharramli ( took away his employment ID) and Jeyhun Novruzov. The daughter of Tofig Yagublu reported that his court hearing today took place and indictment was read. The judge who is supposed to be independent behaved as the government representative and has done everything to delay the submission of evidence and left all petitions unconsidered.
The court of Appeal did not support complaint of Ali Karimli regarding his communication blockade which has been lasting for a few months already. Sevinj Osmangizi ran an electronic survey among her subscribers asking whether they think that “if the government spent all its resources which it spends now on repression of opposition and creation of the “pocket opposition” on the Karabagh issue instead- it would be resolved long time ago?” Among almost 4,5 thousand participants 90% agreed with the statement. The letter in support of Fuad Gahramanli and other detained activists of the PFP was sent from Gobustan prison by the leader of the Muslim Unity Movement political prisoner Taleh Bagirzade. The REAL party has held its Congress. Ali Karimli of PFP shows the growing number of social circles in the country who openly express their protest and criticism of the official policies and support for the opposition and repressed. He names the musicians, poets and writers, most recently the young female poet
Sahine Konul young poet – whose poem states, that those who keep silence are immoral.
The Azerbaijan Movement for Democracy and Prosperity ( ADR) led by Gubad Ibadoglu has conducted the next meeting of the Organizational Committee for the preparation of its Congress on the 7th august, where they transformed it into political party.
The activists and journalists also comment on the foreign affairs. The mass rallies and running of the young female candidate for elections in Belarus are covered and shared by many bloggers, who analyse its implications for Azerbaijan. Bakhtyar Hajiyev notes confusing information about special session of the UN devoted to COVID-19, advertised for some time already by the president Aliyev who announced sponsoring it. He also comments that the problem of the new appointees to the government positions is that they simply do not feel and understand people’s problems. Activists also mention 5 mln dollar aid of Azerbaijan to the Non-Alligned Movement and suggest that the purpose is to get support on the special session of the UN. The explosion in Beirut, discussion of the reasons, and controversy related to the Aliyev’s humanitarian aid to Lebanon is shared and commented on FB. People share and ridicule the statement by the MP Zahid Oruj that “Bringing in Turkey’s military in Azerbaijan will damage our relations with Russia”.
People continue to expose and comment on corruption of bureaucrats and MPs. This time Elmira Akhundova, whose name was mentioned in connection with the “bought” position of Amba ssador to Ukraine in the MFA of Azerbaijan, stated that she has been always loyal to Heydar Aliyev. Khadija Ismayil mentions that in her recorded telephone conversation Akhundova refers to the expected contract from the Ministry of Defence in order to pay off the debts of her son, which means that the money for the soldiers’ meals, uniform, or other needs were spent on covering an MP’s son’s debts. Khadija Ismayil however predicts the soonest “sinking of the ship”, whose wooden parts were “eaten” by corrupt bureaucrats.
Foreign reaction to the repressions in Azerbaijan – a hot topic on FB. People share the information about James Gilmore, the US ambassador to OSCE, who touched upon the repressions in Azerbaijan in his appeal to the OSCE permanent Council. Statement by the activists in exile in Sweden rally was signed by 117 people. The statement of the Amnesty International demanding immediate and unconditional release of all detained and arrested was widely shared. The interview of Izabel Santos – shadow rapporteur on Azerbaijan of the S&D group in the EP to the Voice of America where she supports the sanctions against Azebaijan and especially stress that this is not against the people, but officials, is viewed more than 1,000 times and is widely shared and commented.
The review of the budget and the reduction of the education expenditures is analysed and discussed by the civil and political leaders, activists and journalists.
August 7, 2020