Center for National and International Studies
Azerbaijani FB space has been dominated by the post-election protests in Belarus, support and appraisal of the people’s consistent struggle defending their votes, stress on the role of young people in these protests and perception it as a beginning of the next wave of collapse of dictatorships which will reach Azerbaijan. They continue to discuss the tortures and mistreatment of the detained after 14-15 th July rally, sharing the National Council’s statement urging more decisive international involvement. The policy on pandemic is a continuing topic, with observers assessing with scepticism the official statistics of reduced number of infected. They also share photos of detained naked and tortured in the police departments, which was followed by the official denial by the Ministry by Interior. The FB community shares the results of Sevinj Osmangizi survey, showing that 73% would want to hear as the first news in the morning that the regime collapsed and Aliyevs left the country, as compared to 4% that the pandemic is over.
The activists, journalists and bloggers actively shared and covered the events in Belarus. They analyse the way of mobilization of people, discuss the importance of political parties, leadership, and the implications and lessons for Azerbaijan. They see it as the end of 26 year dictatorship of Lukashenka and part of the wave of democratisation which will reach Russia and Azerbaijan. They also stress that the driving force of the protests is the younger generation. They follow closely situation in Belarus and praise the people’s courage and consistency of the struggle, in spite of the brutal application of force, thousands of detained, victims – injured and even killed. The information about the national strike is shared widely. Ali Karimli of the PFP praises the struggle of Belarus people, stressing that myth about people’s love for Lukashenko was totally destroyed during these events and that his power is based only on pure physical force. Even if at this stage the struggle does not bear results, an essential part of this way would be overcome, as well as the people’s self-confidence will strengthen. They proved that the mass protest is possible even without a leader. When the number of those who overcome their fear will reach from 10s of thousands to hundred thousands- the victory will be won. This struggle, he comments, damages the rule of all dictators, not only Lukashenka. He concludes that Azerbaijan people, who has always been fighting with authoritarian rule has always solidarize with other people struggling for rights and freedoms and wish them soonest victory. Majority of FB users criticise REAL’s MP Erkin Gadirli comment, that official support of the incumbent or the protesters in Belarus should depend on their respective relation to Azerbaijan. Khadija Ismayil comments that this usually what happens: firstone gets into parliament in a falsified elections, and then support the one, who is elected in unfair elections. FB users argue that regardless of its relation to Azerbaijan the people’s right for fair elections should be supported. They also share the information about interior forces solidarizing with the protesters by raising the alternative flag. Gultakin Hajiyeva comments that spontaneous leadership of Tikhanovskaya means that when dictatorship is in crisis the leadership is not important. She extrapolates it to Azerbaijan and argues that even if Ilham Aliyev eliminates all the opposition parties and their leaders, nothing will stop people from protesting. She also stresses that Tikhanovskaya is the wife of political prisoner and since Azerbaijan has greater number of political prisoners – it has greater potential of such leadership and she suggests that the former prisoner, the daughter and the wife of political prisoners Nigar Hezi could also be Azerbaijan’s protest movement leader. She mentions the statement by Pompeo not recognizing results of the elections in Belarus and calls Lukashenka “poitically dead”. The Fb community also shares and denounces the list of the leaders who congratulated Lukashenka, including Ilham Aliyev. Human rights defender Rashid Hajili extrapolating Belarus situation to Azerbaijan argues that the reason why the main target of the Azerbaijan authorities is political opposition parties, is to turn the society into an uncontrolled crowd which will be easy to suppress. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev argues that Lukashenka is the “thief of the votes”, and by suppression of all opposition parties he left the society without experienced and organized political leadership. He concludes that nothing is eternal in this world, so it is important to resign so that to leave the country in a good condition and be loved by the world, like Gorbachov did. The ruling party YAP websites run discrediting campaign arguing that PFP activists “use fake photos” (South Korean events) to illustrate events in Belarus. Feminists activists, such as Rabiyya Mammadova stress the self-organizing nature of continued process of protests, when people share the codes of entrances to their buildings, so protesters could hide from police, or leave food and water for them. Yadigar Sadighly argues, while it is hard to say how long the confrontation will last, but as Rasulzade said (the founder of the ADR in 1918) the one who fights for freedom will win. Seymur Hezi expressed the substance of the protests in Belarus: “ The people of Belarus are not following Tichanovskaya, they are getting rid of Lukashenka!” Bahtiyar Hajiyev comments: “ Minsk today: women’s solidarity against the thieves of the votes” REAL activists argue that Belarus events prove their idea that participation in elections is critical for the change of political status quo.
Ali Karimli spoke about impossibility to eliminate party or the politicians by repressions, he argues that they eliminate themselves when and if they betray their own principles and values. He also comments that if the president did not know about the poor governance of the bureaucrats until now this is bad, but even worse is if he knew about it and did not react. He also reports about the protest of the families of the prisoners of the July Karabagh rally in front of the General prosecutor’s. Gozel Bayramli reports the arrest and taking to the Khatayi court of the deputy chair of the Khatayi branch of PFP Tural Punhan. He was charged with article 535.1 ( resistance to police) and sentenced to 30 days of detention. This brings the number of arrested PFP members to 43 – of them 10 are previously sentenced political prisoners, while 33 – arrested after the Karabagh rally, against 17 of which the criminal cases were opened. The PFP activists report the repeated bringing of Tural Atakishiyev to the 36th police department of Khatayi district and the searches by the order of Nasimi court in the house of Matanat Mahmadrzayeva. Ilkin Rustamzade comments on the court hearing of Tofig Yagublu, where it appeared that the “witness” managed to run the distance of 100 meters to the place of the incident in 6 seconds. He compares it to the last record of the world champion , showing that the fake witness ran quicker. He regrets that the government is using him for such a low quality service of fake witnessing, rather than sending him to compete at the Olympic games.
FB community shares the statement by the National Council about the tortures and mistreatment of the arrested after the 14-15 rally in Baku. It stresses that the tortures were so severe that even experienced politicians such a member of the PFP presidium Fuad Gahramanli, who refused of his lawyer and of his right of Appeal. They also attract attention to the other PFP activist Feyruz Rahimov, who also refused of his lawyer, as well as the serious health condition of the other party member Baba Suleyman. The other party activist Pasha Umudov was sentenced to 4 years 6 months on trumped up charges. The NC protests against these arrests and tortures and appeals to put an end to the criminal persecution of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan. It calls Ombudsman’s office and the Red Cross of the country to provide public an access to the information about the tortures. While praising the stance of the international community on arrests in Baku, calls for the greater involvement and targeted sanctions against the government. It calls the public to be more active in joint efforts to release the political prisoners.
Sevinj Osmangizi on her youtube TV channel conducts a survey, where majority of participants comment that their biggest dream will be to wake in the morning and to hear that the regime collapsed and Ilham Aliyev has escaped from the country.( 73%) as compared to 4% – to hear that pandemic is over and 3% – that they became rich. The PFP activist in exile Gullu Jangirova stresses that the biggest problem of the country is the regime of Aliyevs and that the path to solution of the Karabagh problem lies through free and fair elections. She also argues that nobody will give the people its freedoms, “ we will not sleep and then wake up and hear that Aliyevs escaped. We should achieve this ourselves, work on that and be active. Freedom is not given- it is taken”
FB community assesses the policies on fight the coronavirus with scepticism. They question the official data of 5 times reduced number of infected during last 10 days. However, some positive examples of support of the discipline in the public beaches with the police and volunteers of ASAN service are reported also.
The economic experts note that Ministry of Labour blatantly violates the Labour Code of the country. The State Social Protection Fund, which was created in 2019 under the Labour Ministry, is employing 4 thousand people without work contracts.
The FB users discuss the political culture / values issue and rule of law. They compare the official reaction to the explosion in Lebanon ( first 4 ministers resigned) and then – the whole government) with Azerbaijan, where by the opinion of Habib Muntazir so many tragedies took place, but nobody resigned. He notes that the political culture in Lebanon is thus higher than in the country. He also ridicules the rhetoric of officials often justifying their policies by reference to protection of “ national values”. He argues that there are no national values left in the country, where all resources from the local authority to the president are stealing people’s resources, where people are brought to desperation in need of 190 manats etc. He comments that “national values” have been replaced by the personal interests of bureaucrats. FB users share with indignancy the comment of the head of the military headquarters Najmaddin Sadikhov where he insulted public and those who suggested to invite Turkish military bases. The activists, feminists and bloggers share the story when in Lerik region and decry the sentence of only 1 year for the teacher who raped his teenage pupil, because the elderly asked the court to be merciful to the teacher.
FB users follow the Azerbaijan-Turkish relations, in particular the subjects of talks during the visit of Azerbaijan foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramov to Turkey, such as increase of supply of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey, new railway from Kars to Nakhichivan, the gas pipline from Turkey to Nakhichevan, visa free movement between the two countries.
Economic experts stress the changing energy market and the resistance of the foreign investors to invest in oil and gas sector. In spite of the changing world and growing demand in the renewable resources, Gubad Ibadoglu criticised the speech of Ilham Aliyev on the 12th on the occasion of the launch of new off shore oil equipment , where he once again connected Azerbaijan’s future with the oil and gas sector. He ties it with the vested interests of the elite which has been benefitting from exploitation of the natural resources for all these years and that’s why it does not see anything beyond oil in the potential of the country. This in turn leads to the brain drain from the country. Habib Muntazir continues to discredit the corruption and nepotism of the government. He points to the winner of the tender announced by the Baku Center for International Multiculturalism, who appeared to be Heydarova Ruhengiz the wife of the Minister of Emergencies Kamaladdin Heydarov. She will receive 48 thousands 840 manat for the rent of the Center, the head of which is Ravan Hasanov, the nephew of MP Agil Abbas. He also proves in response to its denial by the Ministry of Interior– that the photos of tortured detainees spread on FB are genuine and they are made in “Bandotdel” of the MIA. He also reports that in addition to 1,200 taxis previously brought from London the president buys another 100 taxis which belong to the company of his daughter Leyla Aliyeva. Economic experts consider it monopolization of the taxi service by the presidet’s family, as they prepare a legislation, which would prohibit utilization of the old models of cars for the taxi service.
August 14, 2020