Center for National and International Studies
The FB community continues campaign demanding release of Tofig Yagublu, political activist, who has been on the 9th day of hunger strike and whose health has increasingly worsened. It shares the coverage of the protest action by the young activists, dominated by women, and the detention of 38 participants.The FB community is increasingly involved in various forms of e-campaign in defence of Yagublu and shares the reaction of the international organizations, such as Norwegian Human Rights House, European Parliament, Council of Europe, EaP CSF Steering Committee, condemning the arrest of the activist and demanding re-examination of the case or immediate release. The community dicusses the government’s policies, including changes of cadres in the Amnesty Commission, or the dialogue of the NGOs with the presidential administration, stating that these events are bearing formal character without substantial changes so far.
The opposition leader Tofig Yagublu, the 9th days of his hunger strike in prison, threat to his life resulting from worsening health condition is in the center of attention of FB community. It is reported that he lost 10 kilos and his heath is under increasing threat. Tofig Yagublu describes his condition:” The FB users share the medical opinion of Dr. Adil Geybulla, who stresses that his health is aggravated also by the pre-conditions- periarthrosis, asthma, diabetes, heart surgery as well as quotes the British experience with the hunger strike of the Irish prisoners in 1981. He recalls that 10 of them died, as did it without the medical monitoring. He also quotes the research and guidelines issued in Britain in 1981, which stressed that people over 50 and with health pre-conditions can survive only 3 weeks of hunger. The Yagublu’s lawyer Elchin Sadighov also confirmed visible worsening of health of his defendant. Yagublu was also visited by Ombudsman and his other lawyer Nemat Karimli. Ali Karimli, the leader of the Popular Front Party, calls for the widening of the campaign in his defense. He stated that Tofig Yagublu’s arrest is not accidental, but was prepared step by step and that Ilham Aliyev personally is behind it. The e-campaign demanding his immediate release continues on FB and includes growing number of various social groups. It is reported that the authorities opened the criminal case against one of the activists in exile who joined the hunger strike of solidarity with Tofig Yagublu Orkhan Agayev and referred him to Interpol. The National Strategic Think Tank led by the ex-chair of the opposition Musavat Party Isa Gambar issued a statement demanding immediate release of Yagublu. Jamil Hasanli of NCDF commented on his timeline, that Aliyev’s regime has been destroying people’s lives for many years: blogger Mehman Galandarov has died under tortures in prison, Mehman Huseynov underwent a serious surgery, Gozel Bayramli lost her health in prison while Afghan Mukhtarli has been deprived a of a right to live in his own country. He argues that Tofg Yagublu, who has been struggling for the dignity of all people by his ideals and consistent resistance has turned into a symbol of the national willpower and is writing a history. The video with the protest action of women -members of the Popular Front Party in defence of Yagublu and all political prisoners was viewed almost two thousands times. The FB community also shares with supporting comments the other protest action by the young activists in front of the building of the Constitutional court, as a result of which 38 activists were detained, including the daughter of Yagublu Nigar, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Bahruz Samadov, Rustam Ismayilbeyli and others, brought to the police station, but then later released. The leader of the action Giyas Ibrahimov was taken to the distant region of Jalilabad’s depopulated area of Azerbaijan and left it there. He was helped to get out there by the citizens, who paid his taxi expenses and sent him credit payment to the phone. The journalist Mehman Huseynov before his surgery on removing the cancer tumour in Switzerland made a photo with the poster Freedom to Tofig Yagublu. The journalist in exile Afgan Mukhtarli conducts a hunger strike in solidarity in front of the office of Angela Merkel in Germany. The writer in exile Gunel Movlud calls Tofig Yagublu the “conscience of Azerbaijan” and demands his freedom. Tofig Yagublu passed message of his decisiveness to continue the hunger strike to the very end- “either freedom, or no return!” He also expressed his dissatisfaction by authorities not giving a permission to speak daily with his family members. The FB community suggests and shares various forms of protest– including putting the A4 sheet with the slogan “Freedom to Tofig Yagublu” behind the back car window. Rufat Safarov, an ex-political prisoner and activist, suggests posting only information related to Yagublu as campaign in his defence until his release. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF recalls the resistance of Tofig Yagublu and his principled position in August 2019 during the interrogation at the prosecutor’s office, where he was warned about consequences of his activities. She confirms, that none of the numerous warnings and proposals from various state structures had any effect on him. Ilkin Rustamzade states, hinting on REAL party who went to the dialogue with the authorities and received material compensation as decided by the ECHR, that one day spent by Tofig Yagublu in prison and every minute of his hunger strike is more important than 234 thousand manat of compensation. The activists also share the names and photos of the participants of slander in “ naming and shaming campaign”, such as police mayor of 24 police station Mirzayev Rovshan. FB community shares the statement by the Steering committee of the EaP CSF, which condemns arrest Yagublu and urges the government to re-examine the case. The statement by the Norwegian Human Rights House demanding release of Yagublu is widely shared and appraised by the activists. They also share the statements by the European Parliament Izabel Santos, who called the political motives as the reason for arrest, and the statements by the 3 co-rapporteurs of the Council of Europe and by Dunya Mijatovich. Nigar Hezi reports, that while her father is not allowed daily telephone contacts with his family, the other prisoners have that right sometimes even twice a day. She also informs that there are frequent attempts to interfere in her FB page and it looks like after they hacked the FB page of her father, they are trying to do the same with hers. Ramis Yunus, a political commentator in the US, recalls Yagublu’s negative answer to his question about possibility of staying in the US, as back home he would be under a high risk. Yunus characterises him as the courageous and principled activist, who would never deviate from his struggle, and urges the civilized world such as US, EU and others to stand firmly and support Yagublu, who “became the same symbol of freedom as Nelson Mandela was in Africa”. He argues that while heroes like Yagublu exist, Azerbaijan exists too. The ADR movement arranged the video session with lawyers devoted to the defence of Tofig Yagublu. Ganimad Zahid publishes excerpts from his new book The Death Corpus about the Azerbaijani prisons, based on his personal experience. The book has most powerful description of the life in prison, fates of people, whom he met in prison most of whom were victims of unjust judicial system. Turan Ibrahim, the son of the arrested PFP activist Mammad Ibrahim reported that one of three articles of the Criminal Code, (278.1) against him was dropped, but the other three remain – 186.2.1, 315 ( up to 5 years), 233 ( up to 3 years). It is reported that the new criminal cases are being opened against the arrested PFP activists. Yadigar Sadighly of Musavat notes that the problem of political prisoners appeared as soon as Aliyev’s power was established, but during the last 7 years this issue became the main, continuous weapon of his power and so called democratic states and international organizations usually would limit their reaction to the statements. He argues, that the red line is crossed, and people are risking their lives to get out of the situation. Tofig Yagublu is not the last one, as there is a new generation emerging, as the protest rally today showed who are ready to replace the political parties.
The issues of governance and corruption never leaves the FB space. Habib Muntazir, the investigative journalist in exile, reports the reaction of the Kontakt Home network of shops administration to the customers complaints to their services on the website “ I am a customer and I have a complaint”. Instead of correcting their services, they buy off customers or delete the messages of complaint from the website. The network belongs to the MP Elnur Allahverdiyev. Muntazir ironically comments that he is “ the representative of the young branch of the YAP ( ruling party)- “reformers” and their reform oriented thinking” Rabiyya Mammadova reports that company AZAL, which receives millions of state subsidies in the period of pandemic crisis announces a 42.750 manat tender on the 3.09 .2020 for the delivery of flowers to the customers and the winner is Hotes Group Ltd. Seymur Hezi argues, that Aliyev speaks about Karabagh, but destroys the veteran, renovates the school, but eliminates the teacher, opens the diagnosis centre, but kills education.. “All openings with his participation in substance mean closing of these areas… except for family markets”. Many comment that against the background of dramatic struggle of the activist for justice the president went to the opening of yet another underground transfer. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev jokes, that in fact the president went to see the underground laboratory where Azerbaijani researchers were working on the anti-COVID vaccine and are reportedly close to its discovery.
FB community also discusses cadre changes in the government, this time in the Amnesty Commission. Many view it as not changes in substance, but rather reflection of the intra-elite struggle – besides removal of Ramiz Mehdiyev, Ramil Usubov, Abulfaz Karayev, among the excluded were the head of Trade Unions Confederation MP Sattar Mehbaliyev and MP Malahat Ibrahimqizi. Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR attracts attention to the heads of executive power in the regions -“vassals of Russia”- who order to put down the flags of Turkey, which were raised along with national flags by people as a symbol of friendship between the states. He comments that strengthening of Turkey in the region is directed towards provision of the Azerbaijani sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also comments on the replacement of the Council of Financial Stability created in 2016 by the Ecinomic Council and asserts that nothing changes with the changeof the name of the Council if the composition does not change. The Council which has a function to manage and monitor the reforms, has only government officials as members.
The issue of NGOs – legislation and the conditions for their functioning- as a subject of a meeting of the EaP CSF National Platform NGO representatives with Hikmet Hajiyev of presidential administration was reflected in Achig Azerbaijan video report. In the video the National Platform was represented by Rasul Jafarov, Mirvari Gahramanli, who attended the meeting, and Bashir Suleymanli. The correspondent asked the question whether the government is sincerely interested in improvement of the situation with NGOs. Rasul Jafarov argued that such meetings should take place, but whether there will be any result is unknown. He made a parallel with the similar meeting in 2012, which however did not have any results, although had some agreements, and suggested that first the number of measures should be taken to eliminate consequences of persecution in 2014. Bashir Suleymanli expressed similar to Jafarov idea, that to believe sincerity the government they have to cancel the criminal case against the NGOs which it opened in 2014. He said that this meeting makes an impression of the formal one in the interests of PR. The lawyer Samira Agayeva reports that seriously ill activist Ruslan Izzetli in violation of law was drafted and sent to the front line. He will have a surgery and was taken with this purpose to the military hospital. She puts the responsibility, if something happens to Izzetli, on the president Ilham Aliyev, because drafting the activist was the political order. FB users widely share the information about the surgery of blogger and ex-political prisoner Mehman Huseynov, wishing him luck and soonest recovery.
The FB community continues to follow foreign events, such as news that Navalny was taken out of the induced coma condition, and the developments in Belarus. Yadigar Sadighly reports that people “queued” to help the owner of the café in Minsk who gave refuge to the protester to compensate the damage which the police made to get the protester out of his café. The women-protesters in Baku in their rally tactics as it is seen from the videos were influenced by the patterns in the streets and squares of Minsk. Ulvi Hasanli stresses leading role of women in youth rally and how they refused to be released before men by calling it “sexism”, ununderstood by the police. In the end they achieved the gender-balanced release from the police station.
The FB users share and comment on the statement of ex-head of presidential administration, the president of the Academy of Sciences Ramiz Mehdiyev, who warned those who are attacking him in the government by disclosing an information which will cause trouble for them. He was quoted saying, that “if I disclose the facts which I have, there will be a big scandal”. The journalist Ruzgar Movsum defies the cliché spread by the government, that “corruption is rooted in national traditions and it is not possible to eliminate it”. He quotes the letter of the father of the prime minister of the first Azerbaijan Democratic Republic ( 1918-1920) Nasib bey Yusifbeyli who complaints that while his son was in government positions, he always was needy and asked his father for money. Ruzgar Movsum comments, that those leaders were different and the system was different too – they all cared about future of Azerbaijan. Their wives did not wear million worth dresses, their sons did not own islands in Dubai, and their daughters did not have properties in London… And at last they were simply dignified people.”
September 11, 2020