Center for National and International Studies
The central topic of the FB news was release of the opposition activist and leader Tofig Yagublu with activists, politicians, bloggers, journalists sharing and celebrating the news. The FB community shared videos with Yagublu visiting the grave of his young daughter upon his release, entering his home, meeting his family, friends and giving interviews. The National Council and other public personalities issued statements that Tofig Yagublu should be fully acquitted, while all the remaining almost 200 political prisoners – released. The FB community shares with concern the most recent ( 20th September evening) hostilities in the Tovuz region and a death of the sergeant, discuss the chance of the resumption of war. Activists met with concern and denouncement the information on the law on internet being prepared in the Parliament, as well as widely share the new corruption investigation by the OCCPR with frequent references to the actors, banks and business from Azerbaijan. They also express a scepticism in regards the meetings of the presidential administration with the NGOs.
The news of Tofig Yagublu’s release due to the replacement of his imprisonment by the suspended sentence is widely shared and celebrated. The PFP leader Ali Karimli congratulated society on his timeline with the release of the activist and expressed his gratitude to everyone who raised their voice in his defence. He called it the victory of the Yagublu’s own resistance and the demonstration at the higest level of people’s strive for justice, concluding by the wish to see all the political prisoners free. He praised the wide campaign in his defence, which was joined even the representatives of the old generation of the culture establishemnt. Previously appointed the Court of Appeal hearing to the 28th September was cancelled and appointed on the 18 September at 16.00 ( reported by his lawyer, Elchin Sadigov and Agil Layij ) The campaign in his defence has been intensifying in the eve of this decision, with his words communicated outside of the hospital to the society being widely shared, among them prominent journalists, party leaders and activists, representatives of intelligentsia. The solidarity actions and rallies abroad continued, joined by protests in Bonn and Berlin, Germany. The FB users shared the publications “ Freedom of death?” in Frankfurter Algemaine Zeitung, as well as an open letter by IPHR to the president Aliyev. The National Council for Democratic Forces issued a statement on release of Tofg Yagublu. While praising his conventional release, it stresses, that “injustice against Tofig Yagublu has not yet been eliminated. Tofig Yagublu is innocent, he was sentenced to imprisonment on a completely false charge and must be acquitted. Both the Azerbaijani people and the international community are waiting for the appellate court to acquit Tofig Yagublu. Otherwise, any retention of his conviction will be seen as the government’s reluctance to correct its mistake, and will provoke additional anger and hatred against the government.”The National Council states that the “relative release” of Tofig Yagublu should not cool down the issue of political repressions in Azerbaijan for the local and international community. Both the Azerbaijani people and international institutions with mutual commitments to Azerbaijan must not forget that there are still about 200 political prisoners in the country, and must make consistent efforts for the release of each of them. In particular, in a new wave of repression that began with the arrest of Tofig Yagublu in March, another 36 people, mostly members of the Popular Front Party, were arrested on trumped-up charges (for the July 14-15 Karabakh march) and their trials will begin soon. Azerbaijan and the world community must pay attention to each of these cases and work for the immediate release of them as well as political prisoners arrested before them”.
ADR movement ( leader Gubad Ibadoglu) besides proposal to submit his candidacy to the Nobel Peace Prize, elected him the movement’s honoured member. The FB community actively shared the coverage of Tofig Yagublu story by Belarus network NEXTA. Nigar Hezi thanked everyone who contributed to the release of Yagublu, especially his lawyers- Agil Layij, Elchin Sadigov and Nemat Karimli, who not only demonstrated high professional integrity, but also a great humane qualities and the doctor Adil Geybulla. She concludes that she believes in future of Azerbaijan, as she saw unprecedented solidarity, mobilization and empathy in response to injustice towards her father. Tofig Yagublu in his first interview upon release to the Sevinj Osmangizi TV “ shined the light to the dark moments” related to his time in prison. He fully defended activities of the family friend doctor Adil Geybulla, who was blamed by the group of opposition to be unreliable. But he disapproved doctor , when asked by Osmangizi, for giving interviews to the pro-government media outlets. Overall, Tofig Yagublu urged the opposition to abstain from discrediting each other, or getting involved in in-group fighting, and to focus on main target instead- the current regime. The daughter of Tofig Yagublu Nigar Hezi reported that the current FB profile on the name of her father is fake and that he will restore his old profile. She warns not to accept friendships sent on his behalf.
The issue of political prisoners thus continues to be on agenda of the FB users. Ali Karimli has again attracted attention to the fate of Fuad Gahramanli, who has been tortured and isolated from his lawyer ( had to refuse him, as well as of the complaint to Court of Appeal). He was
kept in prison for two months without meeting his family with the purpose to get a “ confession “ from him. Ali Karimli argues, that he was targeted not only because he is well known and experienced opposition politician, but also he has a brilliant strategic mind and contributed to the development of the strategy and tactics of the democratic struggle. He calls society to demand freedom for Fuad Gahramanli. Gozel Bayramli, his deputy, reminds of other political prisoners– membesr of the PFP – İsmayil Hasanov, Seymur Ahmadzade, Jeyhun Novruzov, Mushfig Guliyev, Gunduz Mirzayev, Elnur Jabbarli, Mahabbat Nagiyev– for participation in the Karabagh rally, Mahammad Imanli – on the trumped up charges of spreading coronavirus. The son of Ogtay Gulaliyev human rights defender who was in coma for 11 months being hit by a car, Tabriz Gulaliyev reported that their family refused of financing by the Heydar Aliyev foundation of their father ‘s treatment in Turkey. He states that this is a protest against stalemate in the investigation under various excuses- either pandemic, or absence of Ogtay himself or his family in Baku. He reported that they all return to Baku in order to deprive them of these excuses and move investigation forward. He intends to continue protest, if the obstacles will be continued in Baku. The ruling YAP party presents release of Yagublu as the proof of the rule of law in the country. YAP MP Aydin Mirzazade argued in his interview to Telegraf.com that “the goal is not to punish a citizen but to make him understand the mistake he made, and not to be a threat to society, and that they ( who are hundreds) are left to the home arrest”. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev responds to this as shameless attitude, as they arrest the innocent person, by making up a fake case, put him in prison, and then under the international pressure release him, calling it an act of humanism. He calls the government to release all the political prisoners and finish with this problem.
FB community has widely and with high concern shared the information of the instability on the front line and the death of the junior sergeant Elshan Mammadov. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense reported elimination of the Armenian unmanned aircraft at 23.13 on Sunday the 20th of September. Habib Muntazir there were sounds of strong explosions at night at the territory of Tovuz and Salyan regions after which the Ministry of Defense confirmed hitting the aircraft. The military post in Agdam village, Tovuz region was attacked during the night, as a result of which the soldier Gurban Gurbanov was wounded. The Ministry of Defence, Foreign Ministry and Prosecutor’s General put responsibility of the fighting on the political-military regime of Armenia. The US State Secretary called Armenia and Azerbaijan to restore negotiations as soon as possible. The situation remained tense, and the State Agency on Mobilization announced mobilization of the military in reserve for the trainings. Videos and photos of the grieving family of the young man are circulating the FB. Journalists, activists, bloggers react with indignation to the aggravation of the situation in the Tovuz region. The journalist Samir Kazimli comments, that in order to win at the front , one should establish a peace in rear. Ganimad Zahid urges people not to go out for the Army Support rallies, as the society will not survive a burden of so many political prisoners. He mentions that the mobilization to the front does not make sense, as the army technically is much stronger than the Armenian one, so it is better to focus on civilian defense. He comments that in the country which fights the war should be unity within the government, sincerity in relations between the society and the authorities, the state should be free of corruption and the leadership should make decisions itself without ( like in 2016 and 2020) making calls to the “ friend”. He continues publication of his book “The death corpus” about the experience in Azerbaijani prison. The issue of naming Karabagh as Arsak in the school 7th grade history text books has caused a lot of critical comments and debates. Proponents of this name argue that this is an old Turkic name ( saks) or related to the history of Albania. However, many argue that calling the area by this name, while it was occupied as Karabagh does not help the cause of restoration of justice and liberation of the occupied territories. Gubad Ibadoglu urges to create a commission under the Ministry of Education consisting of experts and scholars-historians for the placement of such materials so to avoid any mistakes.
FB community discusses the corruption of bureaucrats. Habib Muntazir reports 4 storey villas illegally built for Ali Hasanov (formerly with presidential administration) and the head of the Narimanov executive power Abdin Farzaliyev on the territory of the state park. He concludes that villas should be destroyed and the park be restored. Sevinj Osmangizi’s ( the US based journalist) TV program with the journalist in exile Emin Huseynov was devoted to the expensive yachts ( up to 1 bln dollars) and planes of the president Aliyev’s family. The Fb community shares and comments on the investigation of OCCPR “ Trump’s Turkey Bromance
Oligarchs, Crooks and Multi Million Lobbying Deal”. Khadija Ismayil presents data on illegal transactions from Azerbaijan via Azerpost to one of the Swiss banks 5,5 mln dollars just in 8 days in March 2013. She also quotes the above mentioned investigation of OCCRP, Buzzfeed and ICIJ which involved 88 countries and 400 journalists where the main actor is Rza Zerrab, a Turkish businessman of Iranian Azerbaijani origin. Besides, the study presents Bank of Baku as the source of most numerous suspicious transfers. She suggests that government gives an explanation of the 31 transfers from the Bank of Baku to the United Arab Emirates at the time, when accounts of the population were emptied. FB community shares an information about the agreement between Switzerland and Uzbekistan about return of the stolen money by bureaucrats. Jamil Hasanli of NCDF mentions that by Social Progress Index among 163 countries Azerbaijan occupies only 104th place. The Social progress Index is calculated based on three indicators. 1) Satisfaction of the basic needs of a citizen-nutrition, health care, communal services, personal safety, accommodation 2) prosperity- level of education, state of health, access to means of communication and information, environmental protection 3) development opportunities – personal and civilian freedoms, realization of individual potential, and provision for people’s rights in decision making. He mentions that Armenia is on the 50 place, while the country of transit for Azerbaijan’s oil and gas Georgia is on the 56th place, while the country which fills these pipelines is on the 104 place. Besides, Azerbaijan;s neighbour in this rating is Nicaragua, and these are the only states, where vice-presidents are the presidents’ wives. He concludes, that being rated behind Gana, Namibiya, Botswana, disproves the President Aliyev statement that “we are the social state “.
FB users discuss with high concern the preparation of law related to the hate speech in the internet. They ridicule some MPs, such as Jale Aliyeva who commented during the discussion in the parliament that the entrance to the social networks should be upon presenting of the ID.
Sevinj Osmangizi in her program interviewed the expert of media law Alasgar Ahmadoglu, who expressed his high concern with the planned measure and stressed that this is another attempt to put control over the only remaining free media space. The comments of the viewers point also to the irrelevance of the activities of the MPs and the parliament to the current pressing issues for the country. Gubad Ibadoglu, referring to the ADR’s last e-meeting devoted to women’s rights, comments that both in terms of the quality of the internet, speed, Azerbaijan is hundred times worse the other more advanced countries. In addition, the Ministry of Communication keeps the prices under control and instead of creation conditions for the competition in this area, promoting interests if the state company Baktelecom.He continues that the state companies should be privatised, mobile operators should review prices of cellular data, and concludes that the government which resists these measures by political reasons will lead the people and the country to regress. People comment on the quotation of the MP, who said, that she was trying to distance from politics. Yadigar Sadyghli of Musavat called ironically the Azerbaijan Parliament the world leader on the number of MPs not involved in politics. People share collage with the MP quotations and added the picture of the doctor saying that although I am a doctor, I try to stay away from the ill people, and the picture of the young guy, who says, that although I am an IT expert, I am trying to stay away from computers.
FB community discusses the measures on pandemic. Gubad Ibadoglu criticises the absurdity of prohibition of the public transport in Baku, Sumgayit and Absheron on weekends, when the summer holiday’s season is over, and when it creates obstacles for the people working on weekends. The economist Samir Aliyev notes that taking advantage of the pandemic, the ministry of education decided to fire all teachers who are over 65.
The FB community follows and praises the events in Belarus. Ali Karimli reports continuation of the struggle of the Belarus people for justice – The Justice Rally– which started from the 9th august up to 20th September. In spite of the arrests, violence, control of the streets by the special police forces, he stresses, thousands of people continue to protest, and as REUTERs reported there were at least 100 thousand people at the Sunday rally on the 20th of September. The activists, journalists, bloggers are following closely the reaction of the West to them and to the poisoning of Navalni. Ali Karimli of PFP reports and greets strong resolutions by the European Parliament both in regards of regime of Lukashenka, and that of Putin, where they suggest to apply sanctions and to adopt the Navalni law, similar to the one of Magnitski. The resolution on Russia also calls the recent amendments to the Constitution, according to which Putin can stay in power until 2036, illegal.
FB community discusses the recent meeting ( 17 September) of the assistant of the president Hikmet Hajiyev and 96 NGOs. Altogether near 600 NGOs participated in these online meetings. Democracy activist Hikmet Hajizade comments that in spite of the few meetings already, the NGO problems have not decreased. While the president’s assistant expressed his hope, that civil society should participate in the monitoring of the state institutions, Hajizade found it almost fantastic, taking into account the current repressed state of NGOs. He noted that it is look more like a formal event. Some NGOs refused to participate in the meeting, such as Institute of Democratic Initiative because they believe if the government has a political will, they can resolve some urgent issues without this meeting, and that it views independent NGOs not as a partner in solution of the important issues, but as a competitor. Bashir Suleymanli, an NGO activist, at the meeting suggested a few proposals.1) To cancel the fake criminal cases opened in 2013-2014 against NGOs 2) to establish 7 day term for an online registration of NGOs3) replace the requirement of grant registration by notification 4) restore the activities of foreign donors in the country 5) to lift the artificial obstacles to the work of NGOs in the regions 6) Release Tofig Yagublu and in general eliminate the issue of political prisoners.
FB community also commemorates the day of birth 135 anniversary of the great Azerbaijani composer, writer, enlightener, Uzeyir Hajibekov, who was an author of first European type operas in the Islamic East, based on Azerbaijani music, was professor of the Conservatory, and made a unique contribution to the national and world music and was a writer- contributed to the satirical anti-clerical journal of the early 20th century Molla Nasraddin.
September 22, 2020