Center for National and International Studies
“…The flag of this country will rise high, when the prosperity of its citizens flourishes …”
The war is the main topic on FB. The community is sharing statistics, photos and videos from the liberated territories with many of them not recognizing their home villages due to its significant destruction during the years of occupation; they share the news and celebrate the liberation of Shusha, recalling the expulsion of the Azerbaijani population there in the early 90s, and discuss plans for reconstruction of the recovered regions, as well as the situation in Armenia, especially the firing of the nine high-level officials of Karabagh. The FB community follows and comments on the elections in the US, shares the news from Russia and Iran, as well as quotes the statements of Turkish officials. The issue of human rights and corruption has occupied a greater place these days with the hunger strike of the political prisoner Afghan Sadighov, preparation of the report by the Human Rights Organizations Monitoring Group about Armenia’s targeting of civilians in the war, the obstacles created for the family members of Jamil Hasanli to continue his schooling, and the appeal of political prisoner Elchin Mammad.
FB users share a range of news from the front. They share the old history of Shusha -predominantly an Azerbaijani city – and its historical and cultural significance for Azerbaijan, one of the FB users calling it Jerusalem for Azerbaijanis. They also recall the statistics of the city in 1989: of 20,579 citizens, 1,377 were Armenian; during the occupation 195 of Azerbaijanis were killed, 165 wounded, of whom 150 were left handicapped, 58 were captured, 552 children lost their parents, with 20 thousand expelled from their homes and lands. The expelled population of Shusha is now living in Baku, Barda, Agjabedi, Absheron, Agdam and another 41 cities and regions of the country, and the liberation of Shusha makes their hopes to return real, comment the FB users. They also discuss the advancement of the army and difficult battles over each village, sharing the lists of liberated ones (204 of them by 2.11.2020 of 800 under occupation) They report the destruction of another two ammunition storage depots close to Khankendi (Stepanakert), but also that the school named after Rahim Mammadov in Agdam region was destroyed by shelling from the Armenian side. The activists and journalists share stories of the persistence of young people to join the army, despite resistance within the headquarters, which prefers to draft more experienced soldiers. One FB user comments that Azerbaijan is lucky to have Pashinian in power in Armenia, because in 1944 the British intelligence allegedly refused an assassination attempt on Hitler, arguing that with Hitler in power, Germany would lose the war more quickly. Many shares photos of the destroyed lands which were under occupation, commenting that they leave strange feelings…The journalist in exile Ganimad Zahid shares these feelings, when looking at the abandoned and destroyed homes now liberated, and suggests keeping part of this rubble in Agdam as a museum exhibit, a reminder of past clashes and deeds of the state, which presented itself as the cradle of civilization. FB users argue that the poor condition of these lands once blooming again proves the total meaningless of their occupation. The houses in the villages under occupation lacked bricks, roofs, and were left destroyed in the “buffer zone” Some ask: “What did you want? Did you want independence? Then why did you expel Azerbaijanis from the regions Goyche, Zangezur, and Vedi of Armenia, where there was not a single village populated by Armenians? Such a concept of independence does not exist, he continues, and in the end it results in the destruction of the roofs of the houses which one occupies and in bloodshed and broken lives …” They also share news of the well-built fortified bunkers which were discovered in the liberated territories and suggest that this is what the bricks and other parts of the civilian’s houses were used for. Khadija Ismayil reports: “The liberation of the village Ashagi Gishlak was not announced because the village was practically completely wiped out. They simply didn’t recognize there was a village before. Houses are destroyed, bricks taken away (most probably used for building underground tunnels of fortification). The well-known economist and anti-corruption activist Qubad Ibadoğlu and his family hardly found the location of house where they spent their life before occupation in the videos taken from the previously occupied area. Rebuilding is the next challenge. These lands had been waiting for their owners. Those who loved and cared for …” The FB community shares a photo of the young draftees with very sad faces in Armenia being blessed by the pastor, commenting that this reflects lack of motivation to fight in the adversary’s army and the reason of hiring of mercenaries from the Middle East. FB users also share memories of the atrocities against the Azerbaijan civilian minority in 1988, committed in the Armenian region of Gukark. FB informs about the departure to the front of the son of the ex-prime minister Panah Huseyn, the lawyer Vagif Huseyn. Meydan TV quotes from the interview of Ilham Aliyev to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica: “I think that the sooner the war ends, the better. We have suggested this proposal, which was very constructive. And I have said many times during the last month, if the prime-minister of Armenia takes responsibility to withdraw all troops from the occupied territories, we are ready to stop it today” The lawyer Aslan Ismayilov appeals to the Armenian FB readers to stop the war, the solution to which is in their hands, not to send their young people to the war, because their kids are not fighting on their territory. Osmangizi TV discusses with both national and foreign – Arif Shahmarli, Ayten Aytaj – experts, why there is such support of society for the military operation. Azadlyg newspaper reports on the criminal case opened against the person who was spreading the video from the front line in violation of the security in wartime, and due to undermining the safety of the soldiers.
FB users point to the contradictions in Armenia’s decision making – Pashinian asserting that there is no diplomatic solution, while foreign minister and president Sarkisian looking for ways to establish a ceasefire. They also comment on Prosperous Armenia’s party MP Gevork Petrosyan’s sharp criticism of Pashinian, disclosing the unrealized promises of the latter, together with lack of budget resources and shortages of uniform, food, weapons. The FB community shares news with reference to Armenia Today’s news that 9 high level “officials of the Nagorno-Karabagh republic” were fired due to escaping from Karabagh and that criminal cases were opened against them.
Some journalists support the idea that Pashinian is a genius who is trying to get rid of the Karabagh issue, and to manoeuvre this away from Russia. Nurlan Libre considers that Karabagh besides the economic crisis has not brought anything to Armenia, so if Armenia can get rid of “Artsakh” and sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan, it will be ready to become part of the EU, the land borders with Turkey will be opened, with military expenditures redirected to education, science, and health. And there will be a lot of investments in the country, he concludes.
Human rights and social issues. The journalists and human rights defenders continue to keep violations of freedoms and rights and corruption at the centre of attention. The journalist Afghan Sadikhov started a hunger strike in prison. Meydan TV informs of the preparation of a report by the Azerbaijan Human Rights Organizations Monitoring Group on the deaths and destruction of property of the population at a distant location from the frontline settlements of Azerbaijan, as a result of shelling by the Armenian army. The report covers the period of 27 September–30 October and is 29 pages long. Habib Muntazir stresses that the plan to build a flag at the Baku Employment Agency for 35 thousand 300 manat is inadequate during the time of the pandemic when people are suffering unemployment, the population is giving its last money to the army, and has poor living conditions. The tender was won by “Lotus Co”, which has already won previous tenders totalling near 1m manat. “The flag of this country will rise high, when the prosperity of its people is achieved”, comments the journalist. The academic and politician, Jamil Hasanli, attracts society’s attention to the problem with the continuation of his grandson in Baku school (after a year of studying abroad, because of his grandfather’s fellowship in the US – he was adopted by Jamil Hasanli after his son died in the car accident). But upon his return the Ministry of Education for 40 days the decision has been dragging on as to whether to allow the continuation of his study in school #132. The Ministry refuses to give a copy of the decision and finds all sorts of excuses to explain the delay. Similarly, the mail from abroad is not being delivered to Hasanli’s home under the fake excuses of absence of address etc. The human rights organization Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth appeals to the international community to help to release its leader Elchin Mammad. He was arrested 7 months ago on trumped-up charges and sentenced to 4 years in prison, while being the only breadwinner of the family, with his health seriously deteriorating. He suffers with hepatitis C, with his kidneys and legs also affected. They also appeal with request to support his family, who consists of his elderly mother and two underage children. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev comments on the incident with the highway police at the Navayi post in which he reported on the Ombudsman’s office and presidential apparatus, urging them to punish the police officer, who had violated their rights and arbitrarily kept them at the post refusing to allow them back to Baku from the region.
Natig Jafarli warns the oligarchy and bureaucrats that after the war, there will be zero tolerance of corruption and misappropriation of resources, also because the restoration of the rehabilitation of the liberated lands will require significant resources. People discuss the statement of the UN High Commissionaire on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in connection with the Karabagh conflict. Jafarli comments on three minutes of this statement. 1) She stresses that 91 civilians were killed as a result of the Armenian attacks on Azerbaijan cities. She also added (apparently in order to look non-partisan) that they did not manage to verify this information. Jafarli asks whether the UN lacked the capacity to verify it, and why the UNDP office in Baku did not assist them. 2) She also stressed that they are concerned about videos of allegedly Azerbaijani soldiers shooting the Armenian POWs, while at the same time noting that only the respective court may qualify this as a military crime, 3).Jafarli is sure that there was an attempt to include the issue of mercenaries in the statement. He expressed his satisfaction that Mrs. Bachelet she did not mention it and did not get distracted by this political manipulative issue. The journalists share information that the officials in Armenia are preparing an amnesty in the country to send the prisoners to the front. They suggest that in connection with the war, Azerbaijan also should announce a “golden” amnesty, but not send them to the front, but restore justice and human rights.
The terrorist act in Vienna. FB users share the news about the terror incident on 2 November in Vienna, with 3 dead and 14 wounded, express condolences to its citizens, friends and colleagues, and decry the act of violence. They also report the participation of two Turkish sportsmen in saving people by taking them to hospital, risking their own lives.
COVID-19. FB circulated updated statistics on pandemic: on 3rd Nov. 15 dead, 1,242 newly infected, 551 recovered after treatment. By now the total number of infected is 58,282,768 dead, 45,300 recovered, the number currently ill being 12, 484.
Relations with Turkey. FB users share information by Haberturk quoting Ilham Aliyev’s statement that the army is “one breath away” from Shusha, which also was cited in response to the question of prime minister Binali Yildirim at the meeting with the Turkish Parliament. FB users share the news about the earthquake in Turkey and express condolences to people, friends, relatives who are there. They share news about the 4-year-old girl who survived in the rubble for 71 hours.
Relations with Russia. The FB community shares the statement by Putin about his vision of a long-term peace agreement. He states that the solution should respect and reconcile the interests of both Azerbaijan and Armenia, but there was no easy solution to this conflict, as everyone has their truth and a complex knot has been created. The FB community argues that Lavrov aims to stir the conflict when speaking about mercenaries from Syria, while Putin declares that Russia will intervene when fighting transfers to Armenian territory. The Azadlyg newspaper reports that Russian foreign minister Lavrov in his interview with the newspaper Kommersant expressed his negative attitude to any pressure put on the two states. ”Taking into account that Russia is united with Armenia and Azerbaijan with common historical, cultural, economic and humanitarian ties developed, any pressure, dictate or enforcement on the parties from our side is inappropriate”.
Relations with Iran. The FB community shared information about the speech of the Supreme Spiritual leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, on TV on the occasion of the commemoration of the 6th imam Jefer Sadighi. He called the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict “a bitter incident”, which undermined the stability and security of the whole region and that the lands occupied by Armenia should be returned to Azerbaijan. He also said that the security of Armenians who used to live on these territories should be provided and respect for the state borders should be pursued. “Similarly, there should be no terrorists positioned close to our borders. We have information that both sides are using terrorists, and if any approach our borders- we will give an immediate answer to it.” They also shared the view of the ex-ambassador of Iran to Azerbaijan, Mohsun Pakayin, that Azerbaijan has a right to liberate its occupied territories.
Relations with the US. The FB community shares, comments on and discusses the results of the US elections. The political and civil leaders speak about the importance of its outcome for world affairs, including the situation in the region. Some joke about Trump, who declared himself winning yet accusing the Democrats and election commissions of falsification, making parallels with Azerbaijan. One comments jokingly, “Cannot anyone tell them – you are eating the bread of the president, are not you ashamed?” Another one continues in the same spirit: “How come president Trump with such influence and power allowed this to happen? Just call the governors of those few states, Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan: give them the task until the early morning to put in each of the protocol numbers “1” and “0” in front of each result and resolve the problem. Because if you lose and one day go out without SMS permission and the police officer is rude to you, this won’t be fun, believe me. So start acting!” The activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev argues that the electoral system of the US needs serious reform, pointing to the number of its shortcomings. He considers that Biden’s victory, if he wins, will be contested in court.
Relations with the UK. People react to the BBC Russian service report about Lachin and the Armenians living there with indignation. The readers say that their “blood freezes” when they read complaints about Western indifference to Armenians in Lachin, where they never previously lived but moved there by expelling hundreds of thousands of local people in 1992.
November 6, 2020