Center for National and International Studies
The FB community circulates individual stories of soldiers who died in the military operations dedicated to the liberation of occupied lands, discuss the awards given to them by the president, and the social welfare and compensation provided to their families. They decry the videos with scenes of mistreatment of the POWs by military and demand the prosecutor’s office to investigate and try those responsible. The FB community is also anxious regarding the rate of COVID-19 infection and the shortage of beds in the hospitals and medicines which can be found only on the black market for very high prices, and discusses the military parade celebrating the victory.
The FB community continues to share stories of the heroic fight of the troops – young people, ordinary soldiers and their commanders at the front. The government has started to give national awards to those who showed particular courage during the battles, although the selection of war participants for various national awards by the president has caused some controversy. They greet the post-mortem award of National Hero to general Polad Hashimov and Ilgar Mirzayev, killed in the July 2020 hostilities. The political leaders and civil activists highlight necessity of keeping the problems of the families of the killed at the centre of attention.
The e-media reports and FB community shares the routine activities of the leader of the separatists in Upper Karabagh, despite his being given up to an international search by the Azerbaijani government.
Hebib Muntazir reports the statistics of those killed in battle. Most of them – 310 – are aged 19, while the oldest, Ibadov Rafig, from Baku’s Garadag settlement, was born in 1965 and the youngest, Vusal Allahverdiyev from Samukh region, born in 2002 – whose brother Orkhan also died at the front. Among the fatalities was also a woman, military nurse from the Khachmaz region, Arasta Bakhishova, born in 1989. The majority of those who died were born after the first Karabagh war (2,078 people in total).
Mehman Huseynov, the blogger and activist, continues to tell stories of the soldiers who returned from the war. This time he posts the story of 21-year-old Ismayil Husenov from Jalilabad, the only son of his parents, who lost both eyes at the front. His father got so stressed that he lost his memory and stopped recognizing his son and his wife. Mehman Huseynov assures us that his sacrifice was not in vain and people will always be grateful for his contribution to the liberation of lands.
The FB community shares a comment on the news, based on a secret recording of the conversation between Lukashenka and Sargsian, that a few years ago Ilham Aliyev offered to pay Sargsyan $5b for the return of 7 regions.
There is a growing perception that president Aliyev tends to present himself as the main hero of the war. Afghan Mukhtarli, journalist in exile, comments that probably this is the reason that he did not make awards to some prominent participants of this war, while so many people showed enormous courage in battles and calls every single fighter in Shusha a hero. Tofig Yagublu ironically notes, that Ilham Aliyev gave orders of Victory to the ministers of law-enforcement bodies, for “apparently fighting in the front row of battles”. Khadija Ismayil also argues that the stories of “plagiarism of heroism” are distressing and expresses her indignation at the award to Ibad Huseynov, a military in reserve. Ilkin Rustamzade decries the fact that the conqueror of people’s hearts Tehran Mansimov did not receive any award, while Mais Barkhudarov got rather lower than he deserved – but that people while unhappy do not dare express any protest.
Hebib Muntazir reports that the ex-chief of the Army headquarters general Najmaddin Sadikhov, upon the liberation of Hadrut and Jabrayil regions, was detained during the military operation in the village Shukurbeyli and blamed for numerous casualties in the fighting in Fizuli direction. He was arrested by special forces in black masks.
Environmental issues do not evade the attention of the population. FB users continue to discuss the issue of the mass elimination of woods in the northern Azerbaijan region of Gusar, which is allegedly sold to villages which do not have a gas supply. The eco-activist Javid Gara reports that there are apparently plans to plant a new park across a territory of 800 hectares.
Political parties. The Youth Committee of the Popular Front Party has conducted elections to its Board and Majlis. The prominent young activists and former political prisoners, as well as journalists, were elected to these party structures – such as Fuad Ahmadli, Hazi Bey, Elturan Rustamli, Orkhan Salimzade, Nihad Huseyn and Ali Alizade. Ali Karimli praises the newly elected, including the chair of Majlis Turkan Jahangirli, for their high intellectual level and consistency in their struggle for democracy. He thanked the previous chair Ruslan Nasirli for his work, and appreciated the work of the chair of the Committee Emil Salim. Gubad Ibadoglu of the ADR, summarizing the results of the year, argues that both authorities and society should conduct a merciless struggle with corruption: monopolies should be eliminated, the shadow economy legalized, the rule of law established, the justice system – become independent. He urges the country to return to the EITI and become active again in Open Government Partnership. He reminds people that that his movement ADR has prepared a plan of “64 steps in eight directions for getting out of the crisis”. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat strongly decried the non-voting of Azerbaijan representatives for the two resolutions of the UNSC on 19th November and 7th December related to the occupied by Russia of Ukraine’s Crimea. He reminds us that Ukraine has always given support for all Azerbaijani resolutions in the UNSC.
Human rights and social issues. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat comments with irony on the government’s policy of aid to the victims of the Karabagh war. He argues that “to counterbalance the governing principle to “Kill” , the authorities decided to create a fund called “Live” (Yashat in Azeri language) to render aid to the families of victims of the war”. The decree was issued on 8th December and includes well-known personalities such as the writer Chingiz Abdullayev, head of Transparency International national office Rena Safaraliyeva, and musician Mensum Ibrahimov. He comments that the government simply decided to transfer its duties to private business. He reminds readers that in 2001, the Karabagh war I-handicapped veterans demanding a small increase in welfare held a hunger strike. Heydar Aliyev, then president, dispersed the protest action with the help of special force detachments, who were beating the handicapped with their sticks and prostheses. More than 500 veterans were arrested, while criminal cases were opened against 16. He concludes that only the price of the watch of the son of the SOCAR president Rovnag Abdullayev would provide for the welfare of hundreds of the war veterans – and this only a small amount of his inheritance. The FB community strongly denounces the videos of violence committed against captured adversaries. While the majority decries it and demands that criminals be tried by tribunal, there are some who justify it as a revenge for the Khojali massacres. The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov reports that when he sent the video with the violation of Geneva convention by the Armenian soldiers to the international human rights organization, they refused to take any action, justifying this by the “necessity to verify it”, which is understandable. But he also claims that unlike in Armenia, the Azerbaijani prosecutor’s office opened criminal cases against those who committed similar crimes in Azerbaijan. He confirms that a few local NGOs, including his own, are preparing a report and collecting evidence of the war crimes committed by the Armenian army. The Musavat activist Yadigar Sadyghli posted that he categorically rejects anyone who justifies the mistreatment of the captured in the war of his FB friendship and demands authorities to investigate and try each case. Khadija Ismayil decries everyone who shares and spreads the video and demands authorities to investigate and punish both who committed atrocities and shared videos. She wrote in a status update that she has always tried to be dedicated to human rights regardless of the political situation and was expecting the same from her colleagues in Armenia, but rarely witnessed it. Moreover, her partners across the border were using the death of her nephew at the front against herself, blaming her for not criticizing the war enough. She said that they were surprised that she wanted her country be free from occupation and the IDPs -to return to their homes. “I stood up against corruption because it was hurting my fellow countrymen; I stood up against Armenian occupation for the same reason”. She stressed that “This is not war-mongering. No one called resistance to Hitler war-mongering. No-one says Ukraine should not fight against Russian occupation”.
Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR urges the review of the amount of state COVID compensation to the citizens, to increase it and to give it to every citizen. Meydan TV tells the story of Shahmar Shalimov who had lived in Russia and had a good job – but returned home to go to the war. Now, in the aftermath, he was living in dire conditions, but unable to get a veteran’s pension. He regrets and wishes the country could better treat its citizens who fought in the war. Natig Jafarli attracts the attention of the authorities to the economic crisis in the country and urges them to seriously address it.
Reference to history. The historian and activist Jamil Hasanli reports an archival document – the letter of the Yezidi Kurdish community to Milkhail Gorbachov in 1989, where they denounce attempts to call them Yezidi Kurds, because they are Muslims, and their language is different from Kurdish language. They reported their number in Armenia as 70,000 and complained of being assimilated and deprived of their culture, language and identity in Armenia. He also posts another archival document – a transcript of the discussion of the Karabagh issue in its early stages at the Politbureau of the CPSU, with Gorbachov as chair. He comments that these documents show how the course of this discussion of the issue and the resulting decisions have led to the devastating war in Upper Karabagh.
COVID-19 The situation with the pandemic is getting worse. The Azadlyg newspaper writes about the situation and introduction of strict quarantine regime between 14th December and 18th January. It reports that the hospital treatment of a patient costs 1,000-2000 manats, that the required medicine cannot be found in the drug-stores and can be bought for inflated black market prices, the government has transferred to the regime the practice of “the survival of the fittest” and will not render any urgent help: the module type hospitals are already full, and require a bribe of 1,500-2,000 manats, there is a shortage of medical staff in the hospitals, while to get an intravenouse drip at home costs 30 manats, to be responded to on the emergency telephone lines (103 and 814) one has to wait for hours, and it is impossible to find an oxygen device for home patients in the most serious condition, The newspaper summarizes it as the country having been defeated by the infection, but like during all these 27 years, the government simply does not acknowledge it. Meydan TV reports that nearly 500 Azerbaijani citizens have been waiting on the state border in Dagestan to be able to return home from Russia, many running out of means of subsistence. FB users compare the current speed of spread of the pandemic in the country with previous months. Jamil Hasanli of NCDR states that compared to 5-6 months ago, the number of daily infected is 7-8 times higher (2-3 months ago = 3-4 times higher). He refers to the information briefing by the Operative Headquarters which disclosed that every 4th of those tested have positive results: 3-4 times higher than 4-5 months ago. 52% are those who live in the capital Baku. He notes that there are both objective and subjective reasons for that. Objective ones include the worldwide dynamic of the pandemic and the 44-day war, but the role of subjective factors is more important. He lists the latter – weak immune system due to the low nutritional level of rations, low level of health and social services performance and available protection, exploitation of the biological crisis (pandemic) for political purposes, falsification of national pandemic statistics, unemployment, absence of adequate compensation for the population, etc.
Relations with Turkey. FB reports the visit of Erdogan to the military parade in Baku on December 10th. Fuad Gahramanli of the PFP notes that this visit shows the importance of Azerbaijan for Turkey and the necessity to resolve the uncertainty of the issue of participation of Turkish troops in the peacekeeping mission. It is also expected that the bilateral agreements will be signed on duty free trade, exchange of national currencies and other matters. He considers that the response to Russia’s mainly military expansion by the deepening cooperation with Turkey in political and economic areas – is the most effective one. He concludes that although the military contest is over, the political one is still continuing and the best way for Azerbaijan’s national interests is to hold together with Turkey, and that it became obvious that even such a big concession to Russia in regards Karabagh did not make her more friendly to Azerbaijan. Ramis Yunus, the opposition activist in exile, stresses that Turkey will play a leading role in limiting Russia’s role in the region. The photos and comments making parallels between the events at the 10th December parade in Baku and the one 101 years ago, when the first military parade of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic took place in 1919 are circulating on FB. Both times these parades took place with participation of Turkish commanders and symbolized the freedom and security of the young republic.
Relations with France. The FB community discusses and decries the visit of the French delegation to Upper Karabagh, which was received by the ombudsman of the separatist regime Artag Beglarian. They comment that if the Russian “peacekeepers” are controlling the area, how could the French enter there? Why were the French not required to ask for permission from Baku to come into its territory? Or does Russia not implement its own statements?
Relations with Russia. The FB community reports and comments on Russia’s prohibition from the 10th of December of apple and tomato imports from Azerbaijan due to worms discovered in the vegetables. Gubad Ibadoglu, an economist and a politician, considers it a means of pressure on Azerbaijan, as the country gets more than $150m for the export of tomatoes only. He stresses that Russia is the only market for Azerbaijan’s non-oil sector, where it provides 30.9% of Russia’s tomato supply. He considers that this is related to the military parade in Baku on the 10th December, as it will display the trophy military equipment made in Russia and thus will discredit the latter. He suggests that the country should look for alternative markets for tomatoes and apples, conduct talks with Russia’s Agricultural Control Agency on market standards of the fruit and vegetables, and if the embargo is consistent – should respond with similar embargo measures. He also mentions that a major stakeholder of tomato exports to Russia is the company which belongs to Arzu Aliyeva’s husband Samad Gurbanov, the son-in-law of President Aliyev.
Natig Jafarli of REAL ironically comments that Russia, upon introduction of vaccination, declared the conditions for its implementation – stop drinking alcohol at least 42 days before. He comments that apparently Russia tries to secure itself from its ineffectiveness in putting forward unrealistic conditions, as there are at least four festivals ahead in Russia. He also stresses that the import embargo has demonstrated a failure to diversify the external markets for Azerbaijan’s agricultural products. Ramis Yunus comments that this war has become a litmus test of the personal qualities of many known people. He denounces the position taken by Mikhail Khodorkovski, Garry Kasparov, Victor Shenderovich, and Yuliya Latinina, who ignored the international law and took a pro-Armenian stance, which kept lands of Azerbaijan under occupation for almost 30 years. Ruzgar Movsum, the journalist in exile, comments that Russia is stirring the conflict again – he argues that both the video of Armenian’s mistreatment by Azerbaijani soldiers and the Azerbaijani soldier – by the Armenians are parts of the Russian plot. He says that while Ilham Aliyev declares that ordinary people can live together in peace, will Russia let it happen? If this happens, then why does one need Russia? He concludes that before both peoples determine not to get rid of Russia, there is no prospect of stability.
Relations with Iran. The e-media reflects what it calls the concern of Iran with the post-war developments and covers the visit of the Azerbaijani official to Iran.
December 11, 2020