Center for National and International Studies
“… Iran’s main concern is not history, but the cooperation of Azerbaijan with Turkey and Israel …”
The FB community is seriously concerned and decries the provocation around Shusha of Armenian forces and the spread of the Russian map of Karabagh with its altered borders; discusses the visit of the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group to Baku and the statement of president Aliyev that he did not invite them; commemorates and shares stories of the young people who died in the war; continues to discuss Turkish prime minister Erdogan’s speech at the parade in Baku and the reaction it caused in Iran; perceives as unbalanced the Human Rights Watch report about civilian targets and decries the activities of the Russian peacekeepers, as well as welcome news about prosecuting of 4 national military for the mistreatment of captured in the war.
The FB community denounces the military provocations by the Armenian forces in the Hadrut region, in the villages of Sur, Taglar and Chaylaggala. The Ministry of Defence has issued the statement that instead of withdrawing, the Armenian army has strengthened its position in Hadrut and is attacking those who are implementing civil services in the liberated territories, resulting in human casualties. The leader of the Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, honours the memory of Seid Rashidzade, one of the young people who died while raising the national flag at the front -son of Nofel Gasimov, who was head of executive power of Fizuli region in the Elchibey government in 1992. The father said: “Everyone who died in the war is my family member. When I was the age of Rashad, I also protected my region, and personally participated in the burial of 125 of our young people who died in the first Karabagh war. I think it is even possible to survive the loss of a family member – as you can see, I am still alive 40 days after my son’s death – but it is impossible to survive the loss of one’s homeland”. One of the journalists reports that while recording his interview with the parents of the martyr, his father showed the video sent by his son from the battlefield, when they were climbing the hill and had a shortage of breath: “Do you hear the sound?- asked the father, “this is my son’s breath …”
Ilham Aliyev, reacting to the Armenian provocation in the Hadrut region, stated that “Armenians should not attempt to start all over again, and as I said at the military parade devoted to our Victory 2 days ago, that if Armenian fascism raises its head again, we will hit it with an iron fist”. The Russia Defence Ministry has officially confirmed the first violation of ceasefire since the signing of the agreement on the 10th November.
FB shares a report that on 13 December a few Azerbaijan military were involved in a landmine explosion on the liberated territories of the Agdam region, with one killed, another seriously wounded. Activists and bloggers note the discrepancy between the statement of Sergey Shoigu that the transfer of the peacekeeping equipment to Karabagh was completed a few days ago, and the most recent arrivals in Armenia of a few Russian planes with unknown loads.
The FB community discuss and share information published by the Azadlyg newspaper about the reasons for the distancing from the army of a popular frontline commander, Tehran Mansimov, and his replacement by Hagverdi Dadashev. One is that he allegedly resisted the command to stop advancing after the liberating of Shusha, and the other that he had spread videos and photos from the battlefields.
The FB community shares impressions, photos and reports from the Victory parade on 10th December, among them photos of women holding portraits of their family members who died at the front. They continue to share the reaction of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif to the popular poem which Erdogan recited at the parade, about Azerbaijan being historically divided forcibly into two parts, and criticize the authorities for not immediately responding to it. FB reports that Ramil Asgarov, nephew of ex-head of Army Headquarters general Najmaddin Sadikhov, was fired from his job as head of the Main Office of Internal Security.
The activists urge coordination in the work of official organs in terms of information services. The Ministry of Defence, they argue, should not blindly follow Aliyev’s statement that “the war is over”, but operatively and immediately inform the public about the recent Armenian provocation in Hadrut. The FB community continues to joke and ironically comment on the information about “mercenaries” in Azerbaijan.
Human rights, freedoms and social issues. The human rights defender of the oil workers, Mirvari Gahramanli, reminds that in March 2020 the president declared the firing of workers to be unacceptable, but it looks like SOCAR has started firing its employees under the guise of “strict quarantine”. FB reports violations in payment of compensation to the families of the dead and injured in the Karabagh wars. A feminist, Rabiyya Mammadova, reports that in the country with more than 4,000 daily infected with coronavirus, the salaries of medical personnel will be cut by 20% in December. In addition, the employees of the module type of hospital in Zig and those staying in quarantine in the Village of Athletes have had food poisoning. She reports witnessing the self-sacrificing work of the medical employees of these hospitals, who do not see their families for months, live in the hospitals or hotels and urges the authorities to value their work.
Tofig Yagublu suggests trying to look for in the recently announced list of the martyrs at the front, the names of sons of the corrupt officials-oligarchs. He also discredits the official sites which report the commemoration of ex-president Heydar Aliyev at the liberated territories which the IDPs have not yet returned to. Many human rights defenders and civil leaders decried the last report of the Human Rights Watch on Upper Karabagh civilian targets as unbalanced and regret the undermined credibility of this international organisation, but praise Amnesty International’s report. Khadija Ismayil comments on the persecution of those who committed atrocities: “Four Azerbaijani servicemen are arrested for atrocities. This is the response we requested from the Azerbaijani government and what both the president and his aides have declared will happen. I hope all incidents will be addressed accordingly. Waiting for Armenian prosecutors to act upon atrocities committed by Armenian servicemen. I am sure there will be no investigation on their side and Armenian civil society will not demand one. Just putting the record straight. Next time when you, dear International media, talk about fascism and make generalisations, keep in mind this difference.” The issue of Russian peacekeepers and media freedom is often appearing in FB discussions. Shahin Jafarli comments that while Russian troops, who violate the sovereignty of country and people, will be in Azerbaijan for 5 years, the society should do its utmost to develop free media and other democratic institutions to be able to monitor and control them. He argues that if there was a democracy and strong parliament, the president would never have been able to sign this agreement on 10th November, and due to the absence of democracy most probably there will be many more unpopular decisions from now on. He stresses that the president should not be the only decision-maker in the country and that with entrance to the country of its peacekeeping troops, Russia has increased the tools of its pressure on Azerbaijan and by threatening of taking away Upper Karabagh can force it to join the CSTO…” We do not need “the father of the nation”, he concludes, “we need to change this ugly system without delay”. The activists urge the government to start addressing social issues of the families and participants of the war without delay, including providing for welfare, education and health fees of their underage children until they turn 18. One of the FB users comments that in this country whatever rules are getting harsher are for the poor and deprived, but whatever is made softer, in the interests of the rich and powerful.
Economy, corruption and monopolies. The activists decry the monopolies and business of the president’s family. They mention the supermarket brand Bravo, which belongs to the latter, the new outlet of which was just built on the most narrow, heavily trafficked road urgently in need of enlargement, commenting that the family only adds to problems of the people and that it never stops enriching at its expense.
COVID-19 pandemic. The activists, bloggers and journalists note the critical situation with the health system’s capacity during the recent increase of the infected. Natig Jafarli of REAL suggests that there is no sense in strict quarantine measures if the capacity of the health system is not operatively upgraded; he also notes the economic decline with a GDP decrease over 4%, which indicates the development of a deep crisis in the economy that would be aggravated by declaring a strict new quarantine. He argues that the experience of the Asian states in targeting vulnerable groups could be an alternative solution. The representative of WHO in Azerbaijan, Hande Harmanchi, urged the population to be extremely alert and to take all precautions against getting infected, since if the situation continues to develop this way the health system may never recover from this shock.
Reaction of the political and civil leaders. Isa Gambar, the former chair of Musavat party called the Victory parade a manifestation of strength of national army, the power of national solidarity and will, and the indication of future cooperation with Turkey in the times of peace. Gultakin Hajibeyli of the National Council of Democratic Forces praises the agreement about visa free regime between Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as liberating of Hadrut town. Tofig Yagublu comments on the speech of Ilham Aliyev at the parade that he knew and promised in his swearing-in ceremony in 2003 he would return the lands. He ironically notes, that first of all that election was won by Isa Gambar of Musavat party, so Aiyev’s victory was falsified. How would he know that the next election of 2008 also would be falsified, the Constitution would be amended, followed by another falsified election in 2018, Pashinian will come to power in 2018 and Putin will decide to punish Pashinian for distancing from Russia? Besides, he concludes, his father Heydar Aliyev, also promised that in his swearing-in ceremony. The leader of the Azerbajan People’s Party Panah Huseyn stated, that if the remaining Armenian detachments and terrorists-separatists of the Upper Karabagh are not withdrawn soon, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers will be the main issue of political agenda of Azerbaijan.
Reference to history. The prominent historian Jamil Hasanli has disclosed another archival document, which he and his colleague historian Eldar Abbasov researched in Moscow archives. This is a letter by a group of Armenian public figures-communists addressed to the general secretary of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev during the all Soviet discussion of the new Constitution of 1977. The letter based on falsified historical data urges Soviet authortities to transfer Upper Karabagh autonomous region along with the another 10-15 thousand km border lands of Azerbaijan (2-3 times greater than Upper Karabagh region) to Armenia. The letter was signed by the old communist since 1903 Faro (Faranzdem Knuniants- Rizel), writer Silva Kaputikian, first secretary of the Upper Karabagh autonomous region Tigran Grigorian and others. The arguments justifying this request included – 90% of Armenia republic consists of stones and hills, the territory of Azerbaijan bigger than Armenia, while 200 thousand Armenians from abroad has arrived there and more are expected etc.
Perception of Armenia. The FB community reports the official number of Armenian losses at the front, spread by Armenia’s Ministry of Defence – 2, 996 people. The e-media tells how war criminal Seyran Ohanjanian, officer of the Russian 366 detachment which committed the Khojali massacre, managed to escape during the battle of Shusha. In his interview with the Armenian media, he confirms that local forces in Shusha were defeated not as a result of betrayal, but of the superiority of the Azerbaijani army. The Azerbaijani media report about provocations in the Hadrut direction and the death of 3 Armenian troops. The community shares the statement of the Armenian foreign Minister with the co-chairmen that “The Upper Karabagh should be independent and Azerbaijan should return the occupied territories”.
Relations with Turkey. FB continues to circulate reactions to the speech of Erdogan and corresponding reaction of Iran to it. The FB community shares news that Turkey has arrested 11 Iranian agents in the country. The comments say that Azerbaijan also needs to do the same with Iranian agents on its own territory. The activists, bloggers and journalists greet the bilateral agreements with Turkey. They recall that since 2015 and 2017 there was a visa free regime between Turkey on the one hand – and Ukraine and Georgia on the other, and at last this regime was introduced with Azerbaijan too. Meydan TV reports the removal of the Turkish flag from the entrance to Shusha city in Upper Karabagh.
Relations with Iran. FB continues to discuss the reaction of the Iran’s officials to Erdogan’s speech, indicating that Iran was “angry” at the expression that “Araz was forcibly divided”. Iran’s foreign minister called the poem the ‘infringement of the sovereignty of Azerbaijan Republic’ and that nobody had a right to speak about Iranian Azerbaijan (province). The minister of communication of Iran protested by spreading the map of the region of the times of the Safavid Empire. The ambassador of Turkey in Iran, Derya Oz, was called to the Iranian Foreign Ministry where he was told that “the war ultimatum, the times of empires, territorial claims are all in the past. Iran will not allow anyone to intervene in anyone’s territorial integrity”. The activists also express their dissatisfaction with the absence of any official Azerbaijani reaction to the statement of Iran’s foreign minister in response to the speech of Erdogan. Javid Gara comments that speaking about history does not mean claiming lands, so Iran’s concern is related to the Turkish-Azerbaijani rapprochement and Azerbaijani-Israeli cooperation. “Even if we say these are old Iranian lands, Iranian officials will find something to object to”.
Relations with Russia. FB community shares the statement of Russia’s foreign Minister Lavrov, as reported by Azadlyg newspaper, “Azerbaijan itself has invited us”, in response to President Aliyev’s assertion that he did not invite co-chairmen of the Minsk Group to Baku. The human rights defender in exile and activist Elchin Abdullayev posted in Meydan FB group a status entitled ‘Russia and its “peacekeepers”’: “Azerbaijan people have been consistently and passionately struggling for 3 things – independence, liberation from occupation, and democracy. But Russia always creates obstacles and never changes her policy towards us. This is a policy of eternal hostility towards the Azerbaijani people. After the power change in Armenia and pro-Russian leader “appointed” there, the situation in Karabagh will become aggravated and most probably this situation is not far away”. E-media and the FB community share a new map of the borders in Upper Karabagh, which they call a scandal, as it violates the borders in the trilateral ceasefire agreement achieved on 10th November 2020 and causes serious concern, regret and dissatisfaction among the Azerbaijan public. The public questions the purpose and authority of the peacekeepers to spread this map, which is most probably an expression of dissatisfaction at the presence of Erdogan at the Victory Parade on 10th December in Baku.
December 15, 2020