Center for National and International Studies
“…The president should apologize for using ‘street expressions’…”
The FB community discusses the trilateral meeting in Moscow, the Russian peacekeepers, the problems of the families of the war heroes, the return of the IDPs to the liberated territories, the restoration of the regions, the damage under occupation, the targeting of the opposition, the disrespectful language to economists and the distortion of the history of the Karabagh war in the President’s last speech, the authorities’ “dialogue” with the opposition, and creation of the institute named after the first president, Elchibey.
Russian peacekeeping. The activists, journalists and bloggers continue to discuss the role of the Russian peacekeepers. The participants on an Osmangizi TV program, Tofig Yagublu and Fahmin Hajiyev stress that Baku is “closing its eyes” to the activities of Russian peacekeepers. The academic and opposition activist, Elmira Muradaliyeva, considers that the president’s crude rhetoric against the opposition is caused by his fear of the opposition’s criticism of Russian peacekeeping on the eve of the meeting in Moscow. The economist and politician Gubad Ibadoglu comments that the Ministry of Defence officially denied reports that Turkey is going to open three military bases in Azerbaijan and justified it by the country’s membership in the Non-Aligned Movement and its chairmanship in 2019-22. He stresses the selective approach of the government to the foreign troops – in the case of Russian peacekeeping the membership of the alliance was not an obstacle.
The results of the 2020. The assessment of the results of the past year by the officials contrasts with that of the opposition. The sites of the officials and functionaries of the ruling party praise the results of the war as “opening new perspectives” for the country. Siyavush Novruzov, a chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Regional Issues, writes that while the pandemic created problems for the health and living standards of population, it was a Year of Victory, as after 30 years the lands were free from occupation. He argues, as President Aliyev, that this year has demonstrated the power of the country in all areas – military, economic, political – which have played a positive role in the whole region, along with the unity of people and the government. Novruzov asserts that parliamentary elections had contributed to the development of democracy in the country, as they were “free, democratic, transparent and fair”. He also stressed the renewal of the officials of the parliament, where the deputy chairs of some commissions for the first time were occupied by opposition members. He also praised the initiation of a constructive dialogue between government and opposition. He repeated President Aliyev’s remarks about the National Council of Democratic Forces, calling them “anti-national elements, traitors”, who are playing into the hands of the Armenians, and falsely blamed the Elchibey’s Popular Front government for losing the lands in 1992-3, “sacrificing national for personal interests”. He concluded that the last year proved that the country’s future development under the current leadership would be successful and quoted President Aliyev’s claim that “We are on the right path”, who declared the beginning of stage of “great return, and great development”.
Trilateral meeting in Moscow. The FB community discusses the objectives of the trilateral meeting in Moscow. The leader of the ADR movement, Gubad Ibadoglu, reports that the opposition was very active in Armenia, putting pressure on their prime minister to reveal the draft documents planned to be discussed and signed at the trilateral meeting on January 11th. He also reports that the opposition, led by the Homeland party member Arsen Babayan, suggested going to the airport to prevent Pashinian’s flight to Moscow. He notes that in contrast with Yerevan there is no similar action in Baku and considers that the president should reveal to the public the information about documents to be discussed in Moscow, so there will be no stalemate like after the meeting of 9h November. Ibadoglu also reports that Putin before this meeting met with President Macron and called a meeting of the Security Council. He suggests that Aliyev should insist on making this meeting quadrilateral with the participation of Turkey. Besides, the provision of the agreement that parallels the location of Russian peacekeepers, a withdrawal of all Armenian armed groups should be implemented. There should be an end put to the visits of Armenian officials to the territory of Upper Karabagh. Ali Karimli of the PFP considers the trilateral format of the meeting dangerous for Azerbaijan. The other activists consider that one can expect from Russia only a revival of the Soviet legacies, that’s why they will try to bring to the table the issue of the status of Upper Karabagh, and by not allowing Turkey’s participation they determine to “defeat” Azerbaijan. The community discusses the possible agenda at the meeting – problems in realization of the 9th November agreement, the aid and restoration of the affected areas, unblocking trade, economic and transportation routes. It reports with reference to the Armenian prime minister’s press service, that the meeting would mainly relate to economic issues and the opening up of regional communications. Panah Huseyn, an ex-prime minister, argues that the priority topic for Azerbaijan at the meeting should be withdrawal of all Armenian armed groups from the country’s territory and that the so-called Karabagh army of self-defense should be dismantled.
Problems of the families of war heroes. The political and civil leaders attract attention to the social problems of the war heroes by posting stories about them and their families. Achig Azerbaijan reveals that the 22-year-old wounded in the war, Gismet Aliyev, asked for aid from Aliyev for an operation on his kidneys. He also reported on the poor material condition of his family because of his being the only breadwinner. Another case of the wounded Bahman Musayev is reported by Ali Karimli of PFP. The war hero is in urgent need of aid for surgery, having lost one eye and unable to see with the other due to psychological stress caused by warfare (PWS), but he and his family cannot afford the treatment. Zaur Israfilov is another one seriously wounded, with an underage child, but the hospitals are sending him from one to another instead of providing immediate treatment. His mother posted an appeal for help on social networks. The citizen of Beylagan region, Vasif Bayramoglu, who lost his eyesight in the war, reports on his desperate living conditions in a rented room in Khirdalan. He describes that when he tried to appeal regarding improvement of his living condition, not only did he fail to meet with the local governor, but even his deputy. The Azadlig newspaper site reports on a 400 Manats bribe being taken from the war veteran by the police in Agjabedi region, for allegedly violating the rules of quarantine. A war participant from another region (Beylagan), Mahmudov Mikayil, complained that the head of executive power did not receive him, while being at his workstation.
The 6th January speech of the president: disrespect to critical economists, attack on opposition and distortion of the history of the first Karabagh war.
The FB community decries the language of criticism towards the opposition and independent economists by President Aliyev, who said in a rude way that they “crow” and they should “shut their mouths”. The chair of NCDF in exile, Jamil Hasanli, states that the president’s attack on the opposition is explained by the latter’s strict protest at the bringing of Russian peacekeepers into the country. The economist and leader of the ADR movement, Gubad Ibadoglu, proposes writing a letter of protest to the president to demand his apology. “This language is not proper for the president, or at the level of a local governor – no public servant should speak this way to the people. These expressions not only spoil the official language, they lower the level of the speaker. If the president falls to this level, then our problems are greater than we thought”. He reminds that disrespectful expressions and insults were used by him before, too. The president called the founder of the Azerbaijan state M.E.Rasulzade a “traitor”, the first democratically elected president Elchibey an “alcoholic”, accusing the presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli of “playing into the hands of Armenians,” etc, and that society should have protested about that immediately. Vidadi Mirkamal of the NCDF demands that President Aliyev should publicly apologize for his usage of “street expressions” in official speech. Calling the opposition “traitors and sold-off” is a big blow to the national consensus. The leader of the country should not speak to its people in such language”, concludes Mirkamal. Alya Yagublu of Musavat considers that the leader of the “winner nation” should not feel a need to distort history and blacken the opposition. She argues that in this way he wants to distract attention of people from the Russians having won this war, to the domestic “government-opposition war”. She concludes that for the autocrats an issue of internal enemy is the most convenient tool to conceal the rule of corruption and falsifications. Arif Hajili of the Musavat party argues that Elchibey liberated the whole country from Russian troops in 1993. Unlike President Aliyev, he sacrificed his power to get rid of the Russian occupying forces, “but created a high example of one chosen by us political path of Rasulzade.” Ali Karimli of the PFP denounces the language of the president and contrasts his attitude to his own political rivals and economic experts with “humanism” towards the enemy. Karimli urges the president to show similar humanism to his own war heroes and victims. The FB community denounces the distortion of the history of the first Karabagh war in the president’s speech. The well-known journalist Khadija Ismayil comments, that the generation who witnessed that history is still alive and remembers that the majority of the territories were lost during Heydar Aliyev’s rule. She tells that “Ilham Aliyev broke the record of lying” in his speech and forgot that he was petty trading on the route from Moscow-Istanbul, while the opposition was defending the lands in the early 90s. Besides committing a crime of bringing Russian troops into the country and allowing a “humanitarian” corridor for transferring weapons for the Armenians in Karabagh, for which he will be held responsible, the country’s president is a ‘liar and uncultured’, she concludes. Panah Huseyn, a former prime minister, calls the ideas of the president Aliyev regarding the late president Elchibey as “false, unethical, inappropriate” and that the history will judge who was right during this period. The journalists also comment that the official Baku called the rumours about a “visa free” regime between the two countries irrelevant, because there are no diplomatic relations between the two states. The MP of REAL Erkin Gadirli also stated that the “some expressions of the president in his last speech are not appropriate to the level of the head of state” and “if he believes his own idea of a dialogue, he should stop speaking this way”. The Azadlig newspaper interviews the chair of the NCDF Jamil Hasanli asking his questions, based on President Aliyev’s accusations. He reminds that in 2008 Ilham Aliyev triumphantly declared that there will be no opposition in Azerbaijan, because his greatest wish, Hasanli argues, was to destroy the country without any resistance or opposition. Since then the president has been tirelessly devoting all availble resources to achieve that goal, suppressing opposition, free media and civil society. He explains the president’s recent attacks on NCDF by its criticism of bringing Russian peacekeepers into the country, the refusal of PFP and NCDF of participation in any so-called “dialogue” with the government. Tofig Yagublu comments on the idea often repeated in the social media, that crude rhetoric is not appropriate to the president, saying that in fact “Aliyev himself is not appropriate for the president position”.
Human rights. FB users share the story of the prisoner of the 17th prison Talibov Vugar, who went on hunger strike in response to discrimination by the prison authorities. He was not allowed, unlike others, to attend the burial of his brother who was killed in the war. The official of the prison explained it by reference to the different regimes existing in specific prisons. Tofig Yagublu reports that while Azerbaijani authorities declared the creation of a range of conditions for the Armenians POWS to communicate with their families, they denied any similar right to political prisoners of their own country. Niyameddin Ahmadov in 9 months behind bars, has not been allowed to meet or call his family, nor even write a letter.
Problems of IDPs. Concerning the plans for returning internally displaced persons to their liberated homelands, Meydan TV stresses that IDPs have been living in temporary accommodation for 30 years, waiting for the improvement of their living conditions, so it would be unfair to make them wait for another 5 years until the liberated regions are restored. Those who have been living in hostels should be a priority for improved accommodation in the restored regions. The FB community shares the news by the deputy chair of the Committee on IDPs and Refugees, Fuad Huseynov, on TV, that the return to the liberated lands is a personal issue of any IDP and will be resolved on a volunteer basis, but in such case their status of IDP will be lost. Meydan TV quotes the MP Ulvi Guliyev, who said that “Karabagh practically needs to be rebuild from zero, as the enemy left a desert there.” He stresses that the recent increases in the price of gasoline should not be used for the artificial increase of prices in other areas. The state agency on IDPs and Refugees reported the instructions to the ministry to allocate 4.700 apartments to the families of war martyrs and wounded. Habib Muntazir argues that the authorities create numerous foundations, where the money collected from one sector of the population is put into the pockets of the others, and that this is called “development”.
The governance. The media reports the arrest of the chair of the Azerkhalcha (Azerbaijani carpets) company’s Board Professor Vidadi Muradov for mass scale corruption. Previously he transferred his 6 months’ salary to the Fund for Fighting the Coronavirus. His son works as head of the police of Sabayil region (center of Baku). The economists ironically comment on Aliyev’s mention of the high rating of Azerbaijan in his recent speech, sharing the list of states which were grouped with Azerbaijan – most of whom are developing states from Africa and Central Asia. The FB community ridicules the MP Imamverdi Ismayilov who stated that “It’s not enough to say that Heydar Aliyev is a prophet. He is God himself!”
Creation of the institute of Elchibey. The activists discuss the objectives, details, structure and logo of the Institute named after first democratically elected president Elchibey, who was in power in 1992-3. President Elchibey was characterized by deep democratic values, high political culture, humble behavior. He first of all within 15 republics managed to get rid of Soviet/Russian bases, made democratic reforms and laid the basis of free and open society.
The events in the USA. FB users continue to discuss the situation in the USA. A blogger comments with irony that there is one advantage of Azerbaijani citizens compared to Trump – unlike him, they can still post on FB. Azadlig newspaper re-posted a pamphlet by an activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev: “Is Trump a member of the opposition NCDF or PFP? Twitter has closed Trump’s account. The explanation was: he is mad, one can expect anything from him”. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev continues that if Trump was clever enough, he would send in the CIA and FBI to the offices of Twitter, have all the personnel arrested and put in the CIA detention center – then they would correct their behavior. What is it? How dare they? Is he a member of Azerbaijan opposition, that they would close his account, or eliminate his telephone number?”, he concludes.
January 12, 2021