Center for National and International Studies
“… Russia behaves like an aggressor and Baku keeps silence …”
The FB community continues to comment and to decry the arrival of the Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia’s speedy violation of the trilateral agreement, also their signing of a separate agreement with Armenia; greets the evacuation of the Agdam region, is concerned about unrest in the Lenkoran region, caused by the bureaucrats’ attempt to avoid compensating the war victim’s family, mourns the death of the former vice-premier, ambassador to Russia of government of Elchibey (1992-3), the prominent leader of the opposition and democracy promoter Hikmet Hajizade.
The arrival and activities of the Russian peacekeepers continue to be at the centre of attention of the FB community. Osmangizi TV discusses the topic of potential Turkish involvement: who is and is not in favour. The activists, journalists, and bloggers are greeting the retreat of Armenian army from the Agdam region, commenting with shock on the desecration of the liberated regions. Meydan TV comments on the rich infrastructure – schools, kindergartens, mosques, restaurants – of the Fizuli region, destroyed during 30 years, along with the disappearance of the posters with the names of the towns and villages, testifying that these settlements were used only for military purposes. The e-media reports on the video appeal of President Aliyev, who criticises Western leaders for being biased and keeping silence in regards violation of rights elsewhere except for Azerbaijan. He also decries the silence of the West in response to Armenia’s attack of Azerbaijan by the ballistics rockets, cluster and phosphorous bombs. It also reports the growing concern in the West about its non-interference in the frozen conflicts on its borders, and military incapacity especially in the context of the possible threat to European states themselves. The society as a whole commemorates the 29th anniversary of the tragedy in Garakend village in the Hojavend region, when on 20th November the helicopter MI-18 with 22 government officials, journalists of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan was shot down by Karabaghi Armenian forces, with no survivors in the crash. The country lost its state secretary Tofig Ismayilov, the general prosecutor Ismet Gayibov, the MPs Vali Mammadov and Vagif Jafarov, chief of the presidential administration department and the journalist Osman Mirzoyev (father of the popular journalist in exile Sevinj Osmangizi). Ali Karimli, the leader of the PFP stresses that it was a great blow to the government of the country, and who knows maybe if not for that incident, the country’s ensuing history would have been different.
Ali Karimli also praises Azerbaijani women, who dressed in military uniform carry the coffins of their husbands killed in the war. The FB community shares the photo of one of them, Nargul, who lost both a husband and a brother in this war.
The society of Azerbaijan mourns the death of the outstanding public figure, former member of the first democratic government of Elchibey, vice-premier, Ambassador to Russia, one of the leaders of the opposition, member of the board of Musavat Party, director of the FAR centre and noted democracy promoter Hikmet Hajizade (1954-2020). Leading political and civil leaders posted their tributes to Hajizade and his unique contribution to the state and democracy building of Azerbaijan. His colleagues, students, and friends share memories and feelings about him – a true democrat, humble, with love for people and the country, a disinterested fighter for human rights, and the future of the country. People widely share his 2019 interview where he warns against the introduction of Russian peacekeepers into the country: “Under the disguise of peacekeeping forces, Russia will bring troops in here and always keep Azerbaijan on its hook”
Gubad Ibadoglu, the leader of the ADR, reports the creation of an independent commission for assessment of damage to the evacuated territories, of which he is also a member. He points to the fact that the destruction reported by Western media in Fizuli (Euronews), Jabrayil and Agdam is a proof of the deliberate nature of revenge, but unlike in the case of Egypt’s similar, but weaker, actions in Northern Sinai, Human Rights Watch did not conduct any monitoring in Azerbaijan. He considers that because of the total damage to property, infrastructure and cemeteries on the occupied territories, they should be held responsible before the international courts and other organizations. He also attracts attention to the illegal production of wine in the Hojavend region of Azerbaijan, which was sold worldwide under the name of Republic of Armenia and that Hadrut and Fizuli regions arable lands were used for vineyards and wine production, including them on tours for visitors. The famous journalist and blogger Mehman Huseynov, who returned to the country after he was treated for cancer abroad, has been visiting families of the war victims and telling their stories to his followers on FB. He notes that so far he has not seen any of them living in 2-3 storey houses or villas. He describes the death of the female medical nurse Arasta Bakhishova, who volunteered to the front despite her two underage children and elderly mother, saving dozens of soldiers, but losing her own life. He praises numerous cases of heroism of average citizens who sacrificed their lives at the front.
Reaction of political and civil leaders. Political and civil society leaders meet with indignation the actions of Russia in Azerbaijan. Ali Karimli of PFP seriously questions the legitimacy of the Russian signing of a document with the Republic of Armenia, regulating her peacekeeping activities in Azerbaijan. He decries the silence of Baku in response to the equalizing of Azerbaijan and separatist junta in Karabagh. Arif Hajili, the leader of the opposition party Musavat, states that the plans for submitting for consideration at the French parliament the draft on recognition of the Nagorno- Karabagh regime will cause resumption of hostilities and stir the conflict. France, says the statement, has failed to realize its mission in conflict resolution for many years, as a co-chairman of the Minsk group. While this decision will not have any legal force, he appeals to all the Azerbaijani diaspora structures to neutralize this initiative at its inception and assures the Musavat party will do its utmost to prevent the adoption of such resolution.
Jamil Hasanli, the academic and the former presidential candidate, comments on the de-occupation of Agdam. He stresses that the highest number of victims – soldiers in the first Karabagh war was in Agdam – 6,000 died from this region only, with 126,000 expelled from their hometowns. He recalls the history of this old city, which was wealthy both in the material and cultural sense in the early 19th century, when it was colonized by Russia. He reminds readers that because of scale of destruction, Agdam was called “the Hiroshima of the Caucasus” by the Lonely Planet guidebook. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat comments, that the one-sided coverage of the conflict by the Western media is caused by the influence of old Armenian diaspora there, which could not be counteracted by the meaningless and extremely expensive projects by the current regime – such as European Games, Eurovision, or Formula 1 rally. Instead of them, the government should have developed serious intellectual centres, media outlets, think tanks, etc. which would destroy the one-sided stereotypes about history and policies of the parties to the Karabagh conflict. Natig Jafarli of REAL comments on the mass campaign in the Western media about the preservation of Christian monuments in Karabagh and the liberated regions as if the world just opened its eyes and saw it only now, that it serves the purpose to promote the idea that “we were there first” and “the Azerbaijanis are vandals”. He argues that this is taking place in spite of Azerbaijani’s painstaking restoration of the historical and Christian monuments in the country, while most of the Azerbaijani monuments under the Armenian occupation were totally destroyed. Why they did not speak about it during all those 26 years, he asks ? He also admits that this was due to guilt of the country herself, which had kept silent about it too.
Fuad Gahramanli decries the bilateral agreement between Armenia and Russia about peacekeepers’ activities in Karabagh and that after that there was no a similar agreement signed between Baku and Moscow. He appeals to the foreign ministry to declare this agreement illegal.
Perception of Armenia. The FB community shares news about the resignation of Armenia’s defence minister Tonoyan, who had been in office since May 2018. They also share information about Pashinian’s preparation of the roadmap and that he promises to report on its implementation next year. They report the transfer to Khankendi of another 1,300 Armenians: altogether since the arrival of the Russian “peacekeepers” almost 4,400 people have been returned there and that this operation is ongoing.
Human rights and social issues. Ali Karimli decries the extension of the detention term of the leader of the Popular Front Party Ali Karimli’s security guard, Niyamaddin Ahmadov, until 23 April 2021. After his detention in April 2020, the prosecutor opened a criminal case against him based on trumped-up charges and sentenced him to imprisonment. He was not allowed all this time either direct or telephone communication with his family. The democratic community attracts attention to the 19-day hunger strike of the journalist, editor-in-chief of the AZEL TV site Afghan Sadyghov, calling on the community not to stay indifferent, as there is a direct threat to his life. People stress that there should be a mission of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to document the situation and state of the property and infrastructure in the de-occupied territories. FB community states with irony that country is going back to “normal”. They complain of the confusion and lack of clarity in the official decision-making on rules of a new pandemic lockdown. The FB community widely shares the story of the firing of Huseyn Hasanov from his job as a teacher at the European Azerbaijan Educational School because he was an organizer of a boycott campaign against the McDonald’s branch in the country, for placing a banner of the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno Karabagh on its site. It is mentioned that one of the founders of the school is Taleh, the son of Kamaladdin Heydarov. The released political prisoners describe their time in prison. One of them, Seymur Ahmadsoy, wrote about attempts to co-opt him by three people in civilian clothes. They offered him plenty and a prosperous life in exchange for working for them and he disappointed them by refusing. He also reported severe torture and warned that if something like that happens again, he would commit suicide. Ilkin Rustamzade shares his hard experience facing a slander campaign both in prison and currently while he is out of prison. The activist in exile comments that victory was earned by the victims of the poor families, while Aliyev by one signature just brought Russian troops back to the country. People widely share the videos of protests in Osakuche village in the Lenkoran region related to the attempts to present the soldier Farajov Aflatun, killed in the war as the victim of a road accident with the purpose of misappropriation of compensation by corrupt bureaucrats. At the same time the Cabinet of Ministers issued a decree according to which anyone who suffered as a result of Armenian aggression should be considered a war victim. The soldier handicapped since the 1st Karabagh war has been complaining that he and his 3 underage children have been waiting for a new apartment in Sabirabad since 2012 according to the president’s decree, but that the executive head is not considering his case.
Relations with France. The activists decry plans of the French Senate to submit on 25th November the issue of recognition of the Nagorno-Karabagh regime at a Parliament meeting and argues that this will only stir the conflict, if does not take into account the interests of the Azerbaijan community. The opposition leaders stress that Macron has turned the problem of Karabagh into the one of Turkey. If the recognition takes place, it will be hard for Azerbaijan, he considers, but it will not be the end of the world; however it will be a blow to the plans of the EU to expand in the Caucasus.
Relations with the US. The FB community quotes Barak Obama’s book about Putin: “Putin is the head of a street gang, but he has nuclear weapons in his hands”. They also share the quotes from the interview of the former US ambassador to Azerbaijan Mathew Bryza that Turkey provides for the outstanding balance in the region.
Relations with Russia. People decry the photos with the rally of cars in the city with Russian flags on them along with Turkish and Azerbaijani. They call it a shame and stress that Russia had made all Caucasus people unhappy and is the trouble of humanity. The prominent activist argues that “Russia is not our friend or brother, and never will be. Let whoever loves her do it, but do not try to impose your love on others.” The other activist in exile warns the authorities that although they managed to bring Russian troops as the guarantor of their power, neither Azerbaijan, nor the nation, nor history will forgive them. The opposition activists, civil society leaders and bloggers share with indignation the news about Russian Defence Minister Shoigu signing an agreement on the regulation of the Russian peacekeeping mission with Prime Minister Pashinian, although they are on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. Seymur Hezi, deputy head of the PFP, states that Russia does not respect the agreement signed on 9th November and behaves like an aggressor. 1) It issues decrees about Azerbaijani territory 2) Assesses the damage to the Armenians on Azerbaijani territory 3) Signs the agreement regulating the peacekeeping operations on Azerbaijan territory with Armenia 4) Speaks to Azerbaijan in a language of threats – mentioning that similar to the recognition by the US of Abkhazia and Ossetia, Armenia should have recognized the Upper Karabagh. 5) The worst is that Baku is keeping silence. The activists report with concern the crossing of the Russian-Azerbaijan borders by the 27 trucks with 45 tonnes of “humanitarian” aid for Karabagh – under the control and implementation of the Ministry of Emergencies of the Russian Federation. Gubad Ibadoglu of the ADR published an article in Turan.az where he analyses the threats and risks related to the entrance of Russian peacekeeping forces and the new status quo. He argues that this location of peacekeepers increases the influence of Russia over the region and the dependence of both Armenia and Azerbaijan on Russia. Neither country will be able to implement any joint project without the consent of Russia. Also, because Azerbaijan will now have to balance its relations between the Northern and Southern regional powers (Russian and Turkey) – none of whom is interested in integration with the West – Azerbaijan will be postponing its integration in Euro-Atlantic structures for an indefinite period. This trend is likely to be affected by the anti-Azerbaijani stance of the West during the last 44-day war, including calls for sanctions in a few European parliaments and a few US states. This will not only lead to changes to the foreign policy of Azerbaijan but also cause strong anti-Western sentiments among the public. He considers that the security of the energy transportation routes is also under threat, as Russian now controls all of them. He quotes the results of the survey by Canal 13 among 5,400 respondents which shows that more than half are happy with the peace agreement but strongly condemn the arrival of Russian troops in Karabagh.
November 24, 2020