BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV
Recently, an audio recording of a suspiciously sentimental speech of the leader of Azerbaijani Shiites Haji Taleh (Bagirzadeh - hereinafter Haji Taleh) has been posted on social networks. Today, Haji Taleh is a prisoner of the severe Gobustan prison and is serving a long prison term. An Islamist leader is accused of organising the Nardaran rebellion.
Nardaran is the Shiite cradle, the only religious oasis in Baku, where, due to natural historical reasons, a Muslim community originated, merged with the secular state power. Under the conditions of a hard political regime in Azerbaijan, world Shiism at one time managed to create a stable model of theocratic rule in the format of one small Absheron village. The authorities for many years turned a blind eye to Shiite self-government in Nardaran. However, the arbitrariness of the Shiite political force, which was striving to transfer this model of government to the whole country at full speed, forced the political power to make a rather difficult decision - to deal with the formal Islamic self-government that had been flourishing for decades. Not power, but adherents of political Islam in the person of Haji Taleh violated the social contract, encroaching on the foundations of secular state power.
Ilham Aliyev's government did what it had to do even earlier at the beginning of the 2000s, because the constitutional order of the neighbouring Islamic Republic, rather than official Baku, was more effective in the territory of Nardaran. Hiding behind the values of religious community, historical heritage and culturological interpretation of socio-political development, the leading geopolitical force in the East created its indestructible enclave in the territory of though neighbouring, but still sovereign state. The modern world knows only one precedent for such political manipulation, if not frank intervention - the model of Beirut, more precisely, the Dahya quarter, which fell under the control of pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Understanding the thin and invisible boundary between politics and religion shackled the hands of the Azerbaijani authorities.
After all, as Haji Taleh himself admits in his speech, the Azerbaijanis are carriers of the Safavid form of Shiite revanchism, exalted at the cost of the victory of the punishing sword of Kyzylbash, whose power restored great Persia broken by history from the ruins. Shah Ismayil and the subsequent dynasty of Safavid kings, and then Nadir Shah, just like Qajars later on, for centuries, if not forever intertwined the fates of two civilisations - Azerbaijani-Turkic and Persian, transforming Shiism from a confessional confrontational religious movement in a certain sense into a national-cultural self-identification (self-perception). The philosophical, moral and ethical side of the Nardaran dilemma stopped the Azerbaijani authorities for many years, until Haji Taleh made an attempt to transform the religious community into an active political force.
What did grate on the secular liberal forces most of all during the confrontation of the authorities with Haji Taleh as the new leader of the Shiite political force? During the Nardaran battles, an unprecedented incident occurred, namely, the co-optation of the liberal secular opposition in the person of Ali Karimli with Haji Taleh and the Islamists. Prior to these events, Ali Karimli acted as a pro-Western politician. After all, Karimli, a stubborn, if not frantic, supporter of integration with NATO, the EU and the entire Euro-Atlantic community, suddenly rushes to the other extreme, going into an alliance with the clerical force, behind which stand Al-Quds, CEPAH, Qom, Tehran, in a word, all institutions of the Shiite church, declared by Washington as the main threat to Western civilisation. How so? What could unite Karimli with Haji Taleh, for the liberation of whom the Popular Front, the National Council and other pro-Western political forces are fighting to this day? What kind of an alliance of a snake and a hedgehog? Moreover, Karimli's inner circle in social networks openly spoke in support of the Nardaran movement, fairly fascinated by the artistic glorification of the image of Shiite puritans, whom they began to call for an armed fratricidal struggle to change the constitutional order. Did Ali Karimli know about the true goals of the Shiite radical movement? Certainly, it is clear from the published audio recording of the conversation of Haji Taleh with his supporters.
'Our leader is Khamenei. And the democratic opposition knows that. The opposition realises that our leader is the red line, which we will never cross. And we openly told them that our leader is Khamenei,' Taleh says. What did the leader of the Islamists count on when he entered into an alliance with Karimli? Haji Taleh himself reveals his tactical goals: 'We do not have tribune, no media. And why don't we take advantage of their opportunities? Moreover, they show respect for our values and leaders.' That is, the political and spiritual leader of the Islamists himself admits that this is a tactical alliance, because there is an insurmountable abyss between Islamists and liberals - the supreme Iranian political power, which is served by supporters of Haji Taleh.
But it is necessary to answer the main seditious question: what were the goals guiding Karimli into entering an alliance with Shiite radicals who do not hide their ties with the Khamenei regime? The leader of the frontists this time again acts very cynically, in a dirty and treacherous manner, being ready for a consolidated alliance with antagonistic in its political direction and ideological values, but an active mobilisation force only for the sake of realising the main political task - overthrowing the legitimate power. That is the danger of the advancing opposition forces.
Karimli and the National Council do not have an action program, no team, no value philosophy, they are only full of a thirst for power. Overthrow Aliyev's power, and then we'll see! That is, let's act at random! How is it possible to expose the country to such an unknown misfortune, practically putting up a united front with the servants of the Tehran regime? Karimli himself is unaware that, having embarked on a new adventure, along with his disengaged fragile groups of unprincipled supporters, he can be absorbed by a well-organised, structured political force, eager to turn Azerbaijan into Lebanon. About this Haji Taleh openly says in his conversation. Listen to him, listen to his instructions!
For a long time, the leader of REAL movement Ilgar Mammadov has been indirectly accusing Ali Karimli of attempting an illegitimate struggle for power, in a thirst to raise the struggle and the revolutionary boom, unattached to the elections. Ali Karimli does not respond to Ilgar Mammadov. Indeed, in all the recent elections Karimli either boycotted them or supported other presidential candidates - at one time Rustam Ibrahimbayov, later Jamil Hasanli. And in the presidential election of 2018, Karimli did not participate at all, calling a handful of supporters to Mahsul Square, where he announced that there was no alternative but to boycott the election. And Ilgar Mammadov insists that the true liberal revolution is born of a desperate attempt of voters to defend their votes in elections.
And he is not far from the truth. But the struggle of Karimli, who entered into a tactical alliance with the servants of Tehran, is not tied to the election cycle. The frontist leader daily calls on the people and society for civil disobedience, social protests and the overthrow of power. And the revolutionary leader is not at a loss for examples. Karimli calls for turning Azerbaijan into Venezuela. Yes, Karimli every day inspires this thought to society through webcasting. Moreover, in this sincere goal he does not shun means of struggle, relying in large part on the Islamists, their broad electorate, and in general on the religious part of the population.
So, our main conclusion is that Karimli is preparing not for the democratic process and legal forms of struggle, of which Ilgar Mammadov often speaks, but for chaos and unrest. And together with the Islamists too. Which is openly spoken about by Haji Taleh. The question is - what is the purpose of Karimli artificially heating up the situation, calling on his supporters for mass protests? Moreover, without hiding the true goal of the expected unrest, the overthrow of power. What is this, if not open calls for a violent change of constitutional order? Did the elections take place in Azerbaijan? Maybe Karimli won most of the votes in these elections, and the authorities tampered with the results of the popular vote? The next elections in the country will take place not earlier than the autumn of 2020. And we are not talking about an election of the head of state in a country with a super-presidential form of government, but only about the parliamentary elections. And Karimli, rejecting the mechanism of change of power by electoral means, as is customary in the countries of civilised Western democracy, daily, if not hourly in social networks, calls the masses for disobedience, unrest, and in fact for an attempted coup d'état! In addition, with the support of the leaders of the Islamist movement. And besides, reinforcing his appeals with the historical truth about the 1979 Green Revolution in Iran. This time, Karimli commits not a political, but a criminal offence, which is punishable in all civilised countries to the fullest extent of the law. However, the Azerbaijani authorities, too, for some reason remain silent and just aloofly follow the strange scenario of the situation's development.
But maybe we are still mistaken? Then why is Ali Karimli still not noticing Haji Taleh's popular appeal replicated in the net? How to understand this? Where is Ali Karimli's response?