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Why did Ilham Aliyev free 50 oppositionists (Our editorial)

14:00 17-03-2019
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So, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev made a decision that he felt was necessary. The head of state has issued the 33rd pardon decree of his presidency, freeing over 50 oppositionists from behind the bars, on whose release human rights activists insisted. The names of these prisoners were included in all the lists of international human rights organisations that recognised the arrested and convicted as 'political prisoners.'

Let us return to the initial thought voiced at the very beginning of the publication. Ilham Aliyev made a decision that he simply felt was necessary: besides, contrary to the mindset of the conservative part of the ruling party. The President freed the political prisoners not because the government weakened or began to listen to small informal circles like REAL, a biased network fronde or the marginal Karimli Front. Far from it, the government is stronger and more effective than ever. However, from the very first days of the new 2019, Ilham Aliyev announced a new course on economic liberalisation. A new generation of 'young reformers' has come to the new government and the presidential administration; an active fight against corruption, nepotism and monopoly over profitable spheres of the economy has begun; the basics of fiscal policy have been revised, primarily due to the reorganisation of the tax and customs services; reforms have spread to the banking system... And in the midst of reformation and revolution from above, the authorities were obliged to reconsider the system of relations in the political structure of the country.

The government literally everyday received unjust reproaches and accusations of turning the screws and planting a repressive hand-wheel, neutralising political opponents and persecuting critics. Was that really the case? Of course not. Critics of the Azerbaijani government sometimes forgot the whereabouts of the mandated country, because it was not about the Czech Republic or Estonia, but about a half-Asian multiethnic country, which still has one foot in the feudal era tinted by the scarlet colour of Sovietism. In a country for which the West European model of democracy and human rights means decentralisation, the collapse of the state apparatus, civil conflict and the chaotic growth of centrifugal forces. On remembers that at one time this very country country, where they tried to create a democratic system, almost broke up into several quasi-states. Fortunately, Azerbaijani had Heydar Aliyev. He came, reassembled and saved the country. We no longer have a second Heydar Aliyev. And the new experiment of building a state in Azerbaijan, conceived by Franklin, for whom the unshakable superiority of liberal freedoms over the will of the government, can turn the country into a second Libya with its endless civil war and triarchy. In Azerbaijan, absolutisation of political freedoms is perceived as the absence of a measure of political responsibility.

In countries such as Azerbaijan, the government must necessarily be resolute, tough and respond to the challenges of the time. But there is a very thin, almost invisible line between decisiveness and repressiveness. The Azerbaijani authorities are not repressive, but they are decisive and effective. If in countries such as Azerbaijan, the effectiveness of power begins to weaken, it will lead, if not to the decline of the entire political system, but at least to a crisis of the system of power relations.

Politicians and activists, freed by presidential decree, defied the government at one time or another. Moreover, they did not hide their frank intentions to begin or join the process of overthrowing the government. If we talk about the Western European model of democracy, then power can be replaced by elections, be it presidential or parliamentary. But none of the prisoners whom the West called political tried to achieve a power shift through elections. And even if he tried, then all attempts were a priori doomed to collapse. Not because the government was framing the election results. But because, as acknowledged by the opposition leaders themselves, first and foremost Ilgar Mammadov, the opposition and the so-called resistance movement were unable to organise a protest movement in defence of votes.

On the other hand, let me voice a fair question: when did the opposition achieve an impeccable election victory? If you talk about the current opposition leaders, that is, Ali Karimli, Ilgar Mammadov and Isa Gambar (who temporarily let Arif Hajili to head Musavat), these candidates for 15 years of Ilham Aliyev's rule never won an election. In 2003, Isa Gambar lost the election with a bang, and Karimli joined the outsider Etibar Mammadov. In 2005, oppositionists refused seats in parliament. In 2008, again boycott. In 2010, Karimli and Gambar chose a boycott, and Ilgar Mammadov went to the polls, but he managed to get only a shameful number of votes in the Binagadi district and humiliatingly admitted his own defeat. In 2013, boycott once more. In 2015, another boycott. In 2018, the opposition did not notice the elections at all...

And why were the activists, released today by the president, arrested in the first place? Well, how should have the government deal with one of the most corrupt in the history of Azerbaijan ministers, Ali Insanov? In addition, Ali Insanov himself embraced the clan theory of the dictatorship of the tribasauruses and began a power struggle within the government. The authorities had too many reasons to arrest Insanov. And the authorities did not fail to take advantage of the minister's 'rich capital.'

Ali Insanov

Ilkin Rustamzade? What should have the authorities done with the organiser of the riots in the centre of Baku in March 2013? Gezal Bayramli? The question is: for what purpose did Ms Bayramli deliberately transport tens of thousands of cash to the cause of the struggle in Baku? You can continue the list. But let's not remind about the past day and darken the festive civic mood. By their decision the authorities closed the question political prisoners. Once and for all.

The government released almost all political prisoners... and not because it weakened. Or, as the leader of the office plankton Ilgar Mammadov thought, the authorities heard the call of the opposition. Or, as Ali Karimli believes, the government retreated after the first and last successful protest in the last 15 years. If the power had weakened, stumbled or receded, would it have let out activists to the barricades who had been held in the dungeons for years? Where is the logic of our opposition men? The authorities simply knocked out the main argument for perennial manipulations and populist speculations from under the feet of the opposition and unfriendly, if not to say hired international organisations. From year to year, the opposition has been trying to convince the West and the vanguard of the international community of the repressive essence of the Azerbaijani government. And every time it had the opportunity, it waved this awkward list. Now there is no list. And the question is forever removed from the agenda. The opposition is left without an argument.

The second reason is, of course, the motive of humanity. For example, on March 22, Ali Insanov will turn 73 years old. An old man in the dungeons, suffering from a whole bunch of diseases, about which human rights activists have been talking about for years, insisting on his release. In addition, the ex-minister fully served his time and redeemed his guilt before the society. The government must think about the image, in which it will appear in the minds of the citizens. Power must be tough, but not cruel and despotic. And, of course, the President, continuing the humanistic policy of Heydar Aliyev, who restored the institute of pardon, opened the way to free life for 117 thousand prisoners (!!!), decided to release the former member of his government.

Gezal Bayramli

Or Gezal Bayramli: an elderly woman, passionate about the adventure of Ali Kerimli, spent more than two years for the crime committed. Should her imprisonment have lasted longer? And how would this be perceived by the society? Indeed, effectiveness and viability of the authorities depend on the attitude of the society towards it. After all, we are still talking about humanity and the humanistic space in politics. If power is humane, then it recognises the value of human freedom and dignity, his or her right to self-realisation. Humanism is not only an ideological system, but also the moral superiority of power.

The generosity of Ilham Aliyev is beyond praise. So after all, the President has forgiven even two vandals who had desecrated the monument to the founder of the Third Republic, National Leader Heydar Aliyev. It is necessary to understand, accept and share the feelings of Iham Aliyev. It was not only about the great polititician of the twentieth century, but also about his own father. It would have been difficult for an ordinary person to forgive such vandalism, but Ilham Aliyev, as the head of state and political leader, is above ordinary human feelings. And the President showed his condescension, responsiveness and justice, including these people who violated the code of honour, but were forgiven by the authorities...

Today's presidential decree confirms once again how confident and strong the Azerbaijani authorities are in front of real and perceived threats. The government calls the opposition to an honest and civilised struggle for power. And this path leads only next to the ballot boxes. If the opposition does not need new shocks, then the protest political force must understand: the power can be changed only by the number of ballots, and not by the number of barricades threatening stability and order!