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Tərəqqipərvər. İlqar Məmmədovun bloqu, Est. 2006
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Russians feel righteous when they demand anything from Georgians and Armenians because of their sense of history. A typical Russian policymaker believes that when Russian empire came to Zakavkazye in the end of 18th century there were only 500 Georgian families left on those lands, that the Empire with the Orthodox Church in charge of its foreign policy agenda handpicked Georgians (later on also Armenians mostly brought in from Persia) as Christian loyalists against the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and Muslim Tatars (Azeris), and that Georgians and Armenians must be eternally thankful because other options were also on table then, and neither Russia had an obligation to save them from extinctions, nor Georgians and Armenians had had any selling point then.

But, what about Azerbaijan? How can Russians at least emulate pretence in talking to Azerbaijanis who always lost territories to their favorites? Well, Russian colonialism in Azerbaijan had great positive dimensions, too, but history renders Russians handicapped when they talk simultaneously to Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis on what matters to the three now.
In that respect, a de facto monarchy in Baku owing its roots to the Russian colonialism and odious enough to maintain the current ugly, anti-democratic architecture of South Caucasus security, and political identity, is an answer to the challenge, Moscow has been facing in Azerbaijan since independence.

Aliyev’s dynasty was technically (not knowingly, though) founded in July 1969, when Heydar Aliyev became Moscow’s satrap in Azerbaijan. According to the official propaganda, the true development of Azerbaijan had only begun after that.
However, the dynasty dares not to mark its 45th anniversary in a style that would match the glory of the myth. Celebration of the will of Brezhnev while Putin is reinventing the “doctrine of Brezhnev” in Ukraine may expose to the West (which still counts a bit) even more the level of dependence of the dynasty on Kremlin.

Azerbaijan is already the only failure of the US-driven GUAM and one of the three failures of the EURO-driven Eastern Partnership (together with the CSTO members Belarus and Armenia) – in terms of democratization and foreign policy affiliation. And, the history may explain why.
The dynasty is not good even for the strategy of Finlandization (of Ukraine and beyond), recently suggested by Brzezinski, as the country would still be required to shine democracy.

Adding some western politicians in the dynasty’s direct and indirect payroll seems to be the only, and really strange outcome of the historic failure on the GUAM and Eastern Partnership tests. How precisely that outcome is going to backfire at the West’s interests remains to be seen.

Ilgar Mammadov
Republican Alternative (REAL) Movement
Prison of Sheki, Azerbaijan
This question will/will not be asked on 25 June 2014 at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after the speech by Azerbaijan ruler IlhamAliyev:

Mr. Aliyev, on 21st of June 2013, at the join press conference( with President Barroso in Brussels, you were asked a question as to why your government has arrested your rival, Mr. Ilgar Mammadov, eight months before the presidential elections.
You answered then that none of your rivals was in prison for political reasons and that if someone considered himself unfairly treated, he could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Last month, the European Court ruled on Mr.Mammadov’s pre-trial arrest. According to the European Court, the real purpose of his arrest was to silence him.
So, you did arrest and silence your rival during the election year.
Do you mean that the membership in the Council of Europe has given you a license to keep your rivals in prison whenever it is necessary to comfort you at the elections?
Dear Ms. Brasseour

Inspired by your recent solidarity speech in Baku, this is the final shot from me before some members applause to Mr. Aliyev next week in Strasbourg.

The first session of my Appellation trial in the local court took place two weeks before the European Court's decision that proclaimed all 9 months of my pre-trial arrest politically motivated.

After that the trial here get constantly postponed. As of now the second session of Appeallation trial us scheduled to take place 85! days after the first.

To compare: the original trial consisting of some 25 sessions lasted for 135 days.

All this is in addition to the fact that my prison conditions have significantly less worsened right after the European court's decision.

It is certainly the mandate if not an obligation of the Council of Europe political body to take action about the member state for susch manipulation and repression.

Sincerely yours,
Ilgar Mammadov.
01-06-2014 11:42 - MAO VƏ ABŞ
1949- cu il avqustun 18-də Çini tərk etməkdə olan ABŞ səfirinin ardıyca daş atan məqaləni yoldaş Mao Tse Dun özü şəxsən yazmışdı, zəmanəsinin Ramiz Mehdiyevinə və Novruz Məmmədovuna tapşırmamışdı. Bundan sonra 20 il Çin və ABŞ arasında diplomatik əlaqələr kəsildi, Çin tam çökdü, və yalnız 1970 - lərdə Amerikanın yardımı ilə tədricən düzəlməyə başladı.
In his another "I am son of a bitch"-styled piece on Azerbaijan, Mr. George Friedman again argues in favour of Western support to the repressive regime in Baku by almost exclaiming: "There is a strange view abroad that the 21st century is dramatically different from all prior centuries and such thinking is obsolete... The 21st century is simply another century, and there has been no transcendence of history. Containment was a core strategy and it seems likely that it will be adopted again - if countries like Azerbaijan are preparaed to participate"

According to press reports, only in 2013 some 2600 Azerbaijanis have asked for asylum in Europe, and thus claimed access to public funds. Presumably, most of them were driven by political reasons, because for jobs and trade people mostly move go to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. I am writing this from prison not particularly friendly to research and therefore I cannot check the statistics. But even if the number is five times smaller, this would still mean multi-million burden on the budget of European countries just by one repressive neighbour.

By the way, on the background of this picture, Mr. Friedman's point is as short of realism as Baku's arrogant claim of equal relationship with Brussels.

Indeed, in the 21st century people are more mobile, more informed about their rights and obligations of a state, and are more educated - to name the least of the epochal differences. An average Azerbaijani, seeking asylum in the US or EU, has a sense of geopolitics not weaker than that of Mr. Friedman.

In August 2003, Senator John McCain had a substantive meeting with three strongest opposition party leaders in Baku. As then Deputy Chairman, I represented one of the parties. I told him that Mr. G.W. Bush administration was listening to a very bad advice in facilitating the farther-to-son succession in Azerbaijan, while all the alternatives were more pro-Western and originally from the democratic process. Instead of helping them to consolidate, the Bush administration consolidated the existing system for the said succession. After the meeting, Senator McCain made a very critical statement on the choice of the US administration, but his voice of reason was not heard.

10 years later, on 17 May 2014, Novruz Mammadov, top official foreign policy spokesman in Baku, openly blamed the US for destabilzing the World by arming protesters with Molotovs. If the US was a person, it would have been sitting now in the same prison cell with eight youth activists trained in peaceful democracy campaign by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). They are sentenced to eight years behind bars. This is  another part of statistics measuring the scars on the collective memory of Azerbaijanis. A number assigned to a century though is just a numerical code, not a value. And, Mr. Friedman knows this well.  
                          The Orange Coloured Apple of Nagorno-Crimea

The official propaganda in Azerbaijan has been speculating too much on the resemblance between the seizure of Crimea by Russian army and the continuing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Armenian army. The main point of that speculation rarely is the threat of territorial expansion of Russia at the expense of other former colonies. At the least in the local media focus is made on the “hypocrisy” of the West, which allegedly applies different standards to identical cases, that is, imposes sanctions on Russia, but favors Armenia.

In doing so, Azerbaijani authorities are trying to shield themselves from the criticism of his increasingly Central Asian manner in dealing with democracy issues of our Council of Europe member country, because those manners begin to necessitate international public sanctions against his regime (as suggested, for example, in the May 2012 resolution of European Parliament).

True, a political mind dried out by bureaucratic spirit is tempted to see only the formal similarity between the apple of Crimea and orange of Nagorno-Karabakh: they both are a round shape in the one dimensional space of OSCE Helsinki principles.

However, in truly political terms they are rather different fruits of imperfection.

Most of the differences are useful for the Ukrainian cause, a few may justify the Russian stance, but none supports Baku’s  twisted nonsense position of de facto serving the Kremlin interest (like the voting at PACE, where by protesting non-application of sanctions against Armenia, the Azerbaijan delegation abstained from suspending the Russian delegation).

Below are some of the differences, not in the order of priority:

1.     Ukraine of 2014 is a much more democratic country than the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic of 1987, and even the present-day Azerbaijan. Crimean population enjoyed tremendously more economic and political freedoms, and therefore, no lasting pro-secession movement ever existed. Ukraine looked much better in comparison with Russia too, whereas Azerbaijan and Armenia have been playing in an awkward league since independence (Armenia ranking slightly better most of the time). Russia has left the league where Ukraine belonged, right after Medvedev’s presidency.  
2.     During thee active phase of the Crimea conflict both Ukraine and Russia were members of the Council of Europe, which had a platform for addressing grievances of local governments – the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Russia could demonstrate its commitment to democratic values by actively using that platform. Azerbaijan and Armenia joined the Council of Europe only seven years after the ceasefire, and fourteen years after the beginning of the conflict.
3.     Unlike Crimea, the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomy has never been transferred from one Soviet republic to another. In 1923, when Lenin was alive, and Trotsky was alive, and Zinoviev was alive, and Kirov was alive, and Stalin was a marginal player, the Soviet government ruled to keep (“оставить” in Russian) the province within Azerbaijan, of which it was integral part since the Republic of 1918-1920. Stalin, against all myths spread by Armenian propaganda, had never transferred the territory to Azerbaijan. In 1954 Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukrainian SSR – probably not by Khrushchev, but the decision is attributed to him in pop-history.
4.     The Ukrainian government never abolished the autonomy of Crimea, and was ready to expand it since the early days of the Kremlin-driven tension on the subject. The government of Azerbaijan foolishly abolished the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh, and even changed the administrative borders within it.
5.     The government of Azerbaijan, again foolishly, internationalized the conflict and its resolution scheme since 1991, instead of treating the conflict as an internal matter. The government in Kiev had no such a choice regarding Crimea, because of the instantaneous military invasion by Russia.

No special international format has ever existed to solve the Crimea conflict, while the OSCE Minsk Group has been globally recognized as a main format of talks. Hence, Azerbaijan cannot blame the Council of Europe or any other international body for “double standards” in comparing the case to the Crimea situation: Nagorno-Karabakh is simply not their business, they have to adjust themselves to the Minsk Group, and certainly should not undermine the Minsk Group efforts or non-efforts.

On a side note, I think it would be both practical and symbolic contribution to a better legal and moral climate of the negotiations if Armenia and Azerbaijan could simultaneously abolish their respective decisions on annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh, and on liquidation of the autonomy. This, and some other positive initiatives form a solid gorund of ReAl Movement’s peace strategy. Unfortunately, its articulation has been aborted by my arrest and exclusion from the 2013 presidential elections eight months before the vote.

Ilgar Mammadov

Chairman, Republican Alternative (ReAl) Movement
From prison in Sheki, Azerbaijan 
Baku 2015: A Sport Behind Bars

Three games on the territory of former USSR – two already conducted, and one planned for the next year – have been associated in public memory with governments losing their sense of reality. Right before the Moscow 1980, Politbureau occupied Afganistan. Right after the Sochi 2014, Putin seized the Crimea. In expectation of the 1st European Games to be held in Baku in 2015, Aliyev started an unprecedented imprisonment assault on his political rivals and critics. 

Probably this instinct is a Stalinist rudiment: the Soviet dictator had had started his all-out political repressions in 1934, i.e. one year later after the recognition of the USSR by Western powers.

Be that an Olympic Committee or an international political body – the World must be very careful with red carpets for the absolutist rulers from our region.

I do not know, what the atmosphere at the European Olympic Committee is, but I think Europeanness should make it distinct from those at the International and other regional committees. Something modern European should neither support nor symbolize, i.e. oppression and violation of human rights. 

I am not calling to cancel the next year Games in Baku. But may be democratic community of Azerbaijan and broader Europe could respond to the apparently obsolete elitism of the EOC by a mockery petition to add “political prisonership” into the official competition program of the Baku Games. It is a physical race no less sacred in its spirit than jumping and swimming.

Ilgar Mammadov

Chairman, Republican Alternative (ReAl) Movement
From prison in Sheki, Azerbaijan
If Azerbaijan is likely to help the EU with the latter’s strategic plans for diversification of gas imports, then why Mr. Aliyev – nominally protecting his absolutist reign from all potential threats – keeps in the political prison only us, that is the advocates of Euro-Atlantic path for Azerbaijan, while pro-Kremlin politicians and activists enjoy freedom? After all, if he was really going to serve gas to the EU independently, he would know that his European clients can readily use all their authority persuading us to restrain our criticism against his regime and even to go idle in terms of political actions.

I think, he has already made his choice to join the Eurasia Union. He is “cleaning” the political space precisely for that purpose. The gas pipelines for Sahdeniz-2 may be built in the future as planned, but the final say over supplies to Europe via those lines will belong to Mr. Putin.

What is seen now by the endlessly compromising Europe as “diversification of its sources of gas” thus will only produce discreditation of its commitments to democratic values in our Council of Europe member country, without producing any truly alternative source of gas.  
Ilgar Mammadov

Chairman, REAL Movement

From prison in Sheki, Azerbaijan

Not many of George Friedman’s analytical pieces are charlatan. But in this article I would like to respond to the one published on 25 March, and called “From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy after Ukraine.”

To set the emotional background for my opinion, I must note: last month, after keeping me under arrest for more than one year, the court in Azerbaijan sentenced me to seven years in prison with no regard to the heavy and unprecedented U.S. and European embassy monitoring throughout five months of the trial conducted in a town as remote as five hours of driving distance from the capital city. Thanks to the U.S. embassy in the first place, the diplomatic community now is sure: the verdict was politically motivated, and not based on evidence. The French, British, and EU foreign ministries made separate statements of concern over my case, in the context of Azerbaijan’s commitments.

Essentially, Mr. Friedman proposes nothing but the policy of supporting one group of dictators against the others, again, i.e. some time after G.W. Bush’s “war against terror”, instead of focusing on democratic advancement in the potentially fertile soil of the region.

The “war against terror” had helped not only Heydar Aliyev to install his son as a president in 2003, but also Mr. Putin – to construct and consolidate his own regime. In both countries it also helped the regimes to “sterilize” the domestic political scene.

Mr. Friedman is not the only international lobbyist for Mr. Aliyev’s absolutist regime, but a rare one openly sarcastic about “the democratic values of the U.S. State Department” 

Others, such as the former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza, who recently joined the pool of the lobbyists, usually do not explicitly pronounce the idea of supporting the regimes like the one in Baku. However, the agenda they are setting by 1) describing Azerbaijan as a model for the future of Iran (commentator Mark Adomanis had justly ridiculed about this silly idea of Mr. Bryza); 2) criticizing the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan; 3) objecting the determination of Obama administration to strike a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran; 4) urging the EU to build alternative gas pipelines at any cost, and etc. suits very much Mr. Aliyev’s long-standing policy if using the whatever international significance achievable to repress democratic opposition.

The 2000s had offered the best climate for such a policy, and he still misses those times.

No, in no way I oppose, for instance, the alternative gas pipelines (although I sincerely wish success to the US talks with Iran, and am concerned by Mr. Aliyev’s attempts to capitalize politically on the withdrawal route from Afghanistan. On the contrary, I have made countless speeches and comments in favor of the TAP-TANAP and Nabucco. However, every time when such a high authority as President of the European Council Mr. van Rompuy, misled by the lobbyists, underlines “the vital role of the gas projects with Azerbaijan for the EU” (June 21, 2013), Mr. Aliyev gets inspired on how to make them mortal for democracy or at least painful for the democratic opposition: one day before signing the TAP deal in December 2013, he sneeringly locked up a prominent election transparency champion Anar Mammadli; 2) in January 2014, a routine dinner with two U.S. Congress staffers resulted in formal prohibition to the famous investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova to leave the country. Mr. Anar Mammadli has already lived with that prohibition for several months before the arrest, and therefore even could not attend the civil society component of the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013.

Now Imagine what Mr.Aliyev will do to us, the new pro-democracy political generation (the previous one was completely demoralized by Bush’s affairs with him) if the Western reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine stimulates policy choices similar to those propelled by the “war against terror”. We really do not know what we should do more: appreciate the statements on our cases made by, spokespersons from Ms. Ashton and Mr. Fule and practical assistance from the EU, including inter alia the European Parliament’s one year-old resolution calling for my “immediate and unconditional release” or be alarmed by Mr. Borroso’s articulation of the increasing significance of Aliyev’s gas for Europe – made several times since the Russian invasion of Crimea.

The gas from Azerbaijan will flow to Europe only since 2018, the earliest. If by then Azerbaijan does not have a democratic system of government, which can later stabilize itself, the existing absolutist system will remain too vulnerable to harassment by the Moscow hawks, and therefore at some point Mr. Aliyev himself will deprive his gas contract with Europe of the main quality Europe expects from it: stable supply. Bold steps to democratic change must be taken now, before it is late for the beloved gas.

Actually, the potential volume of supply from and through Azerbaijan is also a big question mark, but I do not discuss that subject in this article. President Obama has been quite proficient since his election in 2008 in dealing with the legacy of Middle Eastern, North African and East European dictators indulged by the Bush era. Instead of building alliances with them against inflated, if not fictional threats, he has been sending a consistent, i.e. not only verbal, message across the region that none of those guys is a part of the world order supported by America, and that the peoples should decide their own future – with US siding with democratic process. The unprecedented monitoring of my trial by the embassies was due to the right impulses sent by Obama’s policy; the latter should not be ruined by the advice typical to Aliyev’s English-speaking lobby.

Well, in no way the Russia-Ukraine crisis is an inflated or fictional threat to our region. Mr. Putin will not limit himself to Crimea if he sees appeasement approach by the West rather than action approach. South Caucasus is among his next targets. However one must recognize that his policy is being fueled by two factors: 1) high oil & gas prices; and 2) pseudo-patriotic sentiments he was allowed to breed in 2000s by international tolerance to his anti-democratic practices, the tolerance caused by the wish to secure the anti-terror coalitions. All that has backfired, literally. And any new “tolerances” of that sort will backfire too in the future.

Therefore, an aggressive policy of reduction of the oil & gas prices, and strict application of human rights standards of the Council of Europe to Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and other member countries affected by antidemocratic systems of government should be the most important elements of the international reaction to the crisis. For Russia is a nuclear state, sanctions should originate not from questionable international security norms and power politics thus humiliating the Russians, but from the human rights standards it has subscribed to by joining the Council of Europe.

I do ask myself a self-critical question too about us, activists of democracy in Azerbaijan: “Why we always get to prison, and never to power?” In addition to mistakes of the past generation of leaders which are not subject of this article, the problem can be attributed to two external factors: 1) in the globalized world of 21st century any democratic breakthrough in countries like Azerbaijan definitely needs a geopolitical opening, probably more than one, in order to succeed; and 2) accession to the Council of Europe in 2001 had given us a hope that it will apply the minimum European standards of legitimacy to our political system thus substituting a geopolitical window of opportunity in case of absence of the latter. Unfortunately the net balance of membership turned to be negative: corrupt members of Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE), and slow European Court (ECHR) provide the regime with more democratic credentials than the COE principles can defend repressed activists.

In 2020, when I am released from prison, I hope to see the regional security less dependent on dictators taxing democrats’ lives. Nonetheless, it is the policy of democratic solidarity by Obama administration – and not the reminiscent of G.W.Bush deals of 2000s with Putin and Aliyev – that gives me at least some hope of earlier release.

Finally, in Mr. Friedman’s that article about Ukraine I found total 22 mentions of Ukraine, and 17 of Azerbaijan. This reminded me an anecdote of Soviet times. Bored, but still a bit curious citizens used to count the number of praiseful mentions of Brezhnev’s name in the Communist’s Party Congress speeches by the 1st secretaries of Soviet republics. The Estonian party boss made 9 mentions, Georgian 1st secretary Shevardnadze made 14 mentions, while Azerbaijan’s Heydar Aliyev – 64 times. The bad habit has infected Mr. Friedman too, although his next article published on April 1 represents quite a valid and serious analysis of the same topic.
Politically Motivated and Policely Fabricated

See the firs part here:

3) Altogether, the witness statements in the court improved the position of charged people despite the fact that defence has provided only a handful of the witnesses. The rest (some 80) have been provided by the prosecution itself. Then the judges preferred (the preference is revealed by the aggregate figures – compare the totals for the table columns) the statements made earlier to the prosecution by the same witnesses.

4) If a case against a large group of people is badly sewn, and, especially, if some of them are not guilty, then an evidence used against particular person can improve another’s situation. Therefore, the practice of the judges proven by the above figures (and “scores”) could not be efficient in our large group of 18 charged. Indeed, the judges’ practice did worsen the quantitative position of 14 people, did not affect the quantitative position of one (with a negative score anyway), but it somewhat improved the already good score of three people – three out of total four charged with my episode! The totally fabricated, non-existent episode! In these three instances (#1, #2, and #8) the judges apparently concluded that the three negative mentions brought in against each of us qualitatively overweigh the positive 9,5 ,  and 12, respectively. Nevertheless, the overall statistical pattern of judges’ behavior is more harmful to their reputation than the “qualitative” (that is subjective, not measurable) assumptions they made while assessing the witness statements.

5) The question “Why the judges were so persistent in their effort to convict the Ismayilli people even at the expense of quantitative improvement for Mr. Yagublu and me?” has a clear (beyond the fact that they were not aware of my quantitative method J answer: if the Ismayilli people got a mild punishment or even “not guilty” verdict, then the non-judicial, i.e. publicity pretext for imposing a long prison term on me and Mr. Yagublu would be even weaker.
Indeed, it is certainly out of proportion that the person on the top of table, with 94 mentions, was sentenced to as many years (five) as the person in the bottom of the list, with only one mention – even though the latter spent 14 months in jail, and the rest of his term is conditional. Even if we assume that some strong material evidence exists against the #18, and that therefore not much need was felt  for witness evidence (which in practice is not the case, i.e. no material evidence against him, such as riot video, exists), the severity of his term is necessitated by the need to convict me and Mr.Yagublu – the primary target of the regime.

6) Finally, bear in mind though, that I am talking here  only about excerpts subjectively brought by the judges from possibly falsified transcripts of court sessions into the body text of the court decision. In other words, the level of data distortion is already high, but I neglect it in this analysis, thus making a big favor to the judges.

Here is an addition to the table: prison term for each one of the 18:
#1. Tofig Yagublu – 5 years
#2. Ilgar Mammadov – 7 years
#3.  – 8 years
#4. – 8 years
#5. – 8 years
#6. – 5,5 years
#7. – 2,5 years
#8. – 5,5 years
#9. – 4,5 years
#10. – 5 years (3,9 conditional)
#11. – 4,5 years
#12. – 5,5 years (4,4 conditional)
#13. – 5,5 years (4,4 conditional)
#14. – 4,5 years (3,4 conditional)
#15. – 5 years (3,9 conditional)
#16. - 5 years (all conditional)
#17. – 5 years (3,9 conditional)
#18. 5 years (3,9 conditional)
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