years after the cessation of active hostilities on the Karabakh frontline, the
problems of a million of refugees, sustaining beggarly existence in tent camps,
problems of tens of thousands of veterans and invalids of war, slowly started to
lose their actuality in the daily life of the Azerbaijan society.
Mostly, owing to the blasphemous ignoring by the official ideology
machine. Official propaganda often
limited itself to demonstrating tent camps to the representatives of foreign
missions. Heart-tender foreigners
sincerely grieved, allocated funds and grants, sent tons of humanitarian aid and
slept with clear conscience, leaving the distribution of the generous overseas
aid on the conscience of local officials.
years of empty promises, seven years of miserable existence, seven years of
humiliation and insult at official institutions.
Ultimately, these poured out into spontaneous and, later, organized acts
of protest. Initially, invalids of
the Karabakh war restrained from giving political colors to their activities and
refused the “professional” help of political orators.
“We fought for Azerbaijan state, for its independence and for its land.
We do not come out against the Constitution, neither to overthrow
Aliev’s regime in some undemocratic way, but for the sake that our leaders do
not spit in the face of their own people. It
is not for this that we fought, it is not for this that we lost our front-line
soldier friends...” desperate invalids told me.
situation of the handicapped is critical. The
pension for “Karabakh invalidity” is approximately $27 (according to the
data of the Confederation of trade unions of Azerbaijan, the minimal consumers’
expenses equal to $97). Benefits,
provided for invalids, not always reach the addressee.
For instance, for receiving free according to law special transport,
officials demand a bribe of $300-400. Meanwhile,
the salary of some officials in Azerbaijan reaches $800.
Also, national elects in Milli Majlise recently raised again their salary
to $400. In the last years, unable
to endure beggarly existence anymore, 26 invalids committed suicide, 75 people
were brought back to life by doctors.
methods of upholding their rights did not yield any results to invalids and
compelled them to take actions. Thousands of invalids across the country took
part in actions of protest. The
most desperate, headed by the chairman of the Organization of Karabakh Invalids
Etimad Asadov, announced “dry” hunger strike.
Authorities became concerned only after hospitalization of tens of the
hunger strike participants. One of
the activists of OKI attempted to commit suicide right in the parliamentary
session room after one of the pro-governmental deputies including the speaker
accused invalids of fulfilling a political order.
Worried authorities promised the participants of the action to consider
their demands. Leaders of the
invalids were also promised a meeting with the president.
However, once the hunger strike was over, authorities played a different
game. In a week’s time
president’s image-makers created and registered in the Justice Ministry a
double of OKI (as provided by the law a month is required for the registration
while many organizations seek registration for years).
The double game of authorities forced invalids to resort to extreme
measures. Once again they announced
a hunger strike, barricading in the headquarters of OKI.
As a result of police actions in the attempt to hamper the march of
invalids to OKI headquarters, clashes between the demonstrators and guards of
to heat the situation, Karabakhians decided to leave the building of OKI. However, actions of protest continue, while arrests of OKI
activists began in regions. Although
the government of the country hurried to create a special commission to study
invalids’ demands, the situation did not become less tense.
Invalids’ actions of protest can serve as a prelude to a social
collapse. Already now, political
parties, public organizations and trade unions are ready to speak out with
social demands. The population
driven to despair seems to be unhesitant to follow anyone advancing
anti-governmental slogans. The
reasons for such active public support for the actions of invalids are simple:
crisis of power, incapable of and unwilling to solve the problems of the country.
vector in the economy and foreign policy exhibited complete failure.
Azerbaijan economy tied down to oil export began to fall out of step and
the population does not want to live on fairy tales of a “second Kuwait” or
rather cannot live, anymore. Even
if the chief hope of Aliev’s team the “trust” referred to as OET
Baku-Dzheikhan did not collapse it is certainly crumbling: Kazakh oil, which
could revive the trust will flow through the Russian territory to Novorossiysk.
Azerbaijan population lives without natural gas and electric energy even
in Baku is supplied with interruptions. Foreign
investors, who began their activities in Azerbaijan, believing the PR-Company of
Baku authorities are slowly curtailing their activity.
“The Last of Mohegans” from the companies working here are
suffocating in the grip of corruption. Until
now the bills on protection of investments in Azerbaijan, recommended by EU,
have not been passed.
parliament of the country has practically lost its legislative function:
documents for deputies’ approval come primarily from the presidential office.
Privatization “in Azerbaijan way” finished as soon as the reserve of
the most paying concerns, which got in the hands of the same powers that be, was
exhausted. Powers of Azerbaijan
cherishing hopes for large investments did not even care to create a Chamber of
Accounts. Population receiving
beggarly wages is forced to engage in trade one and all.
since 1 January 2001, after a 5-time increase, minimal wages reached
approximately $7 and the average wages according to last year’s showings is
$45. According to statistics of the
World Bank, according to the totals of the last year, Azerbaijan was included
into a group of countries with low income. The republic completely lacks any
conditions for local production. The
whole customs system is built for the import of goods from abroad, which is also
controlled by officials.
no means (will?) to change to system at hand, the authorities are trying to
recoup themselves on democratic institutions seeing them as the major threat to
their existence. The paper crisis
that broke out recently promoted the shutting of a number of opposition press
editions. Pro-governmental printed
press media has no problems with paper and timely appearance.
The closedown of a number of independent regional television stations is
another evidence of the most active attack against press.
Only the interference of UN Secretary General Walter Shvimmer, who
reminded in front of EC the authorities of Azerbaijan of their obligations (guarantee
of freedom of word and unacceptability of the administrative reserve to exert
pressure over press) allowed “DMD” TV and “Mingachevir” TV to continue
telecasting. Attacks, beating,
detention of disagreeable for the powers representatives of media became a
common phenomenon. According to the
estimates of human rights circles of Azerbaijan there are over hundred political
prisoners in the republic.
migration of the segment of the population most capable of working to abroad,
mainly to Russia, became the natural consequence of the policy that authorities
implement. At present, from 1.5 to
2 million of Azerbaijan citizens are in Russia.
The annual volume of financial help that “Russian” Azerbaijani render
to their relatives exceeds the total budget of the republic. The heat of political passions makes the issue of change of
power in the country once again actual. Fortunately
enough the term of Aliev’s presidency ends in 2003 if, of course, he does not
leave his post ahead of time. The weakness and unpopularity of political actors,
absence of an evident leader in Azerbaijan itself indicates that the next leader
of the country could be someone of the forced “emigrants”.
Mirzoev for “Washington Online”