In the aftermath of Azerbaijan’s military operation to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh, the government has taken action against anti-war advocates. Several individuals who had publicly expressed opposition to the attack have recently been detained, with one person’s whereabouts currently unknown. Numerous young people who opposed the war have also been arrested, and some have been sentenced to 30 days of administrative imprisonment. Furthermore, one individual has been charged with hooliganism and is facing criminal proceedings.
In the weeks leading up to the offensive, Azerbaijani state-run and government-aligned media conducted a smear campaign against the country’s anti-war activists who emerged after the Second Karabakh War of 2020.
Over the last few days, detentions include Rail Abbasov, Afiaddin Mammadov, Nemet Abbasov, Amrah Tahmazov, Emin Shaiq Ibrahimov, and journalist Nurlan Libre.
The role of the pro-government media
There has been consistent discomfort from the Azerbaijani government towards those who advocate for peace or criticize their stance on the Karabakh conflict. This was evident during the 2020 war, where several peace activists were summoned to the State Security Service. However, none of them were arrested at that time.
In September of last year, after Azerbaijan attacked Armenian territory, pro-government media launched a campaign against oppositionists who condemned the offensive, accusing them of traitors. One of the anti-war advocates, Ahmad Mammadli, a young politician, was placed in administrative detention during this period.
Before the latest offensive, Azerbaijani media recently resumed its smear campaign against anti-war activists.
“During the recent war Aliyev has also continued his another usual business of imprisoning his critics. Several peace activists including Amrah Tahmazov, were locked behind bars yesterday. Amrah is accused of violating the internet rules of Azerbaijan, which in the language of local authorities means that he caused troubles to Aliyev’s propaganda ring,” historian and government critic Altay Goyushov posted on Twitter.
Azerbaijan’s government targets critical voices.
A former Azerbaijani diplomat, Emin Shaig Ibrahimov, was detained and put into administrative custody for a month. Ibrahimov had been known for his skeptical social media posts regarding Azerbaijan’s actions towards Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. He believed that the operations in Karabakh were carried out in Russia’s interests, as he had written in his last Facebook posts.
Ibrahimov stated that he was forcefully taken from his home by several people in civilian clothing who later searched his house without a court order, confiscated multiple items such as phones, computers, and video recorders, and took him to the Criminal Prosecution Department of the General Prosecutor’s Office without shoes and socks. There, he was accused of “supporting terrorism” due to his social media posts and later charged under Article 388-1.1.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for distributing prohibited information.
Azerbaijan’s war critic, Amrah Tahmazov, known for his opposition to the 2020 war, and the Azerbaijani government in general, was imprisoned for a month on similar accusations. Javid Ahmadov, an activist, was called to the State Security Service and released after a four-hour interrogation regarding his anti-war stance. Nemat Abbasov, a veteran of the 2020 war, was arrested on September 20 on allegations of disobeying the police and held for a month.
Journalist Nurlan Gahramanli was arrested for his sarcastic posts against the military operation and tortured in prison.
Afiaddin Mammadov was arrested and accused of hooliganism. In addition, Movsum Mammadov, a government critic, was said to have been called to the prosecutor’s office in Kurdamir, a town situated in central Azerbaijan, due to his recent Facebook posts where he made fun of the new war launch and expressed his sadness and condolences for the soldiers who lost their lives.
The European Parliament on the human rights situation
The European Parliament has discussed the worsening human rights situation in Azerbaijan on numerous occasions. Most recently, on September 14, they passed a resolution regarding the imprisonment of opposition leader Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu. He was arrested on July 23, 2023, and MEPs have called for his immediate and unconditional release. The charges against him are believed to be politically motivated. Dr. Ibadoghlu is the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Movement, which has been repeatedly denied registration as a political party. He remains in prison and could face up to 12 years behind bars. Furthermore, there are reports of inhumane treatment and severe health issues.
MEPs called on the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, the European External Action Service (EEAS), and member states to “condemn the grave human rights violations and breaches of democracy in Azerbaijan and to raise cases such as Gubad Ibadoghlu’s in all bilateral meetings as well as in the negotiations of a future partnership agreement.
The signing of such an agreement should be conditional on releasing all political prisoners, MEPs add. The Parliament also calls for EU sanctions under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime on Azerbaijani officials who have committed severe human rights violations.