https://www.turan.az-Authorities began arrests after a “Support to the Army” rally in Baku on the night of July 14-15. However, the main point of interest in these arrests is that most of those arrested are members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. A criminal case was opened against 13 members of the Popular Front Party and 9 members of the party were sentenced to administrative detention.Although thousands of people took part in the action, why are the APFP members arrested?Political commentator Nasimi Mammadli spoke to ASTNA on the subject.
– Nasimi bey, after the July 14-15 rallies in Baku, we are witnessing the arrests of members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and the opening of criminal cases against them. Thousands of people took part in those actions. Why are the APFP members arrested?
– In fact, the government’s repressive policy towards the APFP has been going on for many years. The government has made illegal arrests against the party at every opportunity. The organization with the most political prisoners is the APFP. In recent days, this pressure has intensified. All independent members of society already understand that this is a manifestation of a systemic policy. Although thousands of people took part in the rally in support of Karabakh and the army, the government mainly targeted the APFP. Even party activists who did not take part in the protest were arrested.
The leadership and members of the Popular Front Party openly protested against the constant concentration of power in one hand, the gross violations of law, lawlessness, holding non-democratic elections, putting pressure on independent media, not allowing for the freedom of assembly and expression, and the destruction of independent civil society.
As a rule, the government has always taken an uncompromising stance against those who argue and boldly criticize the government. This is the main reason for the recent arrests.
– Does the arrest of the APFP members indicate that the government has targeted this party or it is more afraid of this party?
– In fact, there is a socio-economic crisis in the country caused by poor governance. The decline in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic have deepened public discontent and tension. Although problems are increasing in every field, their solutions are becoming increasingly difficult. The government is concerned about the existence of a political organization that can mobilize society for peaceful protests. It is not excluded that the anger observed in the government’s actions against the Popular Front Party is related to this.
On the one hand, it is to weaken the opposition, to divert attention from common problems, to hinder its organization, and on the other hand, to maintain an atmosphere of fear in society.
– Today, many politicians and intellectuals say “it is time for unity and equality”. The chairman of the APFP also said in a statement that he was with the army. Even one of those arrested, Asif Yusifli, is a Karabakh war veteran. However, it is not clear that the government has announced a “crusade” against the APFP members. To whom and what does it serve to show a discriminatory approach by saying unity and equality?
– In fact, despite the calls for “unity, equality, dialogue” by many forces, it is very difficult to make it real. Because the government accepts its existence only on power. Other political tools and moves are incompatible with its essence. In most of the steps it takes, it pursues only its own corporate interests. If it feels a slight threat to these interests, it immediately activates the administrative-force apparatus. The private interests of the government are above all social, political, legal, and international interests of the country.
The harshest criticism and insults from outside the country do not have serious political implications within the country. But even the smallest protests in the country can create an unimaginable socio-political wave. Therefore, the government seeks to minimize this risk through regular preventive arrests. At the same time, regular arrests, insults to dignity, and torture are the government’s unwritten security strategy.
– There are versions that Azerbaijan is at the stage of important decisions. But the government is paving the way making for these decisions. In other words, they make these arrests in order to silence the National Council and the APFP, which is without rhyme or reason, do not go to negotiations and dialogue, unlike other parties. How logical do you think these versions are? And if so, what could those decisions be?
– Indeed, we touched on these issues to some extent. Actually, APFP is the most leading and principled organization of the opposition. The government does not openly hide the fact that it will eliminate them as the main rival and alternative in the country. It uses all illegal means in this direction without hesitation. In recent years, there have been either unexpected referendums or early elections following the government’s arrests that caused celebre. Immediately after crushing society and making it inert, the government easily carried out some of its private plans. It is still clear that the government is committing total violations of the law, despite large-scale dissatisfaction in society against it. If there wasn’t a very serious vital cause, the government would not act like that at this sensitive, complex, and controversial moment.
Still, I do not exempt the existence of serious causes.
There may be certain decisions in the direction of the military-political crisis that emerged related to the Karabakh issue and ways out of it, issues related to the country’s international and regional strategic choice, and security and sustainability of the government.
– At a time when thousands of people are taking to the streets to protest due to the liberation of Karabakh, will the arrest of a person, who is not a member of any party and not involved in any provocation, regardless of his/her political view, raise doubts about the government’s patriotic policy? Why do you think the government is doing this now? What does it prove to whom? What message does it give?
– The public image of the government is important in democratic countries. People’s attitude to government is crucial when it is accountable to society; when it faces the need to “take votes” from society in the elections. The government in our country does not have such a concern or problem. It is important for it to keep hold of its power in any way. The guarantee of the continuity of power is not a democracy but administrative-force tools. Therefore, the government is not worried about people doubting its patriotism.
At the same time, it instills in the subconscious of the society that it will not allow mass activism, protests, and even solidarity.
– In your opinion, what steps should the government take to avoid killing the patriotic spirit of the people, as well as to prevent provocations? What is the way out of the situation?
– The government is not interested in the normal development of socio-political relations in society. It has created the apolitical environment it wants, and it is not interested in changing it voluntarily. If the current social crisis in society worsens, a wave of large-scale political activity and protests will be inevitable.
The way out of this situation is to normalize relations between the government and the opposition.
All innocent people arrested during the “Support to the Army” rally, especially members of the APFP, must be released. The perpetrators of provocation in front of the Milli Majlis must be identified through an objective and transparent investigation.
The strengthening of our country to overcome the current difficult situation depends on the mobilization of the political force of society. If there was a government that listened to the public, I would suggest that the entire Cabinet of Ministers resign and a new interim government of trust be formed with the real opposition. In order to be prepared for the post-pandemic period, to overcome the social crisis and the threat of war without losses, the government must change its current repressive policy.