Two challenging dismissals in the ruling Azerbaijani power raised hopes in society for liberalization of domestic political life and mass media activity in Azerbaijan. Will these expectations come true? Below-cited is an interview with journalist Rauf Mirkadyrov currently residing in Switzerland.

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– Head of the Presidential administration Ramiz Mehtiyev and Assistant to the President Ali Hasanov were dismissed. Do these dismissals mean a radical change in the system of administration of Azerbaijan?

– Dismissal of Ali Hasanov, Assistant to President can be considered both as dismissal of an individual functionary and liquidation of his network. Why an individual functionary? Today an oligarchic pyramid set up by Heydar Aliyev to secure inviolability of the ruling elite is being destroyed. Note that A. Hasanov was important but not decisive component of pyramidal vertical. Ramiz Mehtiyev was a primary component of the system. It was no coincidence that Mehtiyev’s dismissal predestined Hasanov’s resignation.

It should be noted that Mehtiyev maintained repressive control over the press, society, parties, etc. Also, he ran relations between the government and social organizations. With his key role in press, Ali Hasanov gave way to Ramiz Mehtiyev in policy and official ideology. Added to this can be the fact that Mehtiyev led law-enforcement bodies and power-holding apparatus. At any rate, Hasanov was just an element of the ruling system.

– Why is Hasanov’s dismissal a reason for resignation of a group of insiders?

– In my previous interview for Turan I noted that provincial managers were substituted for metropolitan ones. A. Hasanov was a prominent representative of the former, so it may be expected that Hasanov’s resignation would be followed by an implicated grouping, including a head of Press Council, a manager of Supporting Fund, heads of some mass media bodies that can be closed. Also, a newspaper «Kaspiy” owned by Hasanov’s wife, TV-channel «Khazar» misappropriated by Hasanov’s son. So, the so-called «press generals» are expected to quit the stage.

However, it’d be wrong to talk about the ideology change. In his last speech to the students of the Baku State University he repeated well-known theses of Ramiz Mehtyiyev set forth in his «works». I read some quotations of the western and Russian political experts that it was repetition of the ideology of sovereign democracy of Russian authors. Mehtiyev tried to apply this concept to Azerbaijan as well. This conservative course of development is reiterated in statements of President.

I do not expect a change of one ideology into another, appearance of new relations between the press and the state. No essential reforms are likely to take place in the social-political system and public management.

The essential point to remember is that Ramiz Mehtiyev is an interesting character. As a rule, politicians are engaged in writing research papers, memoirs before appointment or resignation from their top positions, for example, Americans Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, etc. Tax-free Ramiz Mehtiyev issued his works as a head of the Presidential Administration. Hard work and working capacity of the elderly person that ran the Presidential Administration for 25 years and composed a library of his personal books is estimable. Note that Ramiz Mehtiyev was a faithful servant – Sancho Panza  of his master – Heydar Aliyev.

– What were successes or failures in Ali Hasanov’s activity?

– Hasanov was rather effective manager. Breakdown of the independent Azerbaijan press is on his conscience. The same is true of the breakdown of political system of the country. Acting clumsily, unculturedly, he brilliantly coped with the task of collapsing democratic principles. The probability remains that the new young officialdom will act similarly. Another pair of shoes is that his activities backfired on the present authorities that remain deprived of effective instrument to impact the society both inside and outside the country. There is no mass media in the country to inspire citizens with confidence while mass media survived have no resources enough to be competitive in the country and abroad. Note that independent mass media, including newspaper «Ayna-Zerkalo» popular in Azerbaijan and abroad, were wiped out.

–  How will current developments affect the press freedom?

– The Hasanov’s withdrawal is unlikely to mean a shift of state ideology, for there are no serious preconditions for this to happen. An ideology of personal power is still prevailing in Azerbaijan. Added to this can be that President’s statements bring us to the conclusion that the policy of isolationism will continue in the foreign policy of Azerbaijan and cooperation with other isolated states – Turkey, Russia and China. It should be remembered that the liberal ideology in the state administration is not appreciated, since it has a potential of power shift. A principle of respect, eulogy and obedience to elders, i.e. power conservation is still of great vitality.

The young administration is expected to follow the tactics of system humanization. Instruments will change, relations between the press and the society be liberalized, new sites and newspapers appear, etc. For instance, «Ekho Moskvy» criticizes Putin even despite the fact that it is financed by Gazprom. They are given a free hand, it is possible to open up discussion platforms of this sort, make the Public Television Station (PTS) more open and some oppositionists may be invited to join debates. The probability remains that it’d take place after the Parliamentary election. No serious changes are likely to occur before the formation of a new legislative body. The question is that the current election legislation deprives the opposition of the opportunity to get an access to pro-governmental mass media.

– Is a new policy of relations between the government, diaspora and political emigration viable?

– Years 2013-2014 were followed by the escape of a greater part of political opponents abroad, and this is a clear «credit» of Ali Hasanov. He was personally responsible for this focal point. How to deal with the matter? I don’t know whether many political emigrants are ready to return home. There is a very few of persons willing to return to Azerbaijan.

What is there to do? Note that most political emigrants have been convicted on preposterous charges. I’m unaware of any political emigrants willing to appeal for pardon, for none of them deem guilty. So am I. I’m not going to appeal for pardon: our courts do not annul their judgments even due to the resolution of the European Court on Human Rights

The government must recognize its mistakes, political repressions and punish persons guilty of lawless actions. The question is about ruined destinies, years of illegal imprisonment. I spent 23 months in a solitary cell. It is no bowl of cherries.

I doubt that illegal repressions would ever be recognized in the nearest future. The least the authorities can do is a President’s personal initiative on quashing of a criminal charge against political emigrants. A part of emigrants will come back but nothing can be demanded instead, including a statement on support of the government. To my thinking, methods of this sort are not a solution to the issue; they are immoral.

– Is it possible to establish a new type of relations between the government and the Azerbaijani diaspora?

– The situation is challenging. The current practice of relations between the state and the diaspora is totally inappropriate. We are seeking to create a diaspora modeled on the Armenian one; however, we omit to specify that the Azerbaijani diaspora cannot be the dead spit of the Armenian. The point is about the two diasporas based on distinguishing principles.  It should be borne in mind that the Armenian diaspora developed under specific conditions: the Armenian people have been fuelled by legends rallying the nation, so they rely on their «autochthonous» religion. We cannot gain globality of the diaspora because Azerbaijanis integrate themselves into society promptly, in the second, third generation. They tend to become far more the French than Azerbaijanis. Also, Islam is not a factor to hold Azerbaijanis together. We are not the sort of Armenians, for Azerbaijanis and Turks have never been persecuted or endangered; they profess heterogeneous Islamic practices. One ought not to invest indeterminately used money, reticently from society, into the diaspora. We need other principles of the diaspora organization. Current principles are burdensome and unproductive intended to create a diaspora propping up the ruling elite.

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