by Crescent International (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 11, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1436)
The illegitimate Azeri regime is pushing the country towards civil war because of its brutal tactics against the opposition.
Four years after the arrest of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan’s Chairman (leader) Dr. Movsum Samedov, the unelected regime of Ilham Aliyev has been unable to subdue the Islamic movement in the country.
Armed gangs of the regime had kidnapped Dr. Samedov on January 7, 2011. A week prior to his arrest, the Islamic Party leader had called on Aliyev to resign as president. This was the first time since 1995 that a political leader publicly called “to put an end” to the unelected regime. After his arrest, Dr. Samedov was accused of “terrorism” and sentenced on October 7, 2011, to 12 years in prison.
Since Dr. Samedov’s arrest, the regime has gone into overdrive in its campaign to suppress and marginalize the Islamic movement by arresting other prominent scholars like Abgul Suleymanov and Taleh Bagirov. According to the official list of political prisoners released by various NGOs in August 2014, of the 98 political prisoners, 52 are members of the Islamic movement. Since then the regime has arrested at least a dozen more high profile socio-political activists in its ongoing campaign of intimidation and suppression.
The regime’s heavy-handedness against the Islamic movement, however, has created a completely opposite effect than what the regime had hoped for. Prior to the arrest of Dr. Samedov and his supporters, the Islamic movement only occasionally confronted the regime’s illegal and oppressive tactics. Since the arrest of the Islamic Party chairman, the Islamic movement has become the most vocal opponent of the regime. The principled position of Islamic activists since 2011 has won the movement a great deal of sympathy from diverse segments of Azeri society and other socio-political organizations.
In Azerbaijan, some political prisoners are released only after they agree to write a Soviet-style plea for amnesty to the president confessing to their “crimes.” At other times, special conditions are imposed on political prisoners to grant them amnesty prior to release. These include visiting the grave of Geidar Aliyev, father of the current president. Such a visit is then publicized in the local media. Numerous prisoners of conscience and activists in Azerbaijan have been forced into securing their freedom through such coercive tactics. Members of the Islamic movement, however, have so far refused to beg for “amnesty.” Instead, they have chosen to achieve martyrdom in prison, like Vaqif Abdullayev, or expose themselves to physical and psychological torture like Abgul Suleymanov, Nijat Aliyev, Taleh Bagirov and others. Among all the groups, organizations and parties, the Islamic movement stands as one of the few parties that have chosen the path of principled resistance.
It appears that the unelected regime and its foreign “consultants” have realized that by imprisoning members of the Islamic movement, the regime has put itself in an awkward and clearly unwinnable situation. If the political prisoners remain behind bars and continue to refuse to beg for “amnesty”, the Islamic movement’s credibility and popularity will continue to grow. On the other hand, if the regime releases the Islamic activists without an “amnesty,” the movement will be viewed as the only unbreakable and incorrigible alternative to the current unelected regime.
It seems this realization by the regime has served as the main factor in escalating pressure on imprisoned members of the Islamic movement. Over the past several months, Islamic activists in Aliyev’s prisons have been subjected to various restrictions such as limitations on family visits, solitary confinement, moved to maximum security prison, and restrictions on medical aid, etc.
Looking at the situation in Azerbaijan from the outside it appears that the regime’s principal dilemma is not to overplay its hand. The Islamic movement also has to be careful. It must not underestimate its own strength. Currently both sides are assessing their capabilities. Naturally, since the Aliyev regime usurped the state apparatus and institutions, its capabilities are far greater than those of all the socio-political organizations in Azerbaijan collectively. This, however, is the case at the present time. If the situation escalates due to unforeseen internal events or external factors, the regime’s total domination and its complete elimination of all types of authentic socio-political processes will push the country toward civil war. This unfortunate development is the direct result of the regime’s extreme brutality and arrogance. Civil war now seems like a distinct possibility.