Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev’s plans to become a lifetime president created political strife at the beginning of the year. The opposition party Musavat tried to organize protests, but one of the party’s leaders was arrested in January along with two activists who collected signatures against the plans for constitutional changes. The opposition called for a boycott of the referendum in March, which included, among other things, the proposal that a president should be able to be re-elected as unlimited. However, according to the authorities, turnout was 70 percent, and more than nine out of ten voters were said to have agreed.
Many voters saw Aliyev as a symbol of the economic success the country received through the high oil price. But according to a representative of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan was threatened with exclusion if the constitutional changes were implemented. During the year, the country was invited to the EU’s so-called Eastern Partnerships, which are expected to lead to, among other things, increased trade, EU subsidies and simpler visa rules. At the EU Summit on the Partnership in Prague in May, Azerbaijan and Armenian leaders met to discuss the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The talks continued but did not lead anywhere and in October they were interrupted.
According to countryaah, Azerbaijan reacted strongly during the year to Turkey’s alliance partner approaching Armenia. When Turkey signed an agreement with Armenia in October, Azerbaijan accused the country of betrayal, mainly because Turkey would open its border with Armenia before the Armenian military was withdrawn from Nagorno-Karabakh.
During the summer, two opposition activists were arrested who blogged critically on the Internet. According to human rights organizations, the arrest was part of a pattern of persecution against independent journalists and organized pursuit of dissent. EU Presidency Sweden protested in connection with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt meeting President Alijev in Baku in July. But in September, the arrested bloggers were put on trial and risked five years in prison.
In November, the Council of Europe criticized Azerbaijan for life imprisonment being abused and subjected to sexual abuse. In December, civil rights activist Ilgar Nasibov was abused by government supporters at a corruption seminar held at the University of Nachichevan. The perpetrators were reported to belong to the youth organization within President Aliyev’s state-carrying party.
Azerbaijani soldiers are suspected of war crimes
13th of December
The ceasefire from 9 November is broken. Azerbaijan reports that four Azeri soldiers have lost their lives, while Armenia reports some injured. The next day, it emerges that two soldiers from Azerbaijan have legal recourse to wait in their home country for mutilating the bodies of Armenian soldiers during the autumn war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The two filmed their actions and posted the films on social media. Two other soldiers are said to have desecrated Armenian tombstones.
Azerbaijan celebrates victory in war
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking part in Azerbaijan’s celebration of the victory over Armenia in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war. In a military parade held in Baku, drones of Turkish manufacture are among the equipment on display. On the same day, Amnesty International calls on both Azerbaijan and Armenia to investigate allegations of war crimes; such accusations are leveled against both sides.
Almost 5,500 died in the autumn war
Azerbaijan publishes for the first time an indication of how many lives were claimed in the autumn war over Nagorno-Karabakh: 2,783 soldiers have been found dead and another 100 missing. Armenia has previously stated its military losses at 2,425. This means that more than 5,200 soldiers lost their lives. At least 143 civilian casualties are known, on both sides.