Scandal among the Azerbaijan opposition – Musavat Party accused of loyalty to the authorities
The Musavat Party – one of the oldest opposition parties in Azerbaijan – is being criticized by other oppositionists for the fact that several of its members entered into a dialogue with the authorities.
Musavat itself denies these claims, saying that these people were acting of their own accord, and not as representatives of the party.
The former political prisoner, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, also weighed in on the incident.
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The conditions of the proposal are not yet clear
Azerbaijani authorities made an official proposal to open a dialogue with the opposition in early March 2020. In fact, it was a call for cooperation, although what form this cooperation will take is not yet clear.
Oppositionists have had mixed reactions to this proposal.
The unregistered Republican Alternative Party agreed to the proposal, which caused outrage among many.
The Musavat and Popular Front Parties, as well as the National Council of Democratic Forces of Azerbaijan (NCDF), have put forward a number of conditions. The government did not accept these conditions, so the dialogue did not proceed.
This is the first time in many years that Azerbaijani authorities have made this kind of proposals. And, having been refused, they became indignant. In his speeches, President Ilham Aliyev repeatedly called the opposition, who did not want to cooperate with the authorities, a “fifth column” and “enemies of the people”.
The opposition does not expect any good to come from the dialogs with the authorities, given the traditional repression and persecution to which opposition members are subjected. Only the Republican Alternative remains more optimistic.
And now, the media is reporting that Musavat member Novella Jafaroglu, who also heads the Azerbaijan Women’s Rights Protection Society, and two of her associates, met with Adalyat Valiyev, the head of the Department for Relations with Political Parties and the legislative branch of the presidential administration.
Jafaroglu does not deny that she advocates for a dialogue between her party and the authorities:
“Of course, Musavat cannot stand to one side in a meeting at which political parties are being discussed. The conversation took place. It all depends on our leadership, and we are just ordinary members of Musavat. But we would really like the dialogue to happen,” says Jafaroglu.
The Popular Front and the NSDS took this as a betrayal by Musavat.
Musavat itself assures them that it does not bear any responsibility for Jafaroglu’s actions, does not know anything about this, and is not going to talk with the authorities.
“The participants in this meeting with Veliyev spoke on behalf of their NGO, and not our party. Any attacks on us are unfair. We didn’t send anyone to this meeting, and were generally unaware of what happened,” assures Musavat party member Sakhavat Soltanli.
The rest of the opposition do not go so far as to say that do not believe Musavat, but they demand to understand the situation and that Novella Jafaroglu is forced to answer for her decision.
Journalist versus human rights activist
The journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who was recently released from prison and now lives in Germany, had a harsh reaction to the incident:
“I think if after this, Novella remains in Musavat, it will be a stain on the party’s reputation,” – stated Mukhtarli on his Facebook page.
In response, Novella Jafaroglu accused Mukhtarli of smuggling money and said that when he was in prison, he begged the authorities to release him.
Smuggling is one of the charges brought against Mukhtarli by the Azerbaijani authorities when they arrested him. Previously, the journalist was abducted from Georgia. International human rights organizations recognized Mukhtarli as a political prisoner and fought long and hard for his release.
This is not the first case of internal conflict among the Azerbaijani opposition. After the authorities proposed opening a dialogue, these conflicts became even more frequent.
The fact that a member of the Republican Alternative Party, Erkin Gadirli, became the only representative of the current opposition to enter parliament after the February 2020 election also added fuel to the fire.