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“They answered so rudely, as if I was begging” – how the pandemic has affected traders in Azerbaijan

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Due to the quarantine regime in Azerbaijan, most commercial facilities – cafes, restaurants, shops, shopping centers – have closed. Tens of thousands of people working in the service and trade sectors found themselves on forced leave for an indefinite period and with unclear futures.

One of them is Vagif, a curator of a network of fashion boutiques in Baku.

According to official data, as of April 8, 717 cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in Azerbaijan. 8 people have died, 44 have recovered.

“It all started on March 12-13, when the shops were still working. Usually in the middle of the month we send a request for advances – it was not granted. And when I called the main office to find out the reason, they answered me so rudely, as if I were begging, and not asking for my own salary.”

“A few days later, several sellers were sent on vacation at their own expense, because there were fewer buyers. And on March 18 they called everyone and told us to write statements and go on unpaid leave for a month. They didn’t say anything about money at all – neither about an advance, nor about paying for the days already worked.

It was clear to all of us that this was illegal, but we did not object. As they say, HR will always find a way to fire you, and nobody wants to lose a job.

“I live with my retired mom, I have a lot of loans – that is, the prospect of being left without money has really strained me, to be honest. And by the way, not a single bank has yet to freeze loans. Only a few electronics stores did this.

“So, about March 24, we were again called to the office and paid for 14 days work (although we worked 18 days).

“And on April 2, we got the rest of our salary for March on our cards, but presented it as an advance for April.

“In general, no one understood anything, and no one is explaining anything to us.

The fact is that store employees, in addition to their salaries, also count on commissions. These percentages are a significant part of our income, and now they are gone. And we all worry about what will happen at the end of April. It seems that the state has obliged employers to pay wages during this period. But we are sure that if the tax service does not follow up with this, they will not give us anything.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economy reports that the state is ready to pay part of the salary to employees who have an employment contract. To do this, the employer, whose business has suffered from the current situation, must submit an application, and part of the wages paid to employees will be transferred to their bank accounts. Payments are supposed to start this week.

Azerbaijan has introduced a strengthened quarantine regime.

The metro, parks and squares have been closed; the activities of most enterprises, organizations and institutions have been suspended as well.

A restriction has been introduced on the movement of citizens – in order to go out, everyone, except for workers in certain areas, must send a special SMS and get permission from the authorities.

Quarantine violators are fined.

Although the country has not yet officially declared a state of emergency, which, in fact, makes all of these measures illegal.

The authorities promise to pay compensation to the amount of $112 to those who lost their jobs due to all that is happening.

The post “They answered so rudely, as if I was begging” – how the pandemic has affected traders in Azerbaijan appeared first on English Jamnews.

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Azerbaijani oil prices decline

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The price of Azeri LT CIF Augusta, produced at the Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) oil field amounted to $18.6 per barrel on April 24, which is $0.14 less compared to April 23, Trend reports with reference to the country’s oil and gas market.

The price of Azeri LT FOB Ceyhan amounted to $16.56 per barrel on April 24, which is $0.12 less compared to April 23.

Azerbaijan has been producing Azeri LT since 1997 and exporting it via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Baku-Supsa Western Export Pipeline, as well as by rail, to the Georgian port of Batumi.

Azerbaijan also sells its URALS oil from the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, delivering it through the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline.

The price of URALS with shipment from the port amounted to $17.32 per barrel on April 24, which is $0.1 less compared to April 23.

The cost of a barrel of Brent Dated oil, produced in the North Sea, amounted to $16.01 per barrel, indicating a decrease of $0.29.

(1 USD = 1.7 AZN on April 25)

News.Az

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Six more opposition activists arrested in Azerbaijan

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Six more opposition activists have been sentenced to administrative detention in Azerbaijan in the latest of a series of arrests of members of the opposition. 

On Friday, Nijat Abdullayev, a member of the Supreme Council of the opposition Popular Front Party, was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention.

The party reported that he was detained by men in civilian clothes while travelling to a grocery store near his home. 

Abdullayev after leaving court. Photo via Ali Karimli.

A day earlier, Faig Amirli, financial director of opposition newspaper Azadlig and assistant to the head of the opposition Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, was also sentenced to 30 days. 

His wife, Lala Amirli, reported on Facebook on Wednesday that three cars pulled up near their house and the men inside ‘grabbed him by the neck’ and put him in a car and drove away. 

Later that day, two other Popular Front Party members — Ali Karimli’s bodyguard, Ruslan Amirli, and video blogger Natig Izbatov — were also sentenced to 30 days. 

Two members of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Movement (ADR), Shakir Mammadov and Vafadar Aliyev were also sentenced to 15 and 30 days on Monday and Tuesday respectively. 

All six men were found guilty by the court of violating the quarantine regime. 

The Popular Front Party stated that the arrests were politically motivated. 

According to the Administrative Code, violation of a quarantine regime is punishable by fines of ₼100–₼200 ($60–$120) or detention for up to 1 month.

Opposition youth activist ‘warned’

On Wednesday, Ilkin Rustamzade, one of the leaders of pro-democracy youth movement NiDA, reported on Facebook that he expected he might soon be arrested. 

Rustamzade, who recently moved to a rented flat with his wife, said police officers showed up to his parents’ house, where he is registered, earlier that day. After not finding him there, he said officers took his father to a police station before releasing him shortly after. 

According to Rustamzade, the police claimed he had violated the quarantine regime by moving to another flat. 

He said police officers later came to his flat and surrounded the building, but that he refused to leave demanding an official request.

Ilkin Rustamzade during his Facebook broadcast on Wednesday.

‘I moved to the new flat on 2 April and left the house only once by notifying authorities by SMS. Of course, it’s not about the quarantine rules […] it is the continuation of repression against me’, he said. 

According to Rustamzade, ‘about 10 days ago’ he launched a petition urging the government to allocate social benefits to the public and to cancel bank loans and communal bills.

He said that several days later, he received a message on social media from a fake profile who presented himself as a ‘man of the intelligence service’, and warned him that if he did not stop the petition, they would ‘do very filthy things to my wife’. 

Later that day, Rustamzade said that dozens of fake profiles on social media had started writing insulting posts about him and his wife. He said a profile of his wife was created on an escort website.

Later, he reported that their landlord had demanded they move out. 

On Thursday, Amnesty International condemned the harassment of Rustamzade and his family. 

‘Recently, the Azerbaijani authorities have used the COVID-19 pandemic to increasingly crack-down on their critics’, their statement said. 

‘As the arrests and politically motivated prosecution of critics continue, Azerbaijan remains closed to human rights scrutiny.’ 

Rustamzade was pardoned in March 2019 after serving six years in prison on charges of hooliganism, and later ‘inciting violence and organising mass disorder’, for planning a peaceful protest in 2013. 

In a statement on Friday, the National Council of Democratic Forces, an opposition coalition, said the government had been ramping-up its repression of the opposition during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They urged the Azerbaijani people and the international community to loudly condemn ‘these anti-national and anti-human acts’ and to organise a strong protest campaign to stop the policy.

A new wave of repression

In a speech delivered on 19 March, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called any opposition group that did not enter ‘into dialogue’ with the authorities, ‘traitors and corrupt representatives of a fifth column’.

‘Look at what they say on social networks, they are full of hatred and provocation. They seem to want riots to happen. They want turmoil. They want panic’, Aliyev said. 

He added that if a state of emergency were to be declared due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ‘isolation of representatives of the fifth column’ would become ‘a historical necessity’. 

Ali Ahmadov, the deputy chair of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, wrote on Facebook on 23 March that there were ‘two viruses’ in Azerbaijan, COVID-19 and the ‘political virus’ that was the opposition, specifically Ali Karimli. He wrote that the two should be fought against at ‘the same time’.

The National Council of Democratic Forces condemned Aliyev’s speech, calling it ‘fascist’. They also accused Aliyev of planning false ‘plots’ that would give him justification for repressing the opposition. 

Two days after Aliyev’s speech, Samir Babayev, a member of the opposition Muslim Unity Movement, was the first opposition activist to be arrested during the pandemic.

He was detained while he and other members of the movement distributed medical masks and information brochures about COVID-19 outside a central metro station in Baku. He was placed under administrative arrest for one month. 

The following day, Tofig Yagublu, an opposition politician from the Musavat Party, was sentenced to three months in prison on the charges of hooliganism.

Tofig Yagublu in front of the Nizami District Court. Photo: Nigar Hazi/Facebook.

Later that day, Anar Malikov, a member of the Popular Front Party, was placed under administrative arrest for 10 days accused of ‘violating quarantine’.

Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli called Babayev, Yagublu, and Malikov, ‘coronavirus prisoners’.

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijan arrests opposition activists during COVID-19 outbreak

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Georgia coronavirus cases reach 385

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The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Georgia has reached 385, according to local media.

So far, 3 patients have died from the infection and 84 others have recovered in Georgia.

Georgia confirmed the first case of coronavirus on February 26.

As many as 4,971 citizens are under quarantine.

News.Az

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