Shortly after presidential elections Minister of defence was dismissed in Azerbaijan.General-colonel Safar Abiyev had been serving on the position for 19 years.
Zakir Hasanov, former commander of Internal Troops was appointed as the new minister of defence. According to the research conducted by “Doctrine” (Military Research Centre of Journalists), more than 50 people occupying high positions in Ministry of Defence have been repositioned, or dismissed by new Minister.
According to “Doctrine” Center one of the reasons of the dismiss was increasing protest against Safar Abiyev because of his regulations in the army. In 2013 two demonstrations were held protesting against growing number of casulties among the soldiers in the army. Participants of the rallies demanded Safar Abiyev to resign via online petition as well.
Safar Abiyev was not close ally to General-Colonel Najmaddin Sadikov - chief of the General Staff. A lot of articles about their disagreements were published in the newspapers. Several high level officers in the army were forced to retire by Safar Abiyev because of their close relationship with the chief of the General Staff.
Abiyev’s scandal with US Ambassador became one of the reasons for the dismiss. Several days after the presidential election Abiyev meet with US Ambassador in Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar. A few hours later the press office of the Ministry of Defense made a statement pointing out the details of negotiations between Abiyev and Morningstar. Press office of MoD claimed that Morningstar had recognised Aliyev’s victory in the election while Barack Obama, the president of USA didn’t congratulate Aliyev. US Embassy in Azerbaijan denied the statement and declared that details of the private meeting would not be open for society. The head of press office of MoD colonel Eldar Sabiroglu and the chief of the Department International Cooperation General-Colonel Ramiz Najafov soon declared that they possessed the audio-record of that negotiations and if necessary they would present it to the Embassy and to the whole society.
Experts from Center of Simulative Forecasts in Azerbaijan stated that Abiyev’s behaviour was inaccurate and contradicted to diplomatic ethics. Moreover, Azerbaijani government credibility was seriously damaged internationally.
According to the Arastun Orujlu, the director of the East-West Research Centre: “Replacing Minister of Defence is government’s attempt to strengthen its control on the Armed Forces”.
“During “Arab spring” we all remember when armies refused to obbey the regimes. Perphaps Azerbaijani Government had the same challenges and preferred to grant the army leadership to the reliable person”, said Arastun Orujlu. He thinks there is no connection between Abiyev resignment and tensity with US Embassy. “Probably this tensity was created to resign Abiyev. The scandal created problem firstly for Safar Abiyev. So, I think scenario was created against Abiyev”, - A.Orujlu said.
According to the Dashdemir Aliyev, the chairman of the Public Union “Veterans of Armed Forces”, the main reason of changes was problems with corruption and casualties among soldiers in the Army. “Army was going out of control. Every year the number of casualties was growing , despite the increase of the military budget. Society demanded changes, people are against corruption and violence in the Army. Now we believe new Minister of Defense will solve problems for the army and will increase the level of trust toward army in the society”
Pro-governmental member of parliament Zahid Oruc thinks that former the Minister of Defense didn’t cope with his duties. “Problems about the army building were discussed in the parliament. Military sector is the first priority in the state budget. So, transparency in the budget, properly managed human resourses and approprietly equiped military forces are the responsibilities of the Minister of Defense.”
Telman Abilov, the director of the Center of the Protection of Rights of Military People, said that Zakir Hasanov should change the climate inside the military units: “Untill today we saw lots of problems in Army, problems with legacy among the military people are one of the main challenges of our army. Corruption seriously damaged the army. Officers who studied abroad were forced to leave the army, so our army needs professional staff.” Zakir Hasanov presented his ideas about army development during his last visits to military units. One of them was to involve the civil society in army building. Experts found the idea challenging.
According to the “Doctrine” during 2013 year sixty soldiers of MoD died. Experts at “Doctrine” think that protest influenced situation inside the army. Officers are more careful with the soldiers.
Experts saiy Hasanov should carry out following reforms in the army: check all military units, especially financial departments; prevent corruption and bribery in all military units; provide soldiers and officers with 100 percent social welfare; increase the quality of military education at Military Schools; modernize management structure, apply effective officer rotation system; guarantee transparency to the society public and the parliament, modernize information policy; fulfil financial obligations towards the officers; renew military legislation and bring it to the NATO standards.
“If Hasanov fails to implement those changes, the replacement will not make any difference”, said “Doctrine”’s experts.