01 July 2008

Day.Az interview with Taisiya Gordeeva, human rights activist, deputy
chairman of the Azerbaijan Committee of Soldiers' Mother and chairman
of the commission for servicemen rights protection of the Helsinki
civil assembly.

- You have been defending rights of servicemen for many years and
you have direct contacts with the Azerbaijani army. What do you think
of it?

- Today's Azerbaijani army is quite strong to release Karabakh and
all the lands occupied by Armenia alone. These are not unfounded
statements, these are facts. It is strong and surpasses the Armenian
army in number and by technical equipment.

By the way, here I would like to note that in case war is resumed,
we will have to fight not with Armenia but with separatist military
formations in Nagorno Karabakh. Certainly, there are Armenian soldiers
and Armenian army there, though Armenia conceals it. But it is not so
strong, as it seems to Armenians, who are sitting in trenches there. I
am more than convinced that Azerbaijan is capable of liberating
Karabakh alone and it will do it either peacefully or by force.

- What are the strong and weak points of our army?

- Its strong points are the growing level of technical equipment,
assimilation of new military technique, rise in the quality and
quantity... Well, the week points... I would say as follows-
Azerbaijani army would have been much stronger, if stronger guys,
born leaders, fighters, who must be brought up in the military and
patriotic spirits on examples of the Azerbaijani heroes of the Great
Patriotic war, are recruited. Now the army faces the problem when
cowards or sick soldiers are recruited and there are cases when
soldiers are falling ill in the army. I think it is necessary to
toughen demands for soldiers health and their physical development
and raise the norms of nutrition and physical readiness.

- Which problems in the army are urgent?

- I do not see any global problem in the armed forces. They get large
sums from the state budget and here the Ministry of Defense must use
them fairly, transparently and rationally.

I think it is also necessary to strengthen public control over the
armed forces, like the one conducted by Alekper Mamedov, chief of
the center for democratic control over the armed forces, To raise
the public prestige of the armed forces so that draftees are strive
for it themselves, like in Turkey, and do not try to escape from it.

- What about escaping? What do you think of cases of desertion in
the army?

- There have never been deserters in the Azerbaijani army. This issue
has been discussed for years and I can say in open that there are
no deserters in our country, there are soldiers, who do not want to
serve in inhumane conditions.

I will explain: There are two articles in the Azerbaijani legislation
-333 and 334. The first one means "deliberate abandonment of the
military unit or failure of a serviceman to return to the military
unit". It implies careful investigation into the reasons of the
failure to return or abandonment, learning extenuating circumstances
and others.

Article 334 is almost identical to 333 but with an important annex-
"deliberate abandonment of a military unit or failure to return for the
purpose of stop serving". It is applied in case when all conditions
are created for the soldier and he still escapes from the unit and
does not want to serve, thus refusing to fulfill his military duty of
the Azerbaijani citizen, fixed in artile 76 of the constitution. This
is real desertion.

But the point is that Azerbaijan has never had such deserters! Our
Azerbaijani guys are patriots of their country and most of them
want to serve but in normal conditions. Not to fall ill. They are
just 18-19 years and sometimes they find themselves in inhumane
life-threatening conditions.

- What do you mean by sating "serve in normal conditions"?

- To fulfill military duties and not to buy presents for officers. To
eat normally and not when cooks and commanders want, to learn to treat
weapon. This is the greatest problem. Visiting the military units
I often see soldiers with buckets, rags and brooms in their hands,
but very seldom I see them on the sport grounds with arms... But
visits to polygons must be regular not just on paper.

- Are you pleased with the work of the military medical commission?

- There are good doctors there. Nevertheless, I am for creation of
medical commissions under the Health Ministry. Until the recruitment
commission is controlled by the Defense Ministry, its work will never
be 100% unbiased, as their is a plan of the number of draftees and

I think this commission should be led by Minister Oqtay Shiraliyev
as the list of diseases, for which a draftee is not eligible, is
ratified by the Cabinet of Ministers and not the Defense Ministry.