Ability to Be Grateful

Who needed it? Who framed the President so? These are the most frequently asked questions to me after the arrest of Mehman Aliyev.

The heavy whirlwind of events of recent weeks involuntarily takes a person out of a normal state, moving him to a virtual system where the mind is persistently looking for answers to the questions, but most often they do not find them.

I have known Mehman since 1989, when he, a graduate of Moscow State University, first came to the Molodyozh Azerbaidzhana (The Youth of Azerbaijan) newspaper and immediately joined the team.

Then The Youth of Azerbaijan, the organ of the Central Committee of the Young Communist League, turned into the leading force of the public of Azerbaijan, which stood up for the defense of Karabakh.

Against the backdrop of the political impotence of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and direct prohibitions from the Central Committee to not write anything about Karabakh, while waiting for Moscow"s decision, the editor of The Youth of Azerbaijan Najaf Najafov assumed an ungrateful mission to uphold national interests.

One of the first articles on this topic was Mehman"s publication They Will Not Cause Us to Quarrel with Each Other. While still a student at Moscow State University, he sent an article to the editorial office, accusing the Karabakh separatists of inciting conflict and hostility between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, calling them "scoundrels".

I well remember which "storm" began after this. The Armenians complained to Moscow, a correspondent from one of the central publications came from there and explained to the editor for a long time that ethics were violated, a whole nation was accused, and this does not do justice to Azerbaijan.

Then the Central Committee of the Young Communist League (Komsomol) and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan joined in, methodically demanding that the editor refute and prevent future negative assessments against the Karabakh separatists.

(Looking ahead, I note that the then leadership of the Komsomol and the Communist Party of Azerbaijan is represented in the leadership of the Ministry of Taxes and the Presidential Administration now).

Despite such tough pressure, the editor of The Youth of Azerbaijan, Najaf Najafov, did not "surrender" Mehman, who, incidentally, was punished by the leadership of the Moscow State University. On the contrary, Mehman was hired by the editorial staff, despite the fierce resistance of the leadership of the Central Committee of the Young Communist League of Azerbaijan.

The school of The Youth of Azerbaijan was perhaps the best period in the life of those who shoulder to shoulder with Najaf survived this difficult period and for the first time tasted the fruits of free journalism. Among these lucky ones, besides Mehman, was the author of these lines.

In subsequent years, we, a group of like-minded people, tried to stay together. So, fate brought us to the magazine Khazar published by the Translation Center, which was then headed by the deceased Aydin Mammadov.

After the January events of 1990, the issue of information blockade arose sharply. We felt that it was an important factor. And it was then that Mehman put forward the idea of creating an independent news agency to inform the world media about the situation in Azerbaijan and, first of all, about the Karabakh conflict.

So, in May 1990, for the first time, the newspapers and the world media received information from the Turan news agency.

I will not talk about the agency"s merits in these 27 years, and I will only note that any serious media, world research centers, human rights organizations, as well as the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union, the United Nations and other structures in their reports and documents refer to Turan.

None of those who once worked or work in the agency can ever say that Mehman was dishonest in financial matters, or deceived someone.

For these 27 years, the agency has not only set the style and standards, but it has become a big and serious school of journalism.

I will not mention names, but colleagues, journalists (and not only them) know well how many Turan people work and direct in many local and even foreign media today, and how many of them work for the government agencies both abroad and in the business sphere.

In all this, there is a great merit of Mehman and the school of Najaf Najafov, which we passed.

And today I have a bitter irony when the investigator who conducts the Mehman case asks with sincere amazement the question: "Who is Najaf Najafov, and what did he do that you have created a foundation named after him?"...

What Kind of Person?

One of the frequently asked questions today is - what kind of person is Mehman Aliyev?

To answer this question in two words is difficult. Having worked together for nearly three decades, I can say that I did not always agree with him. Moreover, we sometimes had serious disagreements on the strategy and tactics of the agency, personnel policy and coverage of events. However, all this was of a working nature.

The agency existed largely thanks to the enormous efforts that Mehman invested in it. He many times rejected favorable proposals from above, believing that this would mean a loss of image and contradict the very essence of filing objective information. Nevertheless, he never rejected reasonable proposals, leading a business dialogue.

He is a pedantic person, somewhat closed, able and loving to plan and prepare everything in advance. He is an incomprehensible optimist and a source of new ideas, for which the author of these lines once said:

"You should write science fiction stories, and not analytical articles."

"The process is on, reforms are inevitable, and positive changes will necessarily happen," - this phrase, perhaps, was his favorite one up to the very arrest.

Information policy is one of the spheres of state security, and especially in our day. Therefore, any serious media is an object of interest. Huge importance is given to confidential information, leakage of information from state bodies, compromising materials and disinformation.

Turan has always tried to stay away from such phenomena and did not allow the use of its brand. However, sometimes life itself puts the journalist before a serious choice, demanding from him to show a civil position. The chief of Turan did not escape this either.

I will tell one case that I would not disclose in any other situation. However, today Mehman is behind bars, and the source of the information is not alive.

In the mid-1990s Heydar Aliyev was preparing for a foreign trip. On the eve of his departure, a man who knew Mehman came to the agency and reported that a plot was being prepared to bring down Aliyev's plane with a portable anti-aircraft missile upon returning from the trip.

The person who reported this news was in terrible confusion and did not know how to proceed, realizing all the responsibility and possible consequences.

Mehman was sure that the terrorist act would plunge the country into chaos and it must be prevented. He contacted one of the ministers and reported on the preparation of the terrorist act.

"Can I pass on to Heydar Aliyevich, who informed me of this?" asked the minister. "You certainly can," Mehman answered.

Subsequently, during the next foreign trip, in the plane, the minister brought Mehman to Heydar Aliyev. Shaking hands, Aliyev said: "Are you Mehman Aliyev? Thank you." The mediator in this dialogue is alive, and today he holds a position.

Heydar Aliyev repeatedly spoke on this topic, not revealing the name of this source, saying that Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel told him about the preparation of the assassination attempt with reference to Turkish intelligence.

Older journalists may remember the case of the mid-1990s, when the presidential plane flying from Europe suddenly flew away and landed at the military airfield Gala, and not at Bina, where journalists and government members waited for it.

Later, law enforcement authorities arrested and condemned the group that was preparing the destruction of the presidential aircraft from a position in one of the settlements of Absheron right on the route of the presidential plane.

At the same time, Heydar Aliyev refused to fly to the CIS summit, demanding that Russia hand over the organizer of the failed assassination attempt. By the way, Aliyev asked to report on his refusal to fly to Moscow via the Turan agency, and not through official channels.

Someone might take this story as an invention or a desire to soften the fate of Mehman or appease the authorities. However, let those who sent him to jail understand a simple thing: if not for the civil position and courage of Mehman, today in the country there could be quite another power, and it is not known how the fate of so many people would have developed.

Instead of an Epilogue

The Scent of a Woman is one of my favorite films. The monologue of the main character of Colonel Slade is its culmination.

"The direct way is the most difficult. A decent and honest man goes this way, but when he is at a crossroads, it is tempting to turn off and go the easy way, without encountering resistance. Most often, the reason for the turn is the need to betray someone, to give up conscience and principles.

Do not ruin someone who has chosen a straight, honest path. This is a sign of honesty and integrity of the soul and character. Support him, and someday you will be proud of it," said the colonel, referring to the leadership of the college, ready to punish a student who did not betray his comrades.

Those who today decide the fate of Mehman perhaps want him to repent or to refuse something. But Mehman will not refuse his principles, and not because he is an oppositionist, but because his principles are a love for his country, his state and his work.

He will forever remain an incorrigible optimist and sometime necessarily continue his work, sincerely wishing his country only one - positive changes.

On you gentlemen depends how soon they will come. I wish that you could ever be proud of the decision. Be able to be grateful.--0--

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