“My younger brother is a Karabakh martyr. He died in 1992 during the war in the Aghdere region of Nagorno Karabakh. We are well aware of the way that the Azerbaijan government treats the families of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the motherland.
“That’s why from the beginning I was against the idea that my son will one day go to the army. To be honest, my son also wasn’t excited about it. He’d rather use a pen than a weapon.
“He hasn’t seen any respect for his uncle who died in Karabakh, so what respect could he ever see for himself?”
This Fuzuli region father asks that his name not be used because he has committed a crime – paying a bribe to a doctor to keep his son out of the army. According to Articles 311 and 312 of the Criminal Code, a person who pays a bribe can be fined between 8,000 and 12,000 manat (US$4,700 to 7,050) and imprisoned for 4 to 8 years. A person who accepts a bribe can be imprisoned from 8 to 12 years.
The father says he paid the 8,000 manat ($4,700) bribe three years ago, and that a middleman told him most of that money went to an office administered by Elchin Abdullayev, 57, chief surgeon for the military medical commission of the State Service for Mobilization and Conscription.
Since he started the job in 2015, Abdullayev and his family have purchased properties valued at almost $300,000. Abdullayev says he’s earned the money over 30 years as a doctor.
However, his official monthly salary today is estimated to be under 1,400 manat ($825).
The father who paid the bribe has three daughters and one son. He says many people know who regulates army induction in the regions outside the capital of Baku. The middlemen used to accept the bribes are often retired soldiers or people who have relatives in the military.
The State Service for Mobilization of Conscription was created in 2012 under a decree from President Ilham Aliyev. The Service reports directly to the Presidential Administration, replacing a system controlled by the Ministry of Defense. The State Statistical Committee says statistics on the number of soldiers conscripted each year is not open information.
The Service has regional offices throughout Azerbaijan, and has both military and civilian employees. Abdullayev and the other doctors are civilians. Monthly salaries are in the range of 700-1,300 manat ($410-765).
It was 2016 when the son was supposed to go to the army. His father started asking around and quickly found several people who knew middlemen who would accept bribes.
After a few days the father received a phone call. He agreed to pay 5,000 manat ($2,940) immediately and another 3,000 manat ($1,760) later.
There are army conscription calls four times a year: January, April, July and October. Each time military medical commissions are established to examine all candidates. Special checkups requiring X-rays or blood tests looking for diseases like tuberculosis are conducted in hospitals.
The son was diagnosed with flat feet without a hospital visit.
“I had to pay 8,000 manat for this,” his father said. “For the additional 3,000, I had to get loans from friends. It was the only way to fix it. I don’t regret it! It isn’t worth it to serve this country!”
He is still angry about the death of his brother in combat. The family received a one-time payment of 11,000 manat ($6,470). A monthly payment was increased in January from 242 manat to 300 manat ($176).
Abdullayev worked for over 15 years in Clinic #20 at 37 Asif Maharramov Street in Baku in the Traumatic Injury department. Until 2018 he was still listed at the hospital as working two night-shifts a week, but a colleague was actually working those shifts.
Full-time monthly salaries in state hospitals usually range between 250-500 manat ($147-294), and a surgeon might earn another 100-150 manat ($59-88) depending on how many operations they perform.
Abdullayev was appointed chief surgeon of the Military Medical Commission in 2015. “The Service itself invited me to do this job,” he says. “I’m a professional doctor who worked in a state hospital for years. I was recommended by the Ministry of Health.”
Abdullayev says all health reports come directly to him. “It’s simple,” he says. “During the medical checkup, when we see that the person is healthy, he goes to military service. If he is not, he doesn’t.”
He says other doctors sometimes are consulted. “If there is a need, I review a case. It’s possible that someone might disagree with my diagnosis. If a citizen wants to get a second checkup, if he doesn’t believe me, then for sure other doctors are able to examine him again.”
According to a Commission source, his monthly salary should be between 750-1300 manat. ($410-765).
Abdullayev has owned a 30 square meter apartment in the Yeni Yasamal district of Baku since 2000. In 2008, he bought a 2000 model Mercedes 240.
Since he became chief surgeon, his financial situation has greatly improved. He or his family members have purchased two big houses and other properties worth at least 500,000 manat ($294,000).
One of the houses is listed in the name of Abdullayev’s wife, Mulayim Valiyeva. In 2016 they paid 40,000 manat ($23,500) for 10 acres located in Nohurqishlaq village in Gabala region. In 2017, they built a house and had gas lines installed. It’s currently listed with online homestay sites including Airbnb and Booking under the name of Vusal House. (E.Abdullayev’s son).
Another property listed in Valiyeva’s name is located at 084 Garden Massive in the Mehdiabad district of Baku. In 2018 they paid between 42,000-48,000 manat ($24,700- 28,200) for the 6-acre vacant plot. They built a house, and then purchased another plot behind it to increase the size of the yard.
In 2017 Abdullayev bought two cars — a 2007 Hyundai Tucson and a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe. The cars are in the names of two cousins, Tarana and Rovshan Alakbarov. Abdullayev and his son Vusal drive the cars, which have a combined estimated value of around $40,000.
Vusal Abdullayev, 22, currently serves in the State Border Service in the Gabala region and will soon finish his military service. His token salary is under 20 manat ($12).
His sister, Khatira Abdullayeva, 25, is currently not working. Their mother has worked a low-wage job at Printing House #3 in Baku for over 20 years. Monthly pay in similar jobs is seldom over 300 manat ($176) and some jobs are low-price honorariums only.
According to a source who knows the system, Abdullayev is a main decision maker in cases relating to flat feet, scoliosis and surgeries — all of which determine whether a candidate is fit to serve.
“All issues regarding the health of future soldiers are under his control — who is fit for military service, who is not; which officer is ill, which is not; which officer should be retired, etc,” the source says.
Abdullayev dismisses any rumors of corruption.
“My wife and I have worked for 30 years,” he says. “Now you’re saying that our kids shouldn’t have a car? They shouldn’t have a house? I shouldn’t have a house? What kind of a question is that?
“Azerbaijan is a democratic country. Everyone works and earns money.
“There are a lot of rumors. I heard some of them. There were cases when people wrote to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and to (First Lady) Mehriban Aliyeva. I basically know who these people are.
“It’s been checked, and nothing has been found.”
TWO OTHER CASES
A similar case happened in northern Azerbaijan. A young man failed his university exams in 2018. Failing university exams means a person should go into the army as soon as he is called up.
He wanted to take the university exams again in 2019. His father found a middleman in their region, met him in person, and agreed to pay 3,500 manat ($2,060) But later he was told that flat feet and similar diagnoses had been given to too many people in 2018. In order to avoid any suspicions, it was suggested that the father get a diagnosis of mental disorder for his son.
“Even though my father gave them 3,500 manat ($2,060), we were told that I have to stay and get treatment for at least one week in Psychiatric Clinic #1 in Mashtagha district of Baku,” the son says.
“Everything was agreed in advance. My father drove me to the clinic. We were met by one man. I think he was a doctor, but I’m not sure. After that I never saw him again.
“I was sharing a room with one man in the clinic. He didn’t have any mental illness either, but he also needed this paper. If I’m not mistaken, he wanted to get early retirement from his job.”
“During that week I lost all my patience. Every day there were screams, cries, weird sounds from everywhere. All day long I was hearing this. The hospital workers made patients with real mental disorders clean the clinic, and those who didn’t obey were beaten. It is a horrible place! One week seemed like a year.”
He received his papers stating that he had mental issues and cannot serve in the army. He failed university exams in 2019 again, and now works in Baku as a waiter. After saving enough money, he plans to move to Russia or Germany.
Faking mental illness can also be expensive.
“I did it for my son in 2016,” says another father. “I am classified as disabled without possibility of recovery. On January 25, 1993, I was on the frontline in Aghdere region of Nagorno Karabakh. A mine exploded and I lost my leg.
“My son was the only one who was driving a taxi and earning some money for our family. That’s why I didn’t want him to go to the army.
“We live in the Surakhani district of Baku. I found the middleman for our district. The middleman’s relative works in the local office of the Border Service. When the middleman was talking on the phone, he very often was referring to someone as a “doctor.” As far as I understand, he was dealing with some doctor to fix this issue.
“My son got injured when he was a kid and has a scar on his left wrist. We just showed it and said he has mental problems, and that he may commit suicide any time.
“For this I had to pay 2,900 manat ($1,700). We agreed on this amount, and my son spent three days in Psychiatric Clinic #2 in Baku. After this we got a paper that showed his mental disorder.
“One year later we wanted to find a job for him as a bus driver. But it wasn’t impossible because of what was on that paper. It seemed the only way he could get that job now was if he served in the army.
“Then I was told it would be very difficult to serve in the army for a person who a year ago got a diagnosis of mental disorder. We fixed it with the help of the same middleman, and I had to pay 2,500 manat ($1,470).
“My son again had to spent three days in the same psychiatric clinic. After that we got a new paper that he was healthy and able to serve in the army. He served in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic for one and a half years, and recently finished his duty.”
The son is back in Baku. He doesn’t have a job.