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Le Figaro: “Aliyev’s Azerbaijan fears getting infected”

La police azérie procède à une arrestation lors d'une manifestation de l'opposition dans le centre de Bakou, le 2 avril dernier. Crédits photo : HUMBATOVA/REUTERS.
Azeri police making an arrest at an opposition protest in the center of Baku, 2 April. Photo credits: HUMBATOVA/REUTERS. © STR New / Reuters/REUTERS

Determined to preserve the “Azeri model”, autocrat Ilham Aliyev harshly represses the protests which have multiplied under the influence of the Arab spring.

With his angelic face and his chic outfit, Eldar Gasimov became Azerbaijan’s idol overnight. Along with his partner Nigar Jamal, the young man won Eurovision 2011 on 14 May, inflating the whole country with pride. Since then, the two lovebirds have been scouring the trendy bars of Baku, taking advantage of their sudden and unexpected fame. He is a multilingual international relations student; she is married to a businessman and lives in London. A modern and cosmopolitan showcase of Azerbaijan, a land full of oil which smiles at foreign investors and is in search of respectability on an international level. The picture would have been almost perfect if, in this Muslim majority republic ruled by enlightened autocrat Ilham Aliyev, the wind of Arab revolutions had not started to blow. The last descendant of the Aliyev dynasty (his father was head of the KGB in soviet Azerbaijan before becoming leader of its communist party) has been in power for 8 years and follows every movement of protest. Within a few weeks, several demonstrations have been suppressed and their leaders sent to prison. “The opposition has become a kind of business. It is run by people who do not support our country in carrying out an independent policy and asserting its European values​​,” laments Samad Seyidov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. A list of the threatening neighbors of Azerbaijan: Russia, the former tutelary power, to the north, nuclear Iran to the south, unstable Central Asia to the east, Turkey to the west, but most importantly Armenia, accused of illegally occupying Nagorno Karabakh through its “omnipotent” diaspora. Willing to go to war, the public opinion is also pushing the Azeri government to regain by force the territory it lost after a war in 1994.

A hub

Fortunately, thanks to the equivalent of one million barrels of oil pumped out of its soil each day, Azerbaijan has indebted countries. The country, which already ships its crude oil to the Mediterranean through the BTC pipeline, is also expected to become a hub of the Nabucco pipeline project, sponsored by Europe. Placed in a sovereign wealth fund, oil revenues – $30 billion expected in late 2011 – fund infrastructure and Azeri foreign exchanges students.  who, once they return home, drive along the seashore in 4×4 cars. Meanwhile President Ilham Aliyev, whose fathers photographs have their special place in many streets of Baku, is accused of drifting into a monarchy. “The human rights situation is only getting worse,” says Idrak Abassov, one of the most active opposition journalists, who partly gets his resources from the intelligentsia. The regime, moralized by Europe, has recently made some concessions. Nevertheless it remains committed to preserving the “Azeri model.”

Original in French – Le Figaro


Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s mother held for questioning

Imprisoned youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s mother Solida Movlayeva placed her membership to New Azerbaijan Party on the grave of the late ex-president Heydar Aliyev.

She stated that she left the ruling party as a sign of protest against her son’s imprisonment.

Soon after, law enforcement agents arrived at the scene and detained Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s mother and a cameraman from IRFS. According to AzadliqRadiosu‘s reporter who was at the scene, the law enforcement agents stated that Solida Movlayeva and the IRFS worker were detained in order to clarify the situation.

In atelephone interview to AzadliqRadiosu, Ms Movlayeva said that she was taken to the Presidential Administration Headquarters for questioning and was told that she was detained because her foot crossed the threshold to Heydar Aliyev’s grave. She added that she joined the New Azerbaijan Party in 1995 of her own free will, as she wanted Heydar Aliyev’s party to have one more member. Seeing the injustices taking place today, she wanted to return the membership to Heydar Aliyev.

After half an hour of questioning, Solida Movlayeva was released. IRFS’s video footage was erased.

Information taken from RFE/RL Azeri Service. Article in Azeri, along with a video, can be found here.

Opposition activist excluded from Baku State University

Javid Mehraliyev, 3rd year History student at Baku State University, has told AzadliqRadiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that he has been excluded from the university.

The official reason behind his exclusion is his continuous absence from classes, but he says that it is because of his participation at opposition rallies: “I was given the order today, but it is dated 5 April. I was in class on the 5th. If I was absent on 5 April, they would have written that in the journal. They wrote that I was absent on the 5th only today. According to University rules, when you miss 100 hours of class an official warning has to be given. I never received such a warning, they just started these scare tactics as soon as I was released from prison. Then the dean comes up to me and tells me that I’ve missed 158 hours of class. I said, but you’re supposed to give me a warning when it reaches 100 hours. He told me to stay out of their business. Even though the order was signed on the 5th, they have noted me as absent on 6, 7, 8 and 11 April as well. How does that work?”

Parvana Ibrahimova, head of the press office at Baku State University, told AzadliqRadiosu that J. Merhaliyev missed 132 hours of class in the 2009-2010 academic year but was allowed to stay on the course. Having missed 158 hours this year, he had to be excluded.

J. Merhaliyev is a member of Classic Popular Front Party, which is a member of the Public Chamber. The police detained him during the 2 April protest and sentenced him to three days in prison.

He says he will go to court for the protection of his rights.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

Daughter of opposition activist excluded from school after protest

Director of studies: “We followed the Education Ministry’s instructions.”

Six-year-old Sevinj Ahmadova, daughter of Ibrahim Ahmadzade – member of Ictimai Palata (“Public Chamber”) – has been excluded from school. In an interview with “Demokrat” newspaper on 7 April, Irahim Ahmadzade’s wife Gulnara Ahmadova says that her daughter was excluded from school on the day her husband was arrested – 31 March.

Ibrahim Ahmadzade was detained on 31 March; Sumgait Court sentenced him to 7 days administrative detention.

Gulara Ahmadova says that before her husband’s arrest, there were no problems with Sevinj Ahmadova wearing a hijab: “The primary reason for our daughter being excluded is Ibrahim actively taking part in Musavat Party’s protest in Baku on 12 March. He was called to the police station several times in order to stop him from taking part in the protest on 2 April. Then they arrested him without even informing us, and excluded my daughter from school. Sevinj went to school with a headscarf on before Ibrahim’s arrest and nobody said anything. As soon as Ibrahim was active in protests against the government, the headscarf became a problem.”

Original in Azeri [“Azadliq” newspaper]

Azeri police speak of how they were “attacked” by protesters

Since the 2 April protest took place, Azerbaijani TV stations have incessantly been showing reports about the events. Reports that in no way reflect reality, but reports nonetheless. They show “ordinary citizens” (who are, in fact, members of pro-government ‘NGO’s) making statements about how wrong it is for Azeris abroad to call for protests, how un-Azeri, unpatriotic it is, and that we should all sit down and cry about Karabakh instead.

We see bandaged policemen in hospital beds, speaking with uncharacteristically fragile voices and pitiful faces, making generic statements about injuries and struggling to remember anything. Like scenes from a bad high school play.

Here is RFE/RL’s report about what the poor injured policemen had to say:
[Original in Azeri]


Azerbaijani riot police

“They were shouting, beat the police! Hit the police! They had pieces of metal in their hands. They were out of control, attacking us.” Afat Nabiyev, sergeant of Nasimi district post patrol detachment, says he was injured during the 2 April protest organized by Ictimai Palata (Public Chamber, a coalition of opposition parties).

The sergeant refuses to consider that those who injured him were groups of saboteurs:

“No, no! There were even well-known people, you know, people we repeatedly see at these protests. They were at the head of this. Personally I have seen the person who hit me in the newspapers. I knew him. He was instructing people – beat the police, beat the public.”

Afat Nabiyev describes the person who attacked him: “He was bald, not too short, but not tall, normal [the interviewee says this and takes a deep breath – like a student who is having problems reciting the text he memorized]. They had broken glass, rocks in their hands. Metal pipes. They broke people’s shop windows, cars, with whatever they could get their hands on.”

A little later, Afat Nabiyev says that the person who attacked him was Arif Hajili, head of Musavat Party executive body. But he says this name laughing, so it is hard to tell whether he is joking or serious. The sergeant also does not know whether the person who beat him has been arrested or not.

Arif Hajili’s lawyer Asabali Mustafayev says that the policeman’s words are “inadmissible accusations”. According to him if Afat Nabiyev has any evidence, it should have been shown when Hajili was being arrested. Mustafayev adds that there was also no mention of this when Arif Hajili was being questioned in court. But Asabali Mustafayev does not rule out that his client could face more accusations:

“Arif Hajili was not part of the organizing bodies the protest. So it is ridiculous to accuse him of organizing it. Perhaps they want to change the charges.”

We ask the police sergeant Afat Nabiyev: “So how is it that the policemen are able to immediately catch all these protesters that were peacefully chanting slogans, but not those who attack the police or order people to attack them? How is it that this person was able to escape this encirclement of police?” The answer: “Nobody escaped us out of the people we detained. There was a big crowd. We couldn’t fight them all. It was a bit difficult.”

Afat Nabiyev recalls what happened: “I was injured during the unrest on the 2nd [of April]. They kicked me in my back, I was on the floor. Right next to the Conservatory, near the park. Where the crowd was gathering. That’s where they kicked me. My back was hurt. I fell to the ground. Seeing this, my coworkers took me away. When I woke up, I saw that I’m in the emergency room. My back was hurt, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t feel my legs.”

Elshan Nuriyev, operations representative of Nasimi district 22nd police station, says:

“On the 2nd, while I was on duty, someone at Fountain Square suddenly attacked us. As they attacked they shouted, the police have to be attacked, they have to be beaten. We were injured as a result of their attack, I mean a few policemen. And I was one of them.”

The police major cannot tell what he was hit on the head with: “It was a crowd. They had pieces of metal wrapped in newspaper in their hands. With a rock… They hit me on the head with something. But I can’t tell what with, exactly.”

Elshan Nuriyev also excludes any possibility that the attackers were saboteurs:

“It was an unsanctioned rally. There couldn’t be sabotage there.”

Sergeant Majid Yusifov, who is being treated in hospital, has an almost identical story: “There were about 30-40 of them, in front of “Nizami” theater. We were trying to stop it. As we entered the crowd, they hit us with something from behind. I didn’t even know what. When I woke up I was already at the hospital. My head was injured, I’ve had six stitches. I’ve been in resuscitation for three days now.”

On 2 April, 24 policemen went to the hospital at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 13 of them were hospitalized. Head of the traumatology department at the hospital Vitaly Maharramov told Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL Azeri service) that two of them were in a serious condition and were taken into resuscitation and that the patients are now in satisfactory condition.

Head of the Azerbaijan Committee Against Torture Elchin Behbudov says that he followed the proceedings on 2 April along with his coworkers – at Nizami street, Fountain Square, and near the Jafar Jabbarli monument.

He says that during the monitoring, he only saw one policeman with injuries to the head, but did not see who injured the policeman.

Deputy head of Musavat Party Mehman Javadoghlu says that no calls were made on people to attack policemen or show resistance to them.

According to information given by Ictimai Palata, there were also plenty of protesters who were inured: Tofig Yagublu, Musafa Hajili, Ahad Mammadli, Tazakhan Miralamli, Tural Abbasli, Khalig Bahadir, Yashar Turkazar, Ramin Bakhish and others. A full list has not been prepared yet. But some of this information was registered at the temporary detention center.

Ilkin Gambar sent to the front line – in connection to protests?

Ilkin Gambar, son of Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar, has been sent to the front line today after serving over 2 months in the army. News came in via Facebook, where he told his friends that his father was unofficially warned about his son being taken to the front line. There were also some reports that this was part of a threat to Isa Gambar, and that he was told that his son is being sent to the front line to avenge the 2 April protests – if more protests were arranged his son would be ‘martyred’. This is unconfirmed.

When asked by Musavat.com how he assesses this as a political figure and a father, Isa Gambar said: “The Ministry of Defence has a right to place soldiers in any location at its disposal. So I don’t want to politicize this issue. At the same time I’d like to say that the Commander In Chief and the Minister of Defense carry responsibility for each and every soldier’s life.”

Isa Gambar did not want to comment on whether he considers this a personal threat towards him after the recent opposition protests.

Source: Facebook; Yeni Musavat

APFP chairman Ali Karimli targeted in a protest outside his house

31 March, Genocide Day in Azerbaijan, was commemorated in a different way this year. Ali Karimli, chairman of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, was targeted as a large group consisting mostly of students gathered outside his house chanting, singing and holding placards.

These placards had slogans like “There’s no place in Azerbaijan for the Ali Karimli’s of this world, who sell our land to Armenians!”, “Shame on the traitor!”, “Ali Karimli, what money does your family live on in London?” and “Ali Karimli + radical islamists = chaos”. This comes after yesterday’s rumors spread by pro-Aliyev media outlets stating that Ali Karimli was to meet and “conspire” with a number of radical Islamist groups.

They also chanted slogans in support of the Aliyev regime: “Long live Ilham Aliyev!”, “Our only president, our only leader is Ilham Aliyev”, and other slogans in support of the ruling party. Videos show a student singing “Mavi” (“Blue”, meaning “gay” in Azeri slang) through a loudspeaker – part of a black PR campaign against Karimli that started years ago.

The protest continued to Heydar Aliyev Palace. Unsurprisingly the police did not interfere, despite the fact that the protest impeded traffic.

Ali Karimli told Azadliq Radiosu that this was clearly a stunt conducted by the government and that such actions will not stop him from fighting. He also warned party members not to go near the protest so that there would not be any confrontation.

Mass arrests ahead of 2 April protest [updated]

Mass arrests seem to have started ahead of 2 April opposition protest, as they did before 11 and 12 March protests. This started when two days ago an Azerbaijan Democratic Party member was arrested, but has picked up today when several activists were arrested, some already sentenced to 5 or 10 days in prison.

Tebriz Oner (Gasimov)

The first of those arrested was Tebriz Oner (who was previously detained for 5 days on his way to 11 March protest), who was held by police on his way to university. His father Ilgar Gasiov spoke to Azadliq Radiosu (RFE/RL’s Azeri Service) from the police station: “Two men had been following him. They told the policemen at the metro station to stop him. He is now at Sabail district 9th police station.” Mr Gasimov said that it is unclear why his son was arrested but that it might be in relation to the 2 April protest. He was charged with showing resistance to police and sentenced to five days in prison.

Rovshen Nesirli

Youth activist Rovshen Nesirli called Azadliq Radiosu this morning saying that when he left his house this morning, policemen from Yasamal police station wanted to detain him. He said that he would not go to the station until there was an official summons. Policemen were waiting for him outside his house as he was making the call, but he said he would not leave his house until they leave. Later it became known that he was taken to Yasamal police station along with his brother.

Oposition party youth activists

Two members of Musavat Youth Organization have been detained by police: Elchin Salimov in Sumgait and Khalid Amanli in Nasimi. The organization says that police also tried to detain Rauf Mammadov, but he ran away. His whereabouts are now unknown.

Two Classic Popular Front Party (KXCP) members have also been detained. Chairman of the Aghsu branch of the party Yagub Babali told Azadliq Radiosu that he was given a warning regarding the upcoming protest and released. Chairman of Samukh branch Tahir Abdullayev is still at the police station.

There are also detainees from Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Youth Committee.

Senior opposition arrests

APFP: Ilham Huseynli, member of the presidium of APFP, was detained while he was out. Another member of the presidium and economist Nemat Aliyev was also detained by police and is currently being held at 25th police station in Nizami and charged with disturbing the peace. Ali Kerimli’s driver Kerim Mehdiyev has also been taken from his house and detained.

Musavat: Vugar Hasanli, member of Musavat Party in Shirvan, has been detained.


*** UPDATE 01.04.2011 ***

Yesterday’s arrests:

Elchin Salimov (Musavat) and Ilham Huseynli (APFP) were sentenced to 7 days last night.

Rovshan Nesirli was sentenced to 9 days. His appeal from 11 March protest was also looked at today and rejected.

In Tebriz Oner’s case, the court did not wait for his lawyer and gave the verdict anyway.

Today’s arrests

Classic Popular Front Party members Ali Bashirli (chairman of Shirvan branch), Shukur Izzatoghlu, Khanlar Lachinov, Shohret Mammadov (chairman of Gazakh branch) and Magsad Mirzayev have been held and taken to the respective police stations.

Shahin Hasanli (APFP, member of presidium) was taken from his friend’s house at 3am last night. His family is being refused any information on his whereabouts.

Khaladdin Abudalov (KXCP, chairman of Gazakh branch) told Azadliq Radiosu that some opposition party members in Gazakh have had their homes searched, some have been taken to police stations and told not to attend tomorrow’s protest.

Information source: RFE/RL Azeri

ADP activist sentenced to 5 days in prison

On 29 March Nazim Abbasli, an Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP) activist, was taken from his home to the police station, and then to court.

Narimanov District Court ruled that N. Abbasli was showing restraint to police and sentenced him to five days in prison. Abbasli is currently at Binagadi temporary detention center.

This news was spread by ADP’s press office.

ADP says that Nazim Abbasli did not show restraint to police and that his arrest is related to Social House’s protest planned for 2 April.

Original in Azeri [RFE/RL]

Those who get expelled from university because of 2 April protest will get aid to study in Europe

Musavat Party says that it will defend those who are persecuted or thrown out of university for their political views or for taking part in protests, and help them continue their studies in Europe.

According to “Media Forum”, the party’s press office stated this in a press-release at its meeting on 28 March.

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