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Azerbaijan Report: March 23, 2002

23 March 2002
United Meeting Committee Plans Protest Action
The opposition Musavat Party, Democratic Party, Popular Front Party and the Civic Unity Party of ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov plan to stage a rally in Baku on March 23. Zalimkhan Mammadli from classical wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party said after a meeting of the four parties' leaders that the United Meeting Committee has no intention of changing the route of the protest action. The party sent a letter to the Baku municipalities indicating that the action would be staged on Fizuli Square, but the Baku mayor's office suggested the Galaba square instead. According to Mammadli, they rejected that proposal, referring to the Azerbaijani Constitution and the law on free gathering. He added that the four parties are at all not concerned that the action will be staged in a form not agreed with the government. One of the slogans at the rally will be the demand for the resignation of President Heydar Aliev, the committee said.

(Babek Bekir)

United Opposition Movement Prepares For Protest Action
The Chairmen's Council of the United Opposition Movement met on 22 March in connection with the opposition's protest action scheduled for 23 March. According to Arif Hajiyev, deputy head of the Musavat Party on organisational issues, they adopted a number of decisions and resolutions and decided to stage the protest action not in front of the Galaba cinema theatre, but on the Fizuli square in downtown Baku.

Hajiyev says that if the government officials commit no irregularities, the opposition members will not commit any. If the government structures commit any sabotage or create confrontation, the administrative bodies and the political leadership of the country will carry the whole responsibility.

Musavat party leader Isa Gambar was summoned to the Baku Chief Prosecutor's office in connection with the meeting. According to Hajiyev, Isa Gambar accepted this summon, and went to the Prosecutor's office together with his assistants Ibrahim Ibrahimli and Rauf Arifoglu, where they were warned not to hold the meeting.

Ibrahim Ibrahimli was reportedly then summoned to the Prosecutor's office a second time in connection with his article "Why must Heydar Aliyev resign?" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat".

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Arrests In Baku
Three opposition activists were arrested in Baku on 19 March. Civil Unity Party Secretary Elchin Gambarov was detained on charges of resisting the police after the rally staged by Civil Unity Party in Baku. In a separate incident some three hours later, Democratic Party secretary for youth issues Jeyhun Ismailov and Rasul Guliev's advisor Namig Ahadzadeh were detained on the same charges. According to party ideology secretary Aydin Guliev, the two men were detained by eight persons in civilian clothes on their way back from a meeting in the Surakhani district. According to Guliev,three of those persons were from the Ministry for Internal Affairs and five from the Department for Combating Criminality.

According to Guliev, there was no resistance and the arrests are connected with the rally the United Opposition planning for 23 March.

According to the information provided by the Civil Unity Party, Elchin Gambarov was tried on 20 March and was imprisoned for six days on charges of resisting the police.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Khalig Bahadir in a commentary "Heidar Aliyev in a Hurry" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" notes that during his thirty-year tenure, particularly in the past nine years, Heydar Aliyev has created only poverty and lawlessness. Bahadir predicts that the end of the government, which has oppressed the people by robbery and repression, is approaching. The government is aware its days are numbered and is seeking support in the opposition and even among prisoners. The president abuses the opposition on television, eliminates the opportunities for rapprochement with it, dialogue and national reconciliation, telephones prisons and seeks footholds for himself. The author concludes that Aliyev has created a good number of prisons in the country and people know what they are like.

Goundouz in an article "Ashura entered Moslems' life afterwards" carried by the newspaper "525" writes that the coincidence of Novruz this year with the first year of the Mohammadan system of chronology has caused disagreement between the population at large and members of the clergy over whether to celebrate this holiday or not. According to the author, Moslems mourn for the assassinated imams during two months, despite the fact that Islam prohibits mourning for somebody more than three days. He concludes that the mourning ceremony entered the Islamic mode of life, but it later acquired a religious character.

"The government is feeling both foreign and internal pressure [to desist from] implementing its succession plan to transfer power from father to son, and is launching alternative stratagems," Kamal writes in the newspaper "Hurriyyet." The author observes that President Heidar Aliyev could not gain international support for his designated successor and thinks that its is not possible to implement this plan with the help of the police, the Ministry for National Security and military units. The father, who is more sophisticated than his son, is not certain of international support for Ilham's succesion. Kamal suggests that President Aliyev has not yet given up the successor plan and that he will make changes in the leadership of the parliament in near future and appoint his son Ilham to the post of the first deputy parliament chairman of in place of Arif Rahimzadeh.

Perviz notes in the newspaper "Uch nogte" that the incidence of venereal diseases has increased of recent. The reason is that people who travel abroad get infected with these diseases without realizing it, and a growing number of women are engaged in prosstitution. The other reason is that people have no information about how to take precautions against these diseases.

Gabil Abbasoglu in a commentary "The holiday of those remaining in Azerbaijan" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the government is growing concerned about the opposition's meeting scheduled for 23 March and tries to create different obstacles to it. The author stresses that some members of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party are leaving it as the party will not join the protest action. The key reason for these processes in political life is the lack of confidence in the opposition. A greater part of the opposition camp holds meetings, shows political activity, demands the government's resignation, and declares the start of a decisive phase. On the other hand, some forces maintain a period of traditional calmness and even do not conceal their intention of cooperating with some branches of the government.

Fikret Huseinli in an article "The commander whose castle has been conquered and whose army has been defeated " carried by the newspaper "Ulus" tries to identify the reasons why the Azerbaijan National Liberation Party is collapsing. According to the author, the beginning of the process of decay can be traced back to the1998 presidential elections. Etibar Mammadov failed to abide by the promise he made to Heydar Aliyev and began campaigning energetically, which caused Aliyev to adopt a harsher stance towards him. The author recalls that all the government officials except for the president attended ANLP rallies then. Referring to the pressure on Mammadov, the author stresses that the party was not allowed to the parliament first. The party was evicted from its premises. The author claims that the party will face further pressure.

Vahid Gasimov in an article "Political, economic, social stability" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" poses the question "What has Heydar Aliev's government given to people?" And answers: political stability. According to Gasimov, the Azerbaijan Front Party-Musavat leadership's legacy to the Azerbaijani people was a destroyed economy. The author refers to the economic recovery under PresidentAliev, noting that Azerbaijan has established political, economic, diplomatic, scientific and cultural cooperation with Russia, France, Germany, China, Iran, Japan and the leading countries of the world. The republic was isolated under the AFP-Musavat, but now its friends have increased in number and Azerbaijan has gained the right to express its position at the international level.

Habil in an article "Meeting contest" carried by the newspaper "Alternativ" notes that with the arrival of spring, opposition parties try to change their tactics. They want to show that they have become tired of waiting and are determined to mobilise the people. The 2003 presidential elections are approaching. By demanding the president's resignation, Isa Gambar has launched preparation for these elections. According to Habil, all these efforts and tactical steps serve only to exacerbate differences between opposition parties. The parties staging meetings forget about the government and concentaarte exclusively on trying to clarify the ties among themselves. In any event, the government will benefit from these meetings, because each successive meeting strengthens the opposition parties' image as weak and bickering among themselves.

The newspaper "525" informs referring to the agency Trend that Barmek Holding is dissatisfied with the funds transferred by the State Refugee Committee. According to the association head, the amount transferred does not cover the cost of the electricity supplied to refugees.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)