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Azerbaijan Report: June 7, 2002

7 June 2002
Former Baku Mayor Blames Azerbaijani Government For Nardaran Clash
The former mayor of Baku, Rafael Allahverdiev, has defended the residents of the village of Nardaran, the scene of a confrontation between police and residents on the night of 3-4 June that left at least two villagers dead. In the 5 June issue of the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" (People's Front), Allahverdiev, a parliamentary deputy from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, says he does not believe that Nardaran residents would hurt their guests or use weapons. Allahverdiev says that when he was mayor of Baku in the late 1990s, the alleged existence of robber groups and armed people in Nardaran was raised in the presidential Security Council. But it later came out that all the allegations were absurd, Allahverdiev says.

The former mayor also claims that the majority of people living in Nardaran believe in the Koran. As religious people, he says, they might throw stones at the police but would not be involved in an armed confrontation. Allahverdiev rejects rumors that the people of Nardaran are pro-Iranian. According to him, the residents of the village do not incline toward any foreign country. He dismisses the allegation that Iran is responsible for the unrest in Nardaran, saying that the rumors originate from forces that want to provoke the people against the government of President Heidar Aliyev to trigger a military confrontation in the country. Allahverdiev names specific figures in this context, including Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, presidential administration head Ramiz Mehdiev, and Yusif Humbatov, a department head in the presidential office.

Allahverdiev was interviewed in Turkey and said that after he returns to Baku, he will raise the issue strongly in parliament. According to Allahverdiev, the president should sack the government, which has caused all this dissatisfaction. He says if these problems are not settled in the near future, then it will be impossible to prevent bloodshed between brothers in Azerbaijan.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijani Intellectuals Condemn Police Violence In Nardaran
Even though several days have passed since the outbreak of violence in Nardaran, stability has not been established in the village. Local residents remain in Imam Hussein Square and demand the release of the village elders who were detained on 3 June, sparking the confrontation. Local political parties continue issuing statements condemning the use of violence against Nardaran residents. They protest the use of force against the local residents by the security forces.

The "Amal" (Goal) Union of Intellectuals also issued a statement on 6 June protesting the incidents. Murshud Mammadli, a member of the union, says that the intellectuals signing the statement think that the police should not have taken such a step against the local residents, but should have fulfilled their social responsibilities. According to Mammadli, members of the union wanted to go to Nardaran from the very beginning of the incidents but were not allowed to do so. Mammadli says they are ready to take other steps to prevent the situation from intensifying if the government is interested in their help. According to him, a meeting between intellectuals and President Aliyev could help ease the situation in Nardaran.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The 7 June issues of Azerbaijani newspapers focus on the incidents in Nardaran. According to the 7 June issue of the government newspaper "Khalg," the Nardaran clashes were the bloody results of cooperation between Isa Gambar, the head of the Musavat Party, and radical Islamic groups.

In an interview with the 7 June issue of the governmental newspaper "Azerbaijan," Maharram Aliev, head of the Baku Police Department, commented on the Nardaran incidents. According to him, the problems in Nardaran have been settled, there is no tension there with regard to social problems, and the incidents should not be connected with social issues. Aliyev says that the heads of the Musavat, Democrat, People's Front, Islam, Vahdat, Social Democratic, and other opposition parties played a certain role in the incidents and carry responsibility for the confrontation both from a moral standpoint and as participants in a crime against the state. Aliyev also said the situation in Nardaran is stable.

In an article entitled "The regime's next trick" carried in the 7 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," Nijat Heshimoglu writes that one of the worrying factors about the Nardaran incident is the way the government is using it to spread a false idea. According to the author, it is dangerous that everybody who says "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) is called an Islamic fundamentalist and isolated from society. Firstly, this tendency divides society into two categories, secular and believers, creates false contradictions between those groups, and brings serious damage to our national integrity. As for the government's aims, the author says that it is clear why the Aliyev regime tries to falsely create a fear of Islamic fundamentalism in Azerbaijan. It seems that the government has begun to lose the support of the international community and needs new arguments to strengthen its position, Heshimoglu writes. Because the world no longer believes Aliev's tales such as "I am the guarantor of stability in the country," "Our transition to democracy should be gradual," and "Our society is not used to freedom." Thus, it seems that the selection of "Islamic fundamentalism" as a new pretext is not accidental. On the contrary, it is a carefully considered, successful ploy.

In an interview with the 7 June issue of the independent newspaper "525," Lale Shovkat Hajieva, chairperson of the opposition Azerbaijan Liberal Party, says that if the situation in Nardaran worsens, then some foreign states could benefit from it and resort to sabotage. Hajieva says that the state itself should ensure its citizens' rights to work and live.

In a commentary entitled "Nardaran is not Mazandaran" carried in the 7 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," Boyukagha Aghaev writes that those who claim the existence of foreign influence in Nardaran confess their own weakness and their government's powerlessness. It also means that a village in Azerbaijan can easily be turned against a state where the Ministries for National Security and Internal Affairs are committed to ensuring the presidency for the president's son. The author says that if there was "foreign force" factor in the Nardaran incidents, then it was necessary to detect and neutralize it in time. Aghaev says it is not right to deploy armed soldiers on the road to the village, which the government has tried to justify by saying it is "building the state." Nardaran, Aghaev points out, is not the Iranian province of Mazandaran, where local residents were shot to death and the problem was "settled once for all."

In an article entitled "Rafael Allahverdiev is becoming a problem for the YAP" carried in the 7 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Mahir says the former Baku mayor's statements sharply differ from the position of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP) and the government. For instance, unlike the government and the party he belongs to, Allahverdiev blames not the opposition Musavat Party, but President Aliev's entourage for the Nardaran incidents. The author writes that if we believe the statements of Allahverdiev, who was not elected to the YAP Political Council at the party's last conference, then the party may be heading for a split. The author also points out that there are reports that Allahverdiev has met dissatisfied "91s" (the group which helped Heidar Aliyev come to power) and held discussions about establishing a new structure. Most probably, the newly established structure will be an alternative YAP, he predicts.

The 7 June issue of the independent newspaper "Nedelya" asked a number of politicians the question "Do the Nardaran incidents have a social or political character?" Political scientist Eldar Namazov says social-economic problems are the essence of the incident. Hajiagha Nuriev of the Islamic Party argues that the incident is connected purely with social-economic problems. Hussein Pashaev, the head of the press service of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, said the incident is political in character. According to him, Nardaran is a part of Azerbaijan and it is still too early to state what will come of the 3 June clashes.

According to the 7 June issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho," President Aliyev will pay a working visit to St. Petersburg at the invitation of his Russian counterpart on 8 June. Agreements on the status of the Caspian, that of the Azerbaijanis living in Russia, and other issues will be signed during the visit.

In an interview with the 7 June issue of the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," political scientist and former Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov says that Russian-Azerbaijani ties are developing at a dynamic speed. According to him, unlike in former periods, leaders are now pursuing a more realistic policy, and therefore relationships are progressing. Generally, he says, Russia is trying to establish good ties with South Caucasus countries, particularly Azerbaijan.

The 7 June issue of the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman" carries an article entitled "State, religion, and freedom of conscience" describing the current state of those spheres in Azerbaijan.

The 7 June issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho" writes that the Ministry for National Security accuses the firm Caspian Fish Azerbaijan of embezzling state property. The state claims damages totaling 661,289,000 manats ($136,000).

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Kazimova)