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Azerbaijan Report: October 8, 2002

8 October 2002
Opposition calls protest "last chance" for government to end unjust behavior
An unusually large number of people turned out for 5 October opposition demonstration in Baku. Supporters of more than 30 opposition parties under the United Opposition Movement, marched from the 20 Yanvar metro station to the Galaba Cinema in a sanctioned rally. The opposition claimed several thousand people participated in the march, while the government put the figure less than 5,000. RFE/RL estimates come to more than 20,000.

During the protest the demonstrators demanded the resignation of President Heydar Aliyev and cancellation of the results from the 24 August referendum on amendments to the Constitution. The protesters also called for the police to release the villagers from Nardaran. Authorities began detaining since the June 3 clash with police. Some of the demonstrators also shouted the Islamic slogan "Allah Akbar" (God is great).

The protest continued to Galaba Square. However, police began to surround the square, blocking a number of demonstrators from entering, and delaying the scheduled rally. Mirmahmud Mirelioglu, the head of the Popular Front "conservative" wing, was the first to speak. He said that the protest was "the last chance" for the government to put an end to the unjustness against the Azeri people.

Etibar Mamedov, head of the National Independence Party, said that there is no alternative to Aliev's resignation in order to rid Azerbaijan of the ongoing crisis. Ali Kerimli, the head of the Popular Front "reformist" wing, called the demonstrators to shout the slogan "resignation." He too believes that president must resignmust before most of the country's problems can be solved.

Isa Gambar, leader of the Musavat Party, also stressed that the government must resign. Touching upon the government's ongoing war propaganda, Gambar said that the purpose of such a campaign, in fact, is not to mobilize the Azerbaijani people to liberate the occupied land. While the government speaks about its desire for war among the Azerbaijani people, Ilham Aliev, the president's son, called the war propaganda "cheap populism," Gambar noted.

A resolution was read at the end of the protest, and Serdar Jalaloglu, the head of the Democratic Party, said that the opposition would continue to stage protests in the future. No clashes between the protesters and police were observed.

(Babek Bekir and Natig Zeinalli)

Azeri newspapers comment on the 6-7 October Chisinau, Moldova, summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Isa Gambar, the head of the opposition Musavat Party, in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," said the opposition is ready to discuss only two things with the government -- the resignation of the president and the holding free and fair elections.

Rustam Garakhanli, in an article in the pro-governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" entitled "Dialogue between the innovative-government and the old-ideological opposition is impossible," recalled that at the 26 September PACE meeting rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Group Andreas Gross and Martinez Cassan called for the Azerbaijani authorities to keep an open dialogue with the opposition. This has been proposed several times before. But according to Garakhanli, the opposition has never been interested in such dialogue.

Seyyad Aran, a parliament deputy from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP), in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" said that the opposition has never attached importance to the pro-governmental parties' proposal for dialogue. Aran denied that the opposition leaders have proposed discussing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In fact it was the pro-governmental parties, united under the "Democratic Alliance," that submitted several proposals to resolve the problem, he says, but the opposition has yet to make any statements about it. Even though the "Democratic Alliance" invited the "Democratic Congress" opposition parties to discuss national unity in 1997, that offer remained without an answer.

Megrur Ali Polad in the article "Dialogue culture" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" comments on the statement of Ilham Aliev, the president's son, that "the opposition has no culture of dialogue." He writes that Azeri officials of high rank, including Ilham Aliev, meet Armenian officials without any problems. President Aliyev himself has met with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian some 20 times. And it means that in the government's eyes, Armenians are considered to be "highly-cultured" people, while it considers the opposition to be retarded. In other words, the authorities prefer Armenians -- who have occupied Azeri land -- to the opposition, which wants to come to power. Polad notes that in countries with normal civil societies there is no need for such a dialogue. Because people, irrespective of their political opinion and affiliation, are able to meet, talk and exchange opinion. But in Azerbaijan everything is vice-versa.

Pasha Babakerli in an article entitled "Militarist Armenia" in the independent newspaper "525" writes that Armenia continues arming itself to the teeth. But most interesting is that a sudden visit by the Armenian Defense Minister to Moscow took place soon after the Azerbaijani president's warning that the Azerbaijani people are increasingly calling for war. Babakerli notes that each time Baku accuses Armenia of stymieing the peace process and gives notice that the Azerbaijani people have lost all patience, the Armenian authorities run to Moscow in order to increase its armaments. Russia, for its turn, is not able to refuse a strategic partner in the Caucasus.

According to the article "The last nine months of drug dealers" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," during the first nine months of 2002 the Department for Combating Drugs has registered 1,855 crimes and 70 kilograms of unspecified drugs were seized.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)