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Azerbaijan Report: October 18, 2002

18 October 2002
Editors' Union to Begin Protests in November
Following a 15 October meeting, the Editors' Union announced they would resume protest actions against the government and will reenact the meeting committee it had originally formed in 2001.

Journalists' Trade Union Chairman Azer Hasret in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service said that a protest campaign would begin in early November. During the meeting, the editors appealed to political and public organizations and citizens who support freedom of speech and media in Azerbaijan. Hasret added that the union -- a collection of leading newspapers and journalists' organizations -- also discussed the delay in the government's low-interest loans to the media.

Hasret noted that although the president pledged to resolve problems with the media during his meeting with editors of leading media outlets in December 2001, most of the media's demands remain unsettled.

Husein Pashaev, the head of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) press service, denies the media's allegation that the government is pressuring newspapers that criticize it. Pashaev told RFE/RL that the Editors' Union had no right to speak on behalf of the media. The newspapers united under the union are "political" and are under the control of opposition political parties, he concluded.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijanis in Moscow Stage Independence Day Protest
On 18 October Azerbaijanis in Moscow were to stage a sanctioned protest in Pushkin Square, in the center of town. Shahin Tagiev, a diaspora activist living in Moscow and a national hero of Azerbaijan, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that the purpose of the protest is to show that Azerbaijanis living in Moscow are anxious about the situation in their motherland. Protesters will demand the release of the villagers of Nardaran, some of whom have been held since the 3 June riots between villagers and police. They will also demand the cancellation of the results of the 24 August referendum on amendments to the constitution as well as a number of other issues.

Tagiev noted that this was to be the second protest held in Moscow. The first one -- calling for the same things -- was held on 9 September, also in Pushkin Square. Some 200 people gathered at that rally, Tagiev said, adding that he expected two to three times the turnout on 18 October, as people from various Russian regions are expected to participate.

Nazim Ibrahimov, the head of the State Committee for Work with Azerbaijanis Abroad, told RFE/RL that the protestors' demands were baseless. Azerbaijanis living abroad had the opportunity to express their attitude to the amendments at the time of the constitutional referendum, he said. Therefore, no one can complain about the referendum results, he said.

(Babek Bekir)

VHP Chairman: Government Is Not Interested in Diaspora
On 16 October the Civil Solidarity Party (VHP) held a roundtable discussion on "Ancient Azerbaijani lands and the Azerbaijani government's attitude to Azerbaijanis abroad."

VHP Chairman Sabir Rustemkhanli said during the meeting that while the government expects much more from the Azerbaijani diaspora, it does nothing to strengthen it. According to Rustemkhanli, Azerbaijan should adopt a law on duel citizenship as soon as possible, create the necessary conditions for Azerbaijanis abroad to enable them to return home more frequently, and render material and technical assistance for the development of Azerbaijani communities in foreign countries.

Ilyas Ismailov, the chairman of the Adalat (Justice) Party, also emphasized the need to introduce duel citizenship. He said that such a law could promote a rapprochement of Azerbaijanis living abroad with their homeland; however, the government is not interested in such a law, since it fears that someone from the diaspora could eventually take power in Azerbaijan. He alleges that the State Committee for Work with Azerbaijanis Abroad was in fact created to identify those who may one day lay claim to power.

(Natig Zeinalli)

On 18 October the Azerbaijani people commemorated the 11th anniversary of the creation of the Azerbaijan Republic. The pro-governmental newspapers "Azerbaycan," "Khalg," and "Yeni Azerbaycan" ran the speech given by President Heidar Aliyev at a solemn ceremony devoted to that event.

Under the headline "Gaining independence is a political achievement, but preservation of independence is an economic one," the newspaper "Azerbaycan" discussed economic progress in Azerbaijan.

The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," in an article entitled "Heidar Aliyev only hinders a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," noted that the inconstant position of the president prevents the development of military relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

Ali Kerimli, head of the "reformist wing" of the Popular Front Party, commented in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho" on the latest movements within the opposition camp. The government can break up the opposition at any moment, he added.

Khalid Kazimli in "An act of our fortune," in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," says that most of those who opposed independence more than a decade ago now hold high positions within the government. These men did not want independence, but they did want high positions in order to accumulate wealth. Even the old communist nomenklatura are now better off than they were in the Soviet period -- as the Kremlin is no longer able to dismiss them. However, those who did fight for independence are seeking consolation in the fact that Azerbaijan is now independent.

Zerdusht Alizade, chairman of the Social-Democrat Party, said in an interview with the newspaper "Hurriyyet" that Azerbaijan had lost much during the independence period and added that the Azerbaijani people would not benefit from independence until the government changes. Azerbaijan has lost Nagorno-Karabakh, and as long as Heidar Aliyev is in power we will never see Karabakh again, he said. According to Alizade the people look at the future pessimistically and prefer to leave the country rather than to live here. Increasing numbers of Azerbaijanis are becoming polarized. The only thing the people have gained is that they have been released from illusion, he concluded.

Fuad Mustafaev, deputy chairman of the "reformist wing" of the Popular Front Party, said in an interview with the independent newspaper "525" that the agreement on the Caspian signed between Azerbaijan and Russia does not completely serve the interests of Azerbaijan because the agreement strains relations between Azerbaijan and Iran. The signature of the Russian-Azerbaijan agreement completed the division of the northern Caspian between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. It is now up to Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran to divide the southern part of the sea. And Russia seems to remain aloof from that process. As a result, Baku and Tehran have remained face to face. Considering this, it would be better to solve the issue on the basis of a common agreement between five Caspian littoral states, Mustafaev concluded.

Under the headline "The West would not want its funds wasted," the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" wrote that the realization of the BTC export pipeline troubles Armenia, which is not participating in the project. Therefore, the Armenian media is spreading misinformation about it. An article on the news website, for example, claimed the BTC pipeline is inefficient. The article says that if the United States succeeds in overthrowing the Baghdad regime, Iraqi oil will fall into U.S. hands. Once cheap Iraqi oil is introduced on the global market, the price of Azerbaijani oil will fall, and as a result, the BTC oil pipeline will fail.

Well-known film director Rustam Ibrahimbekov, in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," talked about the first-ever "East-West" film festival held in Baku, saying that there was no audience in Azerbaijan. "I felt awkward before guests," he added. When the festival began, it turned out that there is no intelligentsia in Azerbaijan. Ibrahimbekov noted that even cinema workers and journalists don't go to the movies. He added that Azerbaijani cinema has never had a national face, and this is one of the chief defects of the film industry.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)