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Azerbaijan Report: June 22, 2001

22 June 2001
Democrat Party Criticizes Activity of Opposition
Head of the Supreme Council of the Azerbaijan Democrat Party Nuraddin Mammedli who had negotiations with the leaders of the main opposition parties some days ago to stage a protest demonstration, criticized the activity of opposition parties during a press conference on 22 June. He noted that ADP did not have negotiations with the parties joining the Democratic Congress headed by Ali Kerimov, leader of the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. He accused this parties of having connections with government and preventing the attempt to stage street protests. He also accused opposition parties of expecting the day of "X." Mammedli connected the necessity of staging protest demonstrations with the solution of the Karabakh conflict.

Nuraddin Mamedli added that recently some members of the National Independent, Popular Front, Vahdat, and even Musavat parties have joined the Democrat Party. He said the Democrat Party will continue their struggle against government alone.

" What Nuraddin Mamedli says is only populism and does not reflect reality," Musavat Party member Arif Hadgiev said. According to him, nobody has left the Musavat Party recently. Hadjiev thinks the conduction of demonstration demands preparation. The Musavat Party thinks there is no necessity to stage a demonstration because the negotiation process is postponed.

A member of "classic" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Zelimkhan Mamedli supported Arif Hadjiev and also rejected Nureddin Mammedli's word about transfer from APFP to ADP.

(Babek Bakir)

Ban On Caviar Trade
Over 100 officials representing the member governments of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a U.N.-affiliated body decided on 21 June on a range of trade restrictions to stop the rapid decline in Caspian Sea sturgeon populations.

The meeting of the CITES Standing Committee called for restricting the international caviar trade of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan through the end of this year. Iran, the fifth Caspian Sea state, is not facing restrictions because it has a functioning management system for sturgeon.

Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakstan agreed to stop fishing for sturgeon for the rest of this year. A fourth Caspian Sea state, Turkmenistan, was not present at the U.N.-sponsored meeting in Paris and must confirm in writing that it will adhere to the agreement or face a complete ban on its caviar exports.

Under the agreement, the Caspian Sea states will be allowed to export caviar from this spring's harvest, which is already in storage. The agreement gives the countries until the end of the year to study sturgeon stocks, approach Interpol to examine the illegal trade of sturgeon and allow CITES to carry out inspections, among other measures.

Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakstan had been threatened by a total ban on sturgeon exports until they agreed to measures that satisfied the CITES.

The Caspian accounts for some 90 percent of caviar production in the world. The legal trade is worth around $100 million per year. The illegal catch is up to 12 times greater in volume than the lawful catch, and although its value is difficult to estimate, "it is clearly enormous," CITES said, according to AFP.

The CITES deal concerns four out of the 29 species or subspecies of sturgeon that ecologists say are at threat, Huso huso (beluga) is among them. Stocks of the Caspian's beluga sturgeon -- which produces the most expensive caviar -- have dropped by about 90 percent in two decades.

The fishing freeze is part of a 12-month program to try to rebuild stocks of sturgeon -- dwindling rapidly because of pollution, the destruction of spawning sites, poaching, and illegal trade.

(Elkhan Nasibov)

NGOs Discuss Situation Of Refugee Children
The Karabakh Liberation Youth Organization held a roundtable discussion on 20 June devoted to the situation of the refugee children living in camps with the participation of the representatives of some children's and youth organizations and other NGOs. The participants of the discussion reported that the living conditions in the camps are very hard and the majority of refugee children are suffering from different infectious diseases.

Chairman of the Karabakh Liberation Organization Akif Nagi, in comparing the conditions of life of the Azerbaijani refugee children who are former inhabitants of the Karabakh region now under occupation with the situation of Armenian children living in Upper Karabakh, points out that the Armenian government opens an account for each child who was born in the Upper Karabakh. Akif Nagi said that the total number of refugee children under 18 in Azerbaijan is 300,000, of whom 86,206 are children under 5 years of age. The government does nothing to improve their living conditions, Nagi said

The KLO chairman added that a survey conducted by the Association of Azerbaijani Psychologists among the 7,000 women and children living in the camps has shown that 70 percent of them suffer from different psychological diseases and some constantly think of suicide.

Chairman of the "Galkhan" Children Youth Organization Khamid Gafarov said today that no one wants to work with children. Azerbaijan has two enemies: if our foreign enemy is Armenia, our internal enemy is bribery. He accused some NGOs of using the grants they receive from international funds in their own interests. He proposed creating an organization for control over NGOs concerned with children's problems.

(Almaz Nasibova)

Opposition Parties Condemn OSCE Minsk Group Activity
"The mediation of OSCE in the Karabakh conflict is of no importance and the Azerbaijani government should refuse the OSCE's participation in the Karabakh peace process," Adalat Party Chairman Ilyas Ismaylov said during a roundtable discussion devoted to resolving the Karabakh conflict and uniting the opposition held on 21 June at the initiative of youth organizations. Ismayilov thinks the conflict should be resolved under the aegis of the UN Security Council because the OSCE's decisions have a political character and are not legally binding for anybody. The UN Security Council has the right to use force to compel the countries to fulfil its decisions.

Ali Kerimov, the head of the "reform" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, who also took part in the roundtable discussion, said that Azerbaijan was defeated in the first stage of the conflict between Armenian an Azerbaijan over Karabakh. He also said that he knew the details of new proposals prepared by the OSCE Minsk Group which are not to the benefit of Azerbaijan. He suggested that the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents will discuss this proposal during the summer and said opposition parties should start a campaign of street protests to prevent the signing of a defeatist agreement. According to Kerimov the OSCE Minsk Group mediators are preparing to create a new Armenian state within Azerbaijan.

(Zhala Mutallimova)

Women's Organizations Stage 'Silent' Demonstration
Azerbaijani Women's organizations staged a "silent" demonstration on 20 June to protest police violation against women during the rallies. Despite the women's silence, they faced the rudeness of police, who took away their slogans and broke them.

Novella Jafarova, the Women's Rights Society head, said that women's organizations decided to continue such demonstrations. She added that the international conference devoted to the violation of women's rights will take place in Baku in August-September.

(Natig Zeynalov)

OSCE Freedom of the Media Adviser Visits Baku
Diana Moxhay, senior adviser to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, visited Azerbaijan from 17 to 22 June to obtain first-hand information about the media situation in the country. Diana Moxhay told a press conference on 21 May that during her visit she met with government officials, journalists, and media NGOs. She noted some positive steps have been made which affect the future of journalism in Azerbaijan. Moxhay said newspaper journalists have reported the direct pressure and number of lawsuits against them have decreased during recent months.

At the same time she noted that independent and opposition newspapers are facing serious financial difficulties due to insufficient advertising revenues, the high price of newsprint, distribution problems, and insufficient access to official information, all of which Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve calls structural censorship, a phenomenon which is no less dangerous to the development of free media in a country than some other forms of censorship were in the past.

Concerning the problems of electronic media, Moxhay said the electronic media in Azerbaijan have faced serious obstacles such as the essential issues of licensing and frequencies.

In comparing the media situation in Azerbaijan with other former Soviet republics, Diana Moxhay said Azerbaijan has achieved more progress in this direction than the countries of Central Asia.

(Maarif Akbarov)

The head of the parliament commission on culture, Anar Rzayev, proposed that 18 June -- the day President Heidar Aliyev signed the law "About Native Language" be marked as Native Language Day. He also proposed repairing the former restaurant "Dostlug," placing at the territory of the Shahidler Khiyabani and creating on its place a museum of the victims who died defending the independence of Azerbaijan. He added that if there are financial difficulties, Milli Mejlis deputies will allocate 5 percent of their salary to contribute to the creation of the museum.

The Milli Mejlis in its 22 June session also discussed the draft law about plenipotentiary on human rights Member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party Siyavush Novruzov criticized the activity of some human rights NGOs because the majority of their members do not have legal training. Head of the "reform" wing of the Popular Front Party Ali Kerimov rejected this opinion.

Ali Kerimov told media representatives the new Democratic bloc, consisting of 11 deputies, has been formed in parliament.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Turkish Journalists Hold Seminar in Baku
Journalists from Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia held a seminar from 21 June in Baku and discussed the problem of the influence of regional conflicts on the media. The chairman of Journalists Unit "Yeni Nasil," Arif Aliev, who is one of the organizers of the seminar, told a press conference on 22 June that it is the first time journalists from the conflicting countries are discussing the problems without international experts.

President of the Yerevan Press Club Boris Novosardyan said that he believes that the media are able to create the conditions to solve the conflict by political means. On 23 June journalists will go to Ankara and discuss the same problems in Turkey. At the end of August the third meeting of Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Turkish journalists will take place in Yerevan.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Teachers Stage Demo To Protest Article In 'Tazadlar'
About 120 secondary-school teachers of Baku's Binagadi district staged a demonstration on 22 June in front of the "Azerbaijan" publishing house to protest an article about the Azerbaijani education system which was published in the newspaper "Tazadlar" on 19 June. The paper's commentator, Asif Marzili, criticized Education Minister Misir Mardanov's activity and wrote about bribery and other negative facts in the schools.

One of the demonstration's participants, the director of Binagadi Chidren Art Center, said that she does not agree with the facts about the chief of the Binagadi Education Department published in "Tazadlar."

The majority of teachers who took part in the demonstration said that they have not read the article.

(Maarif Akbarov)

"Heidar Aliyev suffered his biggest shock in 1998 in the presidental elections," says Etibar Mamedov, the leader of National Independence Party in his interview with the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat." "Aliyev thought that people love him very much and will vote for him, but it showed to be not true," adds E.Mamedov. Speaking about the present situation in Azerbaijan, the opposition leader says that about 80 percent of the population is passive and they do not believe anyone. "We have to enliven these masses, because politically passive masses are needed for an authoritarian regime as water and air," said Mamedov. According to him a cooperation and coalition are possible among opposition parties, "but today no one considers himself stronger than others."

It seems that a "cleaning campaign" conducted by the new mayor of Baku is finished, writes the "525th" newspaper. Not one building has been destroyed during the last months. The only impression from this campaign is that the new mayor's main goal was to destroy the sites of Karabakh invalids and other socially unprotected peoples, says the paper. But big sites, really disruptive to traffic, are in the their former places. Peoples see this very well and make the necessary conclusion, remarks the paper.

Several papers publish various comments on the current stage of the Karabakh peace process.

Mubariz Ahmedoglu in "Yeni Azerbaijan" suggests that despite all the critics, the Karabakh mediation process is definitely not hampered, and is even changing its essence as result of other regional moves. Ahmedoglu suggests that Iran as mediator can offer either to Azerbaijan, or to Armenia quite serious opportunities, not comparable with ones other mediators offer, regarding either territory swap, or the military future of conflict resolution. Otherwise it might be an alternative for OSCE mediation efforts. Journalists claim that while Azerbaijan increasingly strengthens both military forces and its position, Armenia attempts more to hamper and weaken the negotiation process.

Anar Orujoglu in Ulus argues that after the failure of the negotiations under U.S. initiative, Moscow openly pretends to monopolize the initiative. Commenting on Iran's latest attempts to get involved, he suggests that by the recent move Tehran as regional power tries to pretend that its interests also must be taken into account. Orucoglu says that latest attempts to turn the Karabakh issue into a topic of consultations serve as another move to get them continued, but their efficiency seems quite doubtful. As long as the current situation remains unchanged the more such ineffective meetings can be foreseen.