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Azerbaijan Report: December 10, 2001

10 December 2001
Can Azerbaijan Army Defend Its Lands?
The Azerbaijani opposition, Karabakh refugees and former participants in the Karabakh war declare that they give preference to a military resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, meaning a war with Armenia to liberate Azerbaijan's occupied lands. But Azerbaijani parliament chairman Murtuz Alasgarov recently stated in parliament that the Azerbaijan army is not ready for a war to liberate the occupied lands. The speaker's statement caused such a great reaction that presidential administration socio-political department head Ali Hasanov had to convene a press conference at the headquarters of the Yeni Azerbaycan Party at which he said he doubts Alasgarov made any ssuch statement, and suggested that he was quoted out of context.

Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev reiterated in his meeting with OSCE officials that the Azerbaijani army will get back its lands by war if necessary and is ready to do so. Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry has repeatedly said the same thing. Then what is the reason for the differences between officials' statements?

Azerbaijan Social Democrat Party co-chair Zardusht Alizadeh said that Alasgarov's statement is not unexpected for those who are aware of the serious situation within the Azerbaijani army. Even though the supreme commander in chief and the defence minister are well aware of the true state of affairs, it is their task to make such optimistic statements. But Alizadeh thinks that there was no need for Alasgarov to state it from such a high tribunal.

Military expert Azad Alizade says that Alasgarov's statement is not accepted normally from any point of view. Alizadeh says he does not understand the reasons for this admission. Alizadeh says that the Azerbaijani army can achieve progress without foreign pressure. According to him, statements such as Alasgarov's can only depress the population. Azerbaijani leaders release statements which frequently contradict each other, which results in discussion of the inter-governmental ties and demonstrates to the people and the international community the leadership's weakness.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Journalist Beaten In Azerbaijan
Predictions of increased pressure on the newspapers "Yeni Musavat", "Hurriyyet", "Azadlig" are proving true. Shahnaz Matlabgizi, a correspondent of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," was attacked on her way home at 9 p.m. on 6 December by unknown men. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, Matlabgizi stated she was aware that someone was following her when she left the Ministry of Communications. When Matlabgizi got off the mini-bus near her house, the man appeared again, snatched the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" out off her hands and slashed it with a knife. Then a man with black gloves began beating Matlabgizi with his fists.

Asked whether the attack could have been in retaliation for an article she wrote, Matlabgizi says she cannot recall having written anything that might give offense. She said she thinks the assault was a part of the pressure campaign against "Yeni Musavat".

The Khatai district police department 35 was immediately informed of the incident and two police officials visited Matlabgizi's house. She said the newspaper leadership will inform foreign embassies in Azerbaijan about the incident.

Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev received the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson on 6 December and stated that there is no danger to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and that he is the guarantor of such freedom. The president seems to have implied the founder and the editor of the newspaper "Ulus." Yagub Abbasoglu, founder of the newspaper and Surkhay Gojayev, assistant to its editor were arrested on 13 July on charges of using violence against Aybeniz Hasanzadeh, their former employer. Abbasoglu and Gojayev have recently been released from detention.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijani Parliament Meets
The Azerbaijani parliament met on 7 December. At first, the commission on discipline submitted a report proposing stripping parliament deputy Mirmahmud Fettayev of his mandate. According to Kerim Kerimov, chairman of the commission on discipline, Fettayev failed without good reason to attend 21 parliament sessions.

Parliament deeputy Ali Kerimli argued that the relevant laws prohibit stripping a deputy of his mandate in his absence. The parliament discussed the issue for a long time. Parliament first deputy chairman Arif Rehimzade said that there is no need to prolong the discussions as Fettayev himself does not insist that he should remain a deputy. The parliament then duly adopted a bill on cancelling Fettayev's mandate.

Another controversial issue discussed in the parliament was establishment of factions. Parliament deputy chairman Ziyafat Asgarov said that there are no factions in the parliament of any country of the world, but the opposition refuted the statement. The parliament chairman said that the discussions would be continued in the evening session.

Namig in an article entitled "Parliament members on duty" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that the Azerbaijan parliament has fewer authorities but more functions. One of the functions is to confirm unconditionally the laws drafted by the Presidential Office. Another function is to abuse those who cite facts for which the government can find no justification. The parliament members are conditionally summoned "on duty" carry out these functions. These deputies represent the government. The conflicts among parliament members are understandable. But it is very difficult to understand why YAP members involve journalists in these conflicts.

There are reports that pressure on newspapers has increased since the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev met on 6 December with the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Ross Wilson. The newspaper "525" carries an article on that meeting during which Heydar Aliyev said that they have simply criticised newspapers for non-objective articles and they should stand the criticism. He said that the newspapers "Azadlig", "Yeni Musavat" and "Hurriyyet" fear that YAP can take actions against them. But there are no grounds for fear. Aliyev said he knows what policy he pursues and the people understand that policy. Aliyev told the ambassador that he is the guarantor of freedom of press in the country and will not enable anybody to violate these principles.

YAP Executive Secretary Ali Ahmadov in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" also says that it is necessary to save Azerbaijan from newspapers which are against the freedom of expression and press. According to Ahmadov, no negative opinions regarding the newspapers were expressed at the YAP congress. Simply, it was stated that the path those newspapers have taken does not correspond to Azerbaijan's interests. The aggressive and dirty campaign they have directed against YAP must be stopped. According to Ahmadov, first of all, these newspapers and their protectors fear the power of the ruling party. Besides, everybody has recognised that Azerbaijan's future is connected with YAP.

Khalid Kazimli writes in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party does not want to admit and apologise to society for the decision adopted in the second congress to exert pressure on the opposition. YAP members continue demonstrating by their speeches their aggressiveness towards the opposition, their dangerous opinions regarding the country's future. The author writes that a state called Azerbaijan is being formed in order to strengthen the authoritarian regime in the Caucasus, and all this takes place before the eyes of the international community. Kazimli says YAP leaders want to eliminate the opposition, which protests their actions and works on a narrow level. Kazimli thinks that the government considers the press a participant in the political struggle in the country and for that reason treats it aggressively.

Gabil Abbasoglu writes in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that the government's actions against parliament chairman Murtuz Alasgarov are being felt now. Alasgarov has also begun speaking. The parliament chairman's statements predict the seriousness of his future statements. Even before, the political observers claimed that the parliament chairman uses the regional factor-the tribe electorate, which is considered very serious in inter-palace conflicts and the fight for influence. For this reason, Alasgarov's statements about the army can be used against him sooner or later. The author claims that Alasgarov will be made to answer for his statements just as former chairman of the parliament Rasul Guliev, who live now in exile in the U.S., was.

Araz Muradkhali writes in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that YAP's former deputy chairman Rafael Allahverdiyev is getting ready find an outlet for his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the YAP congress. The former mayor of Baku creates conditions to reveal his discontent with the government. The author claims that he even begins struggle. There is a fight between the older and the younger generation in the ruling party in which those who are considered Heydar Aliev's team and who distinguished themselves by their loyalty to him are being forced to leave the party. The author writes that the men around Allahverdiyev are mainly residents of Baku. This shows Baku residents' political wish to be represented in the future government. Even though Allahverdiyev seems confident now, it would be a mistake to state that he will not be faced with pressure. Allahverdiyev wants to re-employ the Baku residents who have good working skills. Even though the final goal has not been declared yet, it is clear that the fight against Heydar Aliyev and his team will be continued for his empty post in future.

Azer Hesret writes in the newspaper "Azadlig" that nobody in the republic is concerned about the state of the Azerbaijani army. It seems that the Azerbaijani leaders do not want to strengthen the moral and psychological condition of the Azerbaijan army. Heydar Aliev's government officials who deny the role of the national liberation movement now claim that the Azerbaijani army is weak and cannot fight Armenians. The author writes that a second- level official in any another state would never state any such thing, and that such statements create problems for Azerbaijan in international organisations. There are some national forces in Azerbaijan who are ready to do everything for Azerbaijan, and Heydar Aliyev has not been able to eliminate those forces yet. The author writes that the situation in all spheres in Armenia is worse than in Azerbaijan. Such problems may be discussed in Armenia, but an Armenian making a speech before foreigners would never say anything negative about his country.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)