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Azerbaijani Villagers Protest Unemployment, Social Problems

AzerbaijanI parliament deputy Eldar Ibrahimov

AzerbaijanI parliament deputy Eldar Ibrahimov

BABEK, Azerbaijan -- Residents in a village in Azerbaijan's Naxcivan Autonomous Republic have held a protest against high unemployment and other social problems in the exclave, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The villagers of Nehram, in Naxcivan's Babek district, also formed a committee on May 31 in order to bring their problems to the attention of local officials.

Rzaqulu Hasanov, a protest organizer, told RFE/RL he was deported from Nehram on the same day as the demonstration.

"Plainclothes [police] forced me into a car and took me until I crossed the Iranian-Azerbaijani border," he said.

Yasin Huseynov, a member of the protest committee, told RFE/RL that other activists were summoned to the police and abused while there.

Huseynov says Nehram villagers have been put under pressure by authorities.

Residents of Naxcivan also complain that their Soviet-era cars and motorbikes are confiscated and scrapped and they are given only 200 manats ($253) in compensation.

"Local officials are forcing the villagers to surrender their motorbikes and [Moskvitch] cars, claiming they are obsolete," he said.

"Actually...most of these vehicles have undergone technical inspections. The villagers also suffer from gas, electricity, and water shortages."

Most local government officials in Nehram and the local police would not comment to RFE/RL about the claims made by the villagers.

But a Babek district government official said there is "no discord in Nehram."

Hasan Hajiyev, a Naxcivan representative in Baku, said the deportation case is being investigated. But he said the information being reported about Naxcivan is "invented."

Eldar Ibrahimov, a parliament deputy from Naxcivan, told RFE/RL that the Moskvitchs -- Russian cars made from 1945-1991 -- have vanished from the republic's highways.

He explained that vehicles manufactured prior to 1996 were considered obsolete and their use is not allowed.

Ibrahimov added that for several years Naxcivan has been jointly producing Lifan cars with China and they are available for people to buy on credit.

Read more in Azeri here