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In Azerbaijan, Young Protesters Take To Streets Despite Police Crackdown

PHOTO GALLERY: Images from today's protests and police crackdown in Baku:



* Correction appended

By RFE/RL


Small groups of Azeri youths staged antigovernment protests on March 11 in the capital, Baku, despite a police crackdown on protest organizers in recent days.

Inspired by popular uprisings in Arab nations, young Azerbaijani activists had campaigned via Facebook to designate the date as "Great People's Day" and stage protests against the country's autocratic leader Ilham Aliyev.

Police in one district said they had detained 10 people in an attempt to thwart an unsanctioned protest, but activists behind the "Great People's Day" protests put the number detained in the "dozens."

In one protest, activists marched from a downtown McDonald's restaurant toward the National Bank building chanting, “Freedom!” and “Resignation!"

They shouted, “Freedom to Eynulla Fatullayev,” a reference to an Azerbaijani journalist imprisoned on charges his supporters say are politically motivated. 

Protesters also chanted, “Release Bakhtiyar Hajiyev!” “Freedom to Dayanat,” and “Freedom to Cabbar," referring to a journalist and two youth activists who have recently been jailed.

Our correspondents in Baku said police were stopping and searching young people in the streets and metro stations since the morning.

WATCH -- Several young activists were detained and driven away in police vehicles:

11 martın ilkin görüntülərii
X
March 11, 2011
28 May metrosu yaxınlığında polis gəncləri saxlayır

Turqut Qambar was among those detained by police, the activist's father, Isa Qambar -- the leader of an opposition party, Musavat -- told reporters.  

RFE/RL photographer Abbas Atilay was beaten up by police while he was filming police detaining activists.

Atilay said police officials later apologized, saying he was beaten up "by mistake."

“[Policemen] began beating me very aggressively in the face and the stomach," Atilay said. "At that very moment, plainclothes policemen approached me and apologized, saying I was beaten by mistake."

An official from the Interior Ministry was unable to tell RFE/RL how many people were detained but said the ministry would release the information later.

Several youth activists and protest organizers were arrested ahead of the planned demonstrations.  

The European Union, the U.S. Embassy in Baku, and Amnesty International had earlier expressed concern over the recent arrests of Azerbaijani activists.

The "Great People's Day" protest was initially planned as a "virtual protest" to express solidarity online. However, it later turned into calls for street demonstrations against Aliyev's regime.

Over 4,100 people used Facebook to confirm their intention to join the protests by this morning.

* The original version of this story did not correctly identify Turqut Qambar as among those detained by police.

written by Farangis Najibullah and Arife Kazimova, based on material from RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Taxpayer from: USA
March 12, 2011 03:02

Sultan Aliyev's propaganda machine using Abel MahAramov, the Armenian-born President of the Baku State University, as a mouthpiece already announced that these actions were planned by the numerous "hidden" Armenians.

Now they promise to search for these Armenians (Azerbaijan completely destroyed its 500,000+ strong Armenian minority during pogroms and outright war in early 1990s) and arrest them...

I wonder what kind of scull measurement standards or genetic tests they plan to use?
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
March 13, 2011 21:57
Typical Armenian rubbish talk. Trying to take advantage of Azerbaijan's transition towards democracy. You forgot to mention that Armenia occupies 20% of Azerbaijan, deported half a million Azerbaijanis in the 1950s from Armenian SSR and then deported the remaining 300.000 in the 1990s. You killed 30.000 Azerbaijani civilians in the war and now you try to take advantage of the situation in Azerbaijan, Im not surprized really. This is typical Armenian.
In Response

by: Aro from: Izmir
March 13, 2011 21:58
There are 30.000 Armenians living in Baku yet there are 0 Azerbaijanis in Armenia today. So who is the racist now?

by: Asim from: London
March 16, 2011 00:06
When I read this article I become aggravated at Azerbaijan’s lost potential. When I read these commentaries I just want to cry. No one really cares about their country nor do they really care about Karabakh.

Instead of caring that their dictator is robbing them and their children of their future, my brothers are content scapegoating and ridiculing Armenians. I guess it’s easy to blame all your short comings on someone else. How sad. You lost Karabakh, the surrounding districts, the natural resources of the country, and probably Azerbaijan itself. And the most any Azerbaijani wants to do is ridicule Armenian nationalism.

I guess the Aliyev propaganda machine was successful...
In Response

by: Henri from: Canada
March 16, 2011 18:38
As long as there is Aliyev, Azerbaijan will unfortunately not be a country. It will stay an oil depot for the western countries. They need someone like Aliyev to bribe him and take profit of the natural resources of the country.

All Aliyev and his government are doing is stealing the wealth of Azerbaijanis and spreading hatred thorwards the Armenians because of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aliyev should be de-crowned.
In Response

by: Nuriddin from: UK
March 20, 2011 06:54
It is easy to live in Canadian luxury and talnk about Aliyev and Azerbaijan. If you were living in Armenian slam then we wouldn’t hear from you at all. Aliyev has brought economical, political and financial stability to Azerbaijan. He has created and continues to create jobs, employment and educational opportunities to citizens of Azerbaijan (this includes 30 thsnd Armenians’ too, who live and prosper in Azerbaijan). The monthly salary in Azerbaijan is $400, which is the highest in that region. Next year the Baku-Tbilisi- Kars railway will be commissioned to operation. There is new cargo sea port and airport in construction. The list can go on and on what Aliyev has achieved in Azerbaijan so far. The truth is enemies of Azerbaijan are so jealous of its progress in every respect, that they would not stop creating chaos and instability in there at any cost. But they will fail
In Response

by: Nuri from: UK
March 20, 2011 07:49
You can cry as much as you like, who cares. In fact it will be good for you. It will clear your mind and open your eyes and you will see clearly what is going on in the world. It is easy to live in British luxury and talk about dictatorship, Aliyev and Azerbaijan. If you were living in Armenian slam then we wouldn’t hear from you at all. 87% of Iraqis now say, they were much better off living under Saddam’s dictatorship (because they had jobs, security, education, health care etc. ) then under Western democracy where they have NOTHING. Go cry some more and read books, real ones. Here is one for you ‘Weapons of Mass Deception’ by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber. Aliyev has brought economical, political and financial stability to Azerbaijan. He has created and continue to create jobs, employment and educational opportunities to citizens of Azerbaijan (this includes 30 thsnd Armenians’ too, who live and prosper in Azerbaijan). The monthly salary in Azerbaijan has gone up to $400, which is the highest in that region. Next year the Baku-Tbilisi- Kars railway will be commissioned to operation. There is new cargo sea port and airport in construction. The list can go on and on what Aliyev has achieved in Azerbaijan so far. The truth is enemies of Azerbaijan are so jealous of its progress in every respect, that they would not stop creating chaos and instability in there at any cost. But they will fail . Go cry some more and read books, real ones. Here is one for you ‘Weapons of Mass Deception’ by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber.