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Azerbaijan Report: January 23, 2002

23 January 2002
Should Russia Apologise To Azerbaijan For 20 January Tragedy?
Even though some 12 years have passed since Soviet troops committed bloody crimes in Baku, Russia, the successor of that country which has even adopted the anthem of the Soviet Empire, has not apologised to Azerbaijan for those incidents. The Russian president has visited the Martyrs' Alley in Azerbaijan and bowed in front of the memorial erected there, he has not taken such a step. Can Russia apologise to Georgia and Azerbaijan for the bloody tragedy committed by Soviet troops? RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service posed the question to a number of party officials in Azerbaijan.

Tahir Kerimli, Chairman of Vahdat Party who worked as the people's judge of the Ismailli district at that period, considers it possible. Immediately after the 20 January tragedy, he handed down the death penalty to Mikhail Gorbachov, who was the main plotter of the crimes. According to Kerimli, precedents are the German Federal Republic's apologising to Jews, and its allotting compensation to the relatives of the genocide victims. Kerimli says that if Russia wants to establish close cooperation with the newly independent states, then it must take such a step. Kerimli notes that the issue was discussed in the parliaments of Lithuania and Georgia but not in Azerbaijan. But he believes that Russia will apologise to Azerbaijan and other republics at some point.

Democrat Party Chairman Serdar Jelaloglu says that under the Almaty treaty of 1992, each of the newly independent states in the former Soviet territory is considered an heir to the former USSR and because of this, Azerbaijan cannot demand that Russia apologise for the tragedy.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Government May Restore Karabakh Invalids' Allowances
Apparently, the cancelled allowances of police officers will be restored as an exception. Many people think so after the Minister of Defence Ramil Usubov's recent appeal to the president of the country asking him to do so. The allowances for the police were cancelled early this year. Then the local press carried information claiming that this move caused serious concern among police officials. There was even information that police officials decided not to disrupt any further opposition protest actions. But high-ranking officials of the Internal Ministry held meetings and refuted those reports. Now, public attention has again focused on the cancellation of police officers' allowances.

The Head of the Press service of the Society of Karabakh Invalids (which has officially been suspended), Rey Kerimoglu, says that he is not surprised at all by such a turn of events. He said restoring police officers' allowances would be typical of the way Heydar Aliyev operates.

The Head of the Karabakh Liberation Organisation, Akif Naghi, said that the one million refugees living in the country regard this process as part of the government's discrimination policy. They understand that such a policy does not promise their return to Karabakh.

(Babek Bekir)

Armenians' Accusations Against Azerbaijan Are Groundless
The Armenian separatists who have occupied some 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, deported thousands of Azerbaijanis from their lands and committed the Khojali genocide claim that they are concerned about the brutal violation of human rights in Azerbaijan.

The "Foreign minister" of the so-called Nagorno Karabakh Republic Naira Melkumyan held a press conference in Yerevan on 18 January at which she noted that human rights are frequently violated in Azerbaijan and therefore the existence of an Armenian community in that country is impossible. According to her, the Council of Europe has always kept to their point. The representative of the unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh Republic also accused Azerbaijan of delaying the Karabakh peace process. Melkumyan called all the Azerbaijan refugees to return, expressing confidence that the Azerbaijani side would also take the same step.

OSCE Minsk Group co-chairman Rudolf Perina has recently stated that there is a danger in delaying a settlement of the conflict. He argued that if the conflict is not settled, the world will focus its attention on other conflicts.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, the head of the Caucasian Studies Centre, Khaleddin Ibrahimli, called Melkumyan's statement a routine political manoeuvre. He said Armenia has no right to speak about human rights because Armenians themselves brutally violate them. He said that Armenians have conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno Karabakh and not a single Azerbaijani remain there. Thus, Armenians have deprived Azerbaijanis of the right to life and this constitutes real genocide. Ibrahimli says that it is ridiculous and illogical that a nation which has committed the Khojaly genocide and made one million persons refugees should accuse the victim of violating human rights. According to Ibrahimli, Armenians resort to everything in order to accuse the Azerbaijani side. He says such statements are not new and Armenian politicians have always issued such statements.

Referring to Perina's statement, Ibrahimli said Azerbaijan is not at all concerned about the resolution of other conflicts. He evaluated Perina's statement as pressure on Azerbaijan. Ibrahimli says the international community would rather spend its energy on a fair resolution of the Karabakh conflict than exerting pressure on Azerbaijan.

Political scientist Mubariz Gurbanli says the repatriation of Azerbaijani refugees does not depend on Naira Melkumyan as they refugees will return to their homelands as a result of the Azerbaijani government's policy.

(Abdulla Huseinoglu)

Will The Essentials Of Religion Be Taught In Azerbaijani Secondary Schools?
Teaching religion in secondary schools is a positive development, but it should be undertaken with caution in Azerbaijan in the current conditions. Chairman of the State Committee for Religious Affairs Rafig Aliyev told Azadinform that the essentials of Islam will be taught in secondary schools. Experts and specialists disagree over whether this is desirable.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, Minister of Education Misir Mardanov said that a textbook on the essentials of Islam has recently been submitted to the ministry but experts have not reviewed it yet. As for Aliev's statement that essentials of Islam will be taught in secondary schools beginning 1 September 2002, Mardanov said a special concept must be prepared to this end. No haste can be allowed in this matter.

Doctor of Philosophical Sciences Zumrud Guluzadeh says the teaching of the essentials of religion in schools must be approved but conditions for doing so have not yet appeared in Azerbaijan.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

An article entitled "The opposition reaches its goal" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" claims referring to some observers that the opposition reaches its goal. It means that not Musavat but the Azerbaijan National Liberation Party implemented its plan. It is possible that not one but four centres of force will be formed in the opposition camp after 10 January. They are the forces close to ANLP, the Union of the Azerbaijanist Forces, the Liberal Party, the neutral forces in the party for Civil Unity and the Adalat Party. The author assumes that the forces in the force centres will be grouped this way. The newspaper claims that it carries a temporary character and writes: "There are many presidential aspirants in the opposition camp and these persons do not intend to make compromises with each other."

Former Khatai district prosecutor Mahir Javadov in an interview with the newspaper "Tezadlar" notes that the Azerbaijani leadership played a role in the 20 January tragedy in Baku, as did persons close to Heydar Aliev. A while before the 20 January tragedies, Heydar Aliyev began to realise a plan in Baku through Azerbaijan's former president Elchibey. The killings of Armenians in some cities of Azerbaijan were part of these plans. By committing these crimes, the plan-makers could make Russia use force against Azerbaijan. As for the 20 January tragedies, Javadov claims that his brother Rovshan Javadov had informed Etibar Mammadov in advance, but they did not believe him as the majority. Mahir Javadov says they were powerless to do anything.

Zabil Mugabiloglu in an article carried by the newspaper "525" writes that major discussions regarding political prisoners have commenced recently. The fact that Azerbaijan's name is used more than all in this issue has resulted from the Azerbaijani lawyers' forgetting their duty to the Motherland. These persons term as political prisoners all those who have committed crimes against the Azerbaijani state. These forces demand humanism for the founder of the Talysh-Mughan Republic in Azerbaijan and it is not certain what they will demand tomorrow. So-called humanists increase in Azerbaijan from day to day. And it is no secret to anybody why they act in such a way.

Kamal writes in an article carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" that Heydar Aliyev keeps behind the scene his heir, meaning his son Ilham Aliev. He acts so every time. When issues of serious significance for Azerbaijan are discussed, Ilham Aliyev is not seen on the scene. But it is never forgotten to connect Azerbaijan's achievements with Ilham Aliev's name. The author writes that nobody has seen Ilham Aliyev utter explicit statements in the discussions regarding the Council of Europe. But Ilham Aliyev was to be more active as the leader of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE. If PACE did not launch serious discussions regarding Azerbaijan, then Ilham Aliyev would not appear on the scene. According to the author, Ilham Aliyev was obliged to leave for Strasbourg after Europe's demand and the people's reprimand.

The newspaper "Zerkalo" carries an interview with Samad Seidov, a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE. Seidov notes that the talks could have the organisation declare readiness to hear the government's arguments. Because of this, Seidov is confident that it is necessary to pursue a serious struggle in the Council of Europe. According to Seidov, after explaining to the Council of Europe the real situation regarding political prisoners, they will ask the organisation why it ignores the positive changes in Azerbaijan.

Aziz in an article carried by the newspaper "Khalg" writes that the inter-connected ties in the opposition aggravate from day to day and the talks about joint activity are relegated to the background. The passive activity of leaders in some parties has made the opposition women aggressive, as shown by the meeting staged by the womem members of the Azerbaijan Democrat Party. The author recalls that a group of women protested that meeting. But in a later development, the opposition men called them "Heydar Aliev's special purpose group of women" and insulted them. The author says he has found out that the women in question are ordinary citizens and they were engaged in petty trading near Narimanov and Nizami metro stations. According to Aziz, those women demanded the picketers leave the territory as they hindered their trading.

Russia's ambassador to Azerbaijan Nikolay Ryabov in an interview with the newspaper "Ekho" notes that his country does not support a military solution to the Karabakh conflict. The ambassador says that regional security will be the main topic of discussions during the Azerbaijani president's visit to Russia. The sides will also discuss the Gabala Radar Station. Referring to the scandal regarding Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe, Ryabov said it is too early to predict how the dispute will end.

Azer Hesret in an article in "Azadlig" writes that the government is playing a double game. Its members promise on the one hand that there will be no pressure, that human rights will not be violated, but on the other hand they fail to keep promise. Hesret writes that the government, which wants to have a nation of slaves, would rather implement the people's demand and gain their respect. But the Aliyev regime does not seem willing to compromise and there are few hopes that the current political course will change.

Khalid Kazimli in an article carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Azerbaijan has no alternative to compromises regarding political prisoners. But few people believe that the government will retreat. There are few countries in the Council of Europe, which have interests in Azerbaijan and can demand compromise for these interests. The Azerbaijani officials recognised it very late. Now the situation has reached such a level that the government is also obliged to present counter-arguments. There is some time left till the discussion of political prisoners is due to begin. Azerbaijani officials can take quite serious steps within these two days to persuade European deputies to adopt a more positive attitude towards Azerbaijan.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)