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Azerbaijan Report: February 15, 2002

15 February 2002
What Position Should Azerbaijan Have In The U.S.-Iran Confrontation?
Azerbaijani observers point to U.S. President George W. Bush's harsh accusations in the direction of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's accusing Iran of harboring terrorists. Azerbaijan shares a border with Iran and the latter has certain interests in the region. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev has planned since 1999 to pay an official visit to Iran but has postponed it every time. Even though Aliyev is expected to visit Iran in the second half of February, it is not yet known when he will return from the U.S. Observers say this visit will not take place as well and connect it with the U.S. accusations against Iran.

Some Azerbaijani commentators think that a U.S.-Iran confrontation is possible, but some claim otherwise. Unlike the majority of political forces in Azerbaijan, the Union of Azerbaijanist Forces (UAF) regards negatively the expansion of the U.S. antiterror campaign. UAF recently held a press conference and claimed that should the U.S. launch antiterror operations against Iran, then Azerbaijan should not back them and should demonstrate neutrality. The UAF is also dissatisfied with Azerbaijani parliament Chairman Murtuz Alasgarov's statement that "Iran must prove its innocence." They consider this statement of the speaker as interference in Iran's internal affairs.

According to political scientist Rasim Musabeyov, the U.S. has no intention of launching operations against Iran, but it would be a very dangerous act, because Iran's military is stronger than that of Afghanistan and Iraq. As for Azerbaijan's position on the issue, Musabeyov noted that no state wants tension on its borders and the Azerbaijani community is no exception. Azerbaijan has limited force and fewer opportunities to impact the processes. Musabeyov thinks that Azerbaijan should protest the tension in the region, and defend neither Iran nor the U.S.

(Almaz Mahmudgizi)

Drug Addiction Among Azerbaijani Youth
Drug addiction has become a major problem for Azerbaijani youth. Azerbaijani experts are working to fight this insidious disease, and conduct serious studies to determine the number of those engaged in the sale, use, and trafficking of drugs. According to official statistics, there are some 14,000 registered drug addicts in Azerbaijan.

Mahir Garaev, director of the Anti-narcotics International Scientific Research Center, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, said that this figure does not reflect reality. According to him, the number is now over 140,000. According to Garaev, four out of every 10 women prisoners in Azerbaijan were imprisoned for participation in trafficking, sale, or addiction to drugs.

Narcology expert Akif Abdullaev also confirmed this opinion, noting that over 20 drug addicts per month appeal for treatment for drug addiction. Some 600 persons wishing to remain anonymous make telephone calls every day to receive treatment.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Azerbaijani Youth Stage Protest Action
The youth organization of the Azerbaijani Democrat Party will stage on 16 February a picket of opposition parties in Baku. Members of the Azerbaijani National Liberation Party, Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, and Musavat Party will take part in the picket. ADP has sent an appeal to the Baku mayor claiming that some 1,500 persons will participate in the picket. The Baku municipality has rejected the appeal and accused the ADP of seeking confrontation. But the ADP youth are decided to stage the picket on 16 February in front of the Constitutional Court.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Azerbaijan National Liberation Party Evicted From Its Premises
The youth organization of the Azerbaijani National Liberation Party (ANLP) staged a one-hour sanctioned protest on 15 February in front of the Ministry for Economic Development demanding new office for the party. The party was evicted from its premises last July. They were offered another place but considered it inappropriate for political activity.

The ANLP is demanding headquarters for itself under the Law on Political Parties and has appealed to Economy Court 1 and the Azerbaijan Economy Court. None of the courts have settled the matter in ANLP's favour. Thus the party's young members decided to stage protest actions until the party is supplied with headquarters.

ANLP Deputy Chairman on organizational issues Ali Aliyev questions why the ruling party is given new offices and reconstructs its old office with state funds, but its rival parties are evicted from their premises.

In conclusion, the head of the ANLP youth organization, Elshan Mustafaev, submitted the picket's resolution to the ministry. According to him, if the ministry does not respond in a week, they will continue the protest actions.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Maharram Zulfugarli in an article "Whip and subject" carried by the newspaper "525" writes that the citizens who want to get ID cards are faced with great difficulties. According to the author, the ID cards are given in one station in every district, even in such a major city like Sumgayit with 400.000 people. This fact causes endless lines. In addition, such bureaucratic obstacles as blood group, color of eyes, photos, etc. are being created. When the author poses the question whether these obstacles are necessary, he answers the question himself that the reason is bribery.

Gafar Jabiev writes in the newspaper "Azerbaijan" that some kindergartens and schools are located in old and rather small buildings. The construction of some schools began in the late 1980s-early 1990s, but was later stopped unfinished due to economic difficulties. Finally, because of the great number of urgent problems of recent times, the state does not allot the necessary funds for reconstruction of the unfinished buildings and supplying them with new equipment.

"Former state leaders, as well as those in office must be careful while speaking about Islam, which is the religion of billions of people." The newspaper "Ekho" carries this statement of the head of the Caucasian Muslims' Board (CMB), Haji Allahshukur Pashazadeh, who commented on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's interview with "The Guardian" newspaper. Pashazadeh resolutely objects to the former premier's statement that "Islamism is the new bolshevism," calling this comparison unsuccessful. Pashazadeh says Thatcher's expression "Islamic extremism" does not have any basis and only people with insufficient information about Islam can state such things. The CMB leader stresses that Islam has always denounced all forms of terror and is against assassination of innocent people.

Emin Huseynzadeh in an article "Do refugees make SOCAR bankrupt?" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that after his remarks to the Azerbaijani parliament some days ago, the head of the State Refugee Committee became "the hero" of the republic again. This time, concern is connected with the funds allotted by the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) for refugees. According to the author, SOCAR revenues are not fully used and remain in the fund, and they force the people to accept such a situation normally and simply. But it is necessary to see the reality. The author says that the oil company does not allot the funds from nothing but that they were earned with difficulty. Because of this, such indifference to the funds is not understandable. The issue of why the money is not fully spent still remains open.

Zamin Haji in the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that when the late president of Azerbaijan, Abulfaz Elchibey, left Baku for his home village Keleki, the then-Chairman of the Supreme Assembly Heidar Aliyev laughed at him, claming that it was impossible to govern the country from a village of Nakhchivan and thus, appropriated his authority. But now Heidar Aliyev has been in a Cleveland clinic for 15 days. Generally, the president either does not come to work or goes to foreign countries for treatment for some days recently. The author concludes that the health issue shows that Aliyev does not feel well and he would rather retire and rest. According to the author, Azerbaijan's laws are responsible for such a situation and under the law, if the president cannot govern the country for his health, he must resign.

Political scientist Vafa Guluzadeh -- in response to the question posed by the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," "Shall we be able to make the world accept the Khojaly tragedy?" -- notes that it is too late. Because we should have conveyed long ago to the world that the mass killings in Khojaly were real genocide and raised the issue with international organizations. According to Guluzadeh, the Turkish parliament has also delayed on the issue. The political scientist thinks that it is very significant to raise the problem to the level of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Regretfully, we raised the issue but later stopped, he writes.

Mehdi, in an article "Aliyev was operated again" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," writes that the serious surgery performed on the Azerbaijani president with the public's being uninformed of it until the last moment has created a very dangerous situation from a political and legal standpoint. This fact should be accepted as the governing team's irresponsible approach to the fate of the country. The head of the state is being operated on, but the state bodies and officials keep it in secret. The author poses the question of why the official bodies stated a day before that "the president's health is excellent." What was the aim of the officials stating "The president will return home next weekend"?

Elmira Akhundova in the newspaper "Literature" refers to the problems of contemporary literature and notes that Azerbaijani literature has two main problems. One of them refers to the whole post-Soviet territory. The market dictatorship has replaced the ideological domination and censorship. Not valuable literary works, but cheap ones are published in the country. The well-to-do can publish the books written for them by hired professionals. The author writes about the change to Latin script, claiming that even though Latin script textbooks have been published in the country for 10 years, no literary work has been published in this script.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)