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Azerbaijan Report: February 26, 2002

26 February 2002
Azerbaijanis In Captivity
Hundreds of Azerbaijanis have suffered from the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict. Some 5.000 Azerbaijanis are missing in the conflict zone. In 1992-2001, some 1,097 persons were released. The relevant state commission has recently issued information on the Azerbaijanis being held in the Armenian captivity. There are many women and children among them as well, according to the report. The Azerbaijani women released from the captivity do not want to return home sometimes as they feel themselves humiliated and insulted.

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service held a round-table meeting attended by Noyzali Aliyev, Deputy Chairman on Organisational Issues of the Union for Fight against Armenian Aggression and Aygun Hasanoglu, Secretary General of the World Young Turkish Writers' Union. They tried to clarify the reasons for the above cases as well as the conditions in which Azerbaijani captives are kept.

(Almaz Mahmudgizi)

Azerbaijani Officials Discuss Khojaly Massacre
On 23 February the Karabakh Liberation Organisation (KLO) held a roundtable meeting of political parties and social organisations in the Baku Press Club devoted to the 10th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre (the local media claim that it is a genocide committed by Armenians against Azerbaijanis and must be recognised as genocide).

After a one-minute silence to commemorate the massacre victims, KLO head Akif Naghi gave a speech in which he said the international community is not well enough informed about the massacre and the razing on 25-26 February 1992 of the city of Khodjaly. Some 613 peaceful Azerbaijanis, including 109 were women and children, were killed with particular savagery. Some 487 persons became handicapped, 1,275 peaceful residents were taken hostage and there is no information about s151 persons. Akif Naghi read an address to be sent to the UN and world parliaments.

Speakers at the meeting said it is significant that all the structures of the country, as well as the Caucasian Moslems' Board, should sign the document and send it to international organisations.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Bill On Combatting Corruption Being Drafted
The bill on combatting corruption is at the focus of the society's attention now because it is the worst disease damaging Azerbaijan now. Therefore, fighting corruption is the task of both governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Rena Safaraliyeva, vice president of the Forum of Azerbaijani NGOs, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service stated that her organisation Transparency-Azerbaijan is working on the bill on fighting corruption, which contains some shortcomings.

According to Adil Ismailov, Head of the Independent Consulting Assistance For Civil Society, the bill ought to be redrafted because every single provision needs to be amended. But Ismailov admitted that even if the bill is revised to make it perfect, it will still not help improve the situation because the country is corrupt from top to bottom.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

The front page of the newspaper "Azerbaijan" carries the text of Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's address to the Azerbaijani people in connection with the 10th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre. The address reads that today, the Azerbaijani government and people are committed to convey to the world countries, parliaments and the broader community the truth about the Khojaly genocide and the savageries committed by Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh and to secure the recognition of the massacre as genocide.

The newspaper "Azerbaijan" carries the text of an appeal addressed by the Khojaly refugees to the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

The newspaper "Zerkalo" carries an interview with Azerbaijan's ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov. The ex-president says that everybody blames him for the tragedy.

The newspaper "525" reports citing "Turan" that President Heydar Aliyev will leave Cleveland. According to Baylar Ayyubov, an official of the presidential security service, Heydar Aliyev will return home after staying in Britain for several days. According to the newspaper, the agency learned from informed sources that the president will return to Azerbaijan on 28 February.

Rauf in an article entitled "Iran's next sabotage in the Caspian" carried by the newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that an Iranian warship has violated Azerbaijan's sea border in the south of the Caspian. The incident took place in the Astara district of Azerbaijan. The Iranian vessel retreated after being faced by an Azerbaijani patrol boat. The author argues referring to the agency "Turan" that something strange is taking place in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations. On the one hand, Tehran invites official Baku to Iran to settle the disputed issues between the two neighbouring states. On the other hand, official Tehran aggravates ties with Azerbaijan. The Iranian side even declares without waiting for Aliev's return to Azerbaijan that it is preparing to develop Caspian oil fields. According to the author, the Azerbaijani side considers those fields its own.

Rasim Bayramov in a commentary "Why does Iran act harshly?" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that the greater part of the territories in the Caspian to which Iran lays claim belong to Azerbaijan. Thus, Tehran demonstrates a capricious position and it is harmful for Azerbaijan. According to the author, the Tehran government's adopting the median line principle in order to settle the Caspian status problem once for all coincides with the interests of other littoral states. The author argues that by adopting the median line principle, Iran lays claim to Azerbaijan's Araz, Alov and Sharg fields. The author concludes that Tehran understands very well that it will finally be obliged to accept the position of the other littoral states. But Iran wants to make the point that its position should be taken into account.

Ferhad Mammadov in a commentary carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that Tehran is ready to resort to force to resolve the dispute over the status of the Caspian. The author argues that the disputes over the division of the Caspian are becoming increasingly complex and Russia apparently wants to persuade Iran at the expense of Azerbaijan's interest. The author reminds that when V. Kaluzhny was in Baku last summer he proposed to Aliyev that he reach a compromise with Iran. The author writes that not only have Azerbaijani officials failed to denounce the Iranian warship's violating Azerbaijan's sea borders. On the contrary, Iranian encroachments on Azerbaijan's sovereignty have not been responded to.

Haji Abdul, chairman of the "Tovbe" society in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" described the efforts of Musavat leader Isa Gambar and ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov to establish cooperation as contradictory. Haji Abdul says that Mutallibov will lose much by taking this step, because when Isa Gambar was in power, he almost handed down the death penalty to A.Mutallibov.

Poet Famil Mehdi in an interview with the newspaper "Tezadlar" writes that a man must be internally, mentally and physically free and a person must feel that the society he lives in belongs to him. Famil Mehdi regrets that he does not feel freedom in today's society. They claim that freedom of speech and of the press exists. But if a journalist is arrested or beaten in a society, a newspaper is fined major sums, how can that press be free?

An article carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" refers to violations of the law by cigarette producers.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)