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Azerbaijan Report: June 4, 2002

4 June 2002
Bloodshed In Nardaran
Bloody clashes took place in Nardaran, a village that is part of Baku, on the night of 3-4 June. One person was killed and at least ten were wounded, with some reports saying as many as 20 were injured. One police officer was wounded in the violence. The incident followed the arrest of some local residents who demanded the resignation of the village's municipal authorities. The slain resident of the village, a 50-year-old man, was buried at 1600 on 4 June.

According to village residents, the government deployed troops in Nardaran on the afternoon of 3 June, who opened fire without provocation on local people who were going to perform prayers. Therefore, the residents say, they were obliged to defend themselves by throwing stones at the police officers.

Police sources claim the contrary, saying that they did not open fire first, but only defended themselves against the local residents, who fired on them when they were withdrawing from the village and burned 12 vehicles, including police buses.

The situation in the village remains tense. The residents have gathered in Imam Hussein square, demanding the release of detained village elders, the appointment of a new village head in a manner agreed with them, and the re-establishment of normal conditions there.

The government has taken some security measures, including establishing police posts on the way to Nardaran. The violence followed months of protests by residents of the poor area, who demanded infrastructure improvements such as the building of roads and gas mains.

(Kebiran Dilaverli, Rovshan Gambarov)

Refugees' Homes Are Demolished
The homes of 65 refugee families living in the neighborhood of Ganligol in Baku's Yasamal district have been demolished. The homes of 15 of them were destroyed on 31 May while Baku municipal authorities and police looked on. The refugees -- from Zangilan, Gubadli, Fizuli, Jebrail and Kalbajar districts -- were told that all homes constructed since December 1996 will be demolished. The owners of homes built before the end of 1996 will soon be provided with rnew accomodation in the Sebayel district, municipal authorities promised.

Later, Sahib Rustamov, the deputy head of the State Committee for Refugees, and parliament deputy Bahar Muradova visited the area. A group of refugees met with Baku Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov, who first said he had no information about the demolitions but also pointed out that illegal buildings must be demolished. According to Galabey Asgarov, chairman of the Musavat party commission on refugees and internally displaced persons, refugees' buildings are illegal regardless of where they are built, because refugees are legally registered as living in regions which are under occupation. But the refugees claim that their homes were demolished because the land on which they stood has been sold to a foreigner.

Asgarov says the lives of IDPs are very difficult. Abutalibov did not promise the refugees any compensation or relocation, he added. The mayor said only that some 10-15 families -- the owners of homes constructed before the end of 1996 -- will get places in Sebayel district. The remaining 40 families received no promises of either land or compensation.

(Shahnaz Baylargizi)

The 4 June issues of Azerbaijani newspapers -- except for the governmental ones "Azerbaijan," "Khalg" and "Yeni Azerbaijan" -- carry articles about the bloodshed in Nardaran.

In an article entitled "Nardaran tragedy" carried in the 4 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," Rovshan Hajiyev writes that the Azerbaijani government has lost its lands such as Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent territories. According to him, the government proved in Nardaran that it is afraid of losing control in other places as well. When the Nardaran residents made social demands last year, the government tried to extinguish the gunpowder keg with the help of Baku Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov. But the mayor added not water but a fuse to the barrel. The "explosion" was so strong that it frightened the government. The author argues that the government has kept the people in fear for many years, citing a similar crackdown on protesting Sheki residents in November 2000. Hajiyev claims that the government retains its power through the police and the army. The author stresses that it is still not entirely clear what happened in Nardaran and people can explain the developments as they wish. But regardless of the explanations, he cites a famous saying: "The upper levels cannot govern as before and the low ones do not wish to live as before." The author concludes that God knows who will rise to their feet tomorrow to defend the people's violated rights and repair the country's broken morality.

The 4 June issue of the government newspaper "Khalg" carries an article "The way leading to June's incidents" claiming that the events of June 1993 (when a military unit in the city of Ganja led by Surat Huseynov mutinied against the government) resulted in the ignominious end of the Azerbaijan People's Front-Musavat government.

The 4 June issue of the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman" carries an article "Tragedies of our recent history, the incidents of 4 June 1993." The author of the article, T. Aranli, says two aspects of the events are significant. Firstly, the incidents took place as the logical political result of the Azerbaijan People's Front Party's one year of government. Secondly, 4 June was the point of culmination of the work of bringing Heydar Aliyev to power. The first phase of that work ended in March 1992 when Ayaz Mutallibov was ousted illegally and the People's Front seized power. Therefore, nothing extraordinary or unusual should be seen in the 1993 developments.

In an interview with the 4 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," Serdar Jelaloglu, Secretary General of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, said that Russia had a definite role in the 1993 overthrow of President Abulfez Elchibey. According to him, shortly before 4 June, Nikolai Baybakov, a former Soviet official who had been chairman of the Azerbaijan State Planning Committee, arrived in Nakhchivan, where Heydar Aliyev was living. Then military units in Ganja were withdrawn, and Surat Huseynov seized the military equipment. All this showed that a major game was being played in Azerbaijan. Jelaloglu says that then Aliyev tried to restore the USSR. Aliyev spoke to the Nakhchivan Supreme Assembly, threatening that those who destroyed the USSR would be punished. That is, a nostalgic Aliyev was then trying to restore the Russian Empire, Jelaloglu says.

According to the 4 June issue of the independent newspaper "525," Yerevan feels no need for Ankara's mediation in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The 4 June issue of the independent newspaper "Echo," quoting the Turan news agency, reports that Armenians shot 24-year-old Araz Mammadov to death in Mazam, a village in Gazakh district.

In an article entitled "Karabakh's gold mines under Armenian occupation" carried in the 4 June issue of the independent newspaper "Tezadlar," Arif Alizade speaks of the gold mines and minerals in Azerbaijan's occupied districts. The article says that Armenians have concluded mining agreements with several foreign companies.

According to the independent newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," Arif Pasha of the divided Azerbaijan People's Front Party (APFP) comments on the obstacles to re-unification of the APFP. He speaks of the possibility that former party leader Elchibey's name will become the object of political bargaining again.

The 4 June issue of the government newspaper "Khalg" refers to alleged developments in the opposition camp, claiming that opposition members will lynch Penah Huseynov, the head of the Azerbaijan People's Party, since he speaks irresponsibly on behalf of all.

In an article entitled "Will Western companies be barred from Alov?" carried in the 4 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Vusal Gasimli writes that the Azerbaijani government is conscious of the uncertainty over the Alov field in a section of the Caspian disputed by Azerbaijan and Iran. According to the author, Azerbaijan State Oil Company-based sources have different positions on the problem. According to a SOCAR source who asked to remain anonymous, exploration in the field will be delayed for three more years and by then, the dispute with Iran over the sea border will be settled. Thus exploration in Alov will commence in 2005. If the work continues on schedule, the first production from the field will come on line in 2007-2008. The author writes that the Araz-Alov-Sharg structure is significant for Western companies from both political and economic standpoints. The Azerbaijani government must not offend the partners in the Alov field, but restore work on the structure. There is room for compromise with Iran, Gasimli writes. SOCAR has a 40 percent share in the structure and some of it could be conceded to Iran.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)