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Azerbaijan Report: July 2, 2002

2 July 2002
Environmental Activists Protest Against BTC Oil Pipeline
Protests against the construction of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhanoil pipeline are coming not just from abroad but also from within. Environmental activists are gearing up their protests against the pipeline's proposed route through the Gobustan State Preserve, an area rich in archeological artifacts. Naile Bagirova, a journalist from the Turan news agency, reported that Anne Nestling, BP's manager for environmental protection, told a press conference that the pipeline would run some 14 kilometers away from Gobustan's historical monuments. Nestling also said that a second variant, which would run the pipeline alongside the preserve, had been also considered; however, it would require the pipeline to be lengthened an additional 12 kilometers. She added that the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological and Ethnographical Institute of the National Academy of Sciences have given permission to run the pipeline through the preserve.

Jefergulu Rustamov, the former head of the Gobustan State Preserve and a researcher at the Archaeological and Ethnographical Institute, said in an interview with RL/RFE that there were no historical artifacts within the preserve. But Bagirova wrote in that non-governmental organizations have conducted an investigation of the land where the pipeline is to pass and have found dish fragments dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Should the pipeline's construction cross these lands, she wrote, Azerbaijan will lose these monuments forever.

Samir Isaev, the head of Ecoleks, an environment protection center, also disagreed with Rustamov and said that the area has not been sufficiently excavated, which means that there could be artifacts there.

The BTC pipeline will not be the first to pass through the preserve. Azerigaz pipelines already run through it. Isaev said that one problem is that public opinion has never before been considered during the construction of such pipelines. Bagirova wrote that officials have differing opinions. Fuel Minister Mejid Karimov opposes any pipelines passing near historical artifacts. Presidential adviser on economic issues Ali Asadov noted that foreign companies choose the routes that are in their best interests, and the government must prevent them from damaging the preserve.

(Natig Zeinalov)

Kindergarten Teachers Protest Transfer
On 29 June a group of kindergarten teachers whose schools are administered by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) marched in front of the Presidential Palace to protest the transfer of 69 kindergartens to the supervision of the Ministry of Education. Their concern is that their wages and school food allotments will decline once the transfer is effected. But officials in the Presidential Apparatus advised the teachers to meet with SOCAR's president, Natig Aliev. Instead of Aliev, other SOCAR officials met with the teachers and asked them to wait five days while the matter is investigated. But the protestors refused and returned to the Presidential Palace. They were again asked to wait for five days.

(Natig Zeinalov)

On July 2, Police Day, the Azerbaijani press published a number of articles and commentaries related to the police as well as articles about the recently proposed changes to the Constitution and the Black Sea economic summit.

Opposition Adalat Party chairman Ilias Ismailov in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" claimed that the constitutional changes serve to concentrate power in President Heydar Aliev's hands.

The pro-governmental newspapers "Azerbaycan" and "Khalg" ran detailed information about the president's meetings and speeches during his visit to Turkey to attend the 10th jubilee summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.

Khalid Kazimli in a commentary entitled "Aliev's brave policemen" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" wrote that Aliev's police policy has become more purposeful in recent years. The president has realized that he is losing his social and political base among the people and now considers the police as his prime base of support. According to Kazimli, the president also realizes that such love must be mutual, and if the police defend him he also must care for police. And he is doing his best in that direction. The number of policemen has increased so much that the state budget is not able to pay for them. Therefore, Aliyev gives the police a wide berth, allowing the police to do what they want to "earn their living." Kazimli pointed out that on Police Day, the president has rewarded a number of policemen with honors and said that if the opposition attempts to hold another protest, these policemen would show their courage in their struggle against them.

Major-General Ogtai Aliev, the head of Chief Traffic Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in his interview to the newspaper "Khalg" spoke about past and current activities of the Azerbaijani police. Aliyev noted that a number of destructive forces are attempting to blacken the police's reputation and to create lawlessness in Azerbaijan. Such forces oppose the police in their illegal actions and have no other choice except to slander the police. The general also claims that most opposition "experts" are those who have been dismissed from the police for illegal actions.

Rasim Bairamov in an article entitled "Ilham Aliev's activity in the Council of Europe" in the 2 July issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" claimed that the position of the Azerbaijan delegation in the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is weak. In contrast to the state propaganda machine Ilham Aliev, the president's son, seems to be losing his "leadership abilities" in the Council. In all cases a weak position taken by the delegation promotes the forming of an anti-Azerbaijan atmosphere within PACE. Bairamov also wrote that the delegation hoped to protect Azerbaijan's interest without doing anything and without taking into consideration the strong Armenian propaganda that exists within the Council. But it is useless to rest on meaningless hopes.

Elkhan Mehdiev, the director of the Center for Peace and Settlement of Conflicts, in his interview with the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman," commented on the "Paris principles" and noted that President Aliyev gives Karabakh to Armenia while opening the route to Nakhchivan. According to Mehdiev, under the "Paris principles," Karabakh would no longer be within Azerbaijan's sovereignty. Karabakh would be given independent status and connected with Armenia through the Lachin district, which Aliyev calls the "Lachin corridor." Aliyev wants to convince the people that in exchange for the Lachin corridor, Armenia will concede the Megri district, which will connect Azerbaijan to its autonomous republic of Nakhchevan. In other words the negotiations will realize a territorial exchange. Armenians oppose such a territorial exchange but have expressed their readiness to provide a secure route to Nakhchevan. Mehdiev concluded that President Aliyev wants to deceive the people.

Swiss doctor Kenan Ruyandraq in an article in the newspaper �Azadliq� wrote that President Aliyev through the proposed constitutional changes intends to adapt the Constitution to European standards. The author does not exclude such an intention. But the political system in European countries differs from the antidemocratic regime in Azerbaijan. In no European state does the president's or prime minister's son or relatives have the right to hold a state post in government. In no European state is the president's son a deputy, a vice-president of a state oil company, a head of delegation in PACE while being a successful businessman at the same time. In no European state does a president's son-in law hold the post of deputy foreign minister. No president's son possesses "the most expensive house in London" at a time when a part of his country is under occupation, and refugees' living conditions are terrible. And in no European state does a president's brother make offensive and abusive comments about the opposition during parliament sessions.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)