26 July 2002
NEWS BRIEFSOpposition Party Demonstrates Over Referendum
On 23 July the opposition Musavat Party held a sanctioned demonstration to demand the postponement of a national referendum on changes to the constitution. Some 50 picketers gathered in front of the Constitutional Court to call for the "postponement of the referendum," "the creation of independent legal commissions" to monitor voting, and "the extermination of neo-monarchism."
Gabil Huseinli, an adviser to Musavat Chairman Isa Gambar, told the demonstration that the party demanded the date of the referendum be put back a month from the planned date of 24 August, that some proposed changes be pulled from the referendum, that new independent elections commissions be created, and that the electorate be entitled to vote on each proposed change individually. (The following day, the Central Election Commission unveiled the official ballot for the referendum, which groups the 39 proposed changes into eight categories, each of which can be approved or rejected by voters.)
Huseinli said that along with the opposition, foreign democratic states also had concerns about the referendum. A Council of Europe representative has said that no state changes 25 articles of its constitution at once, though he added that there is nothing undemocratic about the individual changes that have been proposed. The U.S. State Department suggests postponing the date of the referendum so that the Azerbaijani people have enough time to discuss the amendments and come to a conclusion, Huseinli said.
The Musavat representative recalled that about 40 opposition organizations had decided to boycott the referendum. Huseinli also pointed out that the referendum has been scheduled for the hot summer period. Therefore even if the referendum is held, he said, it would not be possible to secure a quorum. In that case the leadership would attempt to forge the results of the referendum, which could provoke a confrontation in the republic, Huseinli said.
The deputy chairman of the Musavat Party, Ibrahim Ibrahimli, also addressed the demonstrators, arguing that the referendum was designed to help President Heidar Aliyev arrange for his son Ilham to succeed him.
Academics Deride Wage Increase As 'Propaganda'
President Aliyev has ordered a doubling of the wages of academic workers, but some of the leading beneficiaries of the edict say they are not impressed.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Doctor of Chemical Sciences Dayandur Gambarov said he does not think the president's edict is the result of concern about science. He said he opposes the use of the wage increase as a propaganda instrument. Gambarov notes that a professor who had been earning 170,000 manats ($35) per month will get 340,000 manats ($70) as of 1 July. But even that sum is not enough for normal existence, he said. Gambarov claimed that Azerbaijani academics in Turkey -- who had to emigrate from Azerbaijan because of economic and social difficulties -- get $1,000 a month. The professor urged that academics here should get a minimum of $300 a month. While prices are rising to European levels, wages are far behind, he said.
Zohrab Hasanoglu, a leading scientist at the Institute of Chemical Technologies, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that the edict would produce no improvement in the life of most academic workers because their salaries are so low that doubling them will have little effect. Only the 173 top academics and corresponding members of the National Academy of Sciences, who already command considerable salaries, will truly benefit from the presidential decree. Hasanoglu said that although at present most scientific work is being carried out by doctors of science, doctoral candidates and postgraduate students, their wages lag far behind senior academicians' and corresponding members' wages.
According to Hasanoglu the presidential decree harks back to 1993, when 91 intellectuals asked Heidar Aliyev -- then head of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic -- to take power in Baku. Hasanoglu said Aliyev ordered the wage increase in order to use the top 173 academics as a propaganda instrument before the forthcoming constitutional referendum and presidential elections.
Hasanoglu added that some academics are going to refuse the increase in their wages and issue a statement soon on the issue.
Russia Remains Dangerous For Azerbaijanis
Azerbaijanis living in Russia are continuing to be exposed to pressure and killed. Earlier this week, two people were shot and several others were injured as the result of an armed brawl between Azerbaijanis and Daghestanis in the Orion bazaar in Moscow.
Meanwhile, Moscow police began to check the papers of Azerbaijanis in the city. Viktor Vokhmintsev, the head of Moscow City Police Office, said in a briefing that 1.5 million Azerbaijanis have been registered in Moscow.
But Yuri Minov, the head of passport-visa department of the Police Office, told the Interfax news agency that the number of Azerbaijanis in the Russian capital has been exaggerated. The actual number of Azerbaijanis registered during the first six months of 2002 is 25,756 people, he said.
Local government institutions in the Irkutsk region have also put pressure on Azerbaijanis. Andrei Kholdaev, a representative of the Irkutsk Police Office, told the Irkutsk Supreme Administrative Committee that the number of Azerbaijanis there amounted to 1,400 people and called them a danger to the local population.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Mais Seferli, the chairman of the Compatriot Party and a member of parliament, said he considers the killing of Azerbaijanis and the checking of Azerbaijanis' registration documents in Russia to be pressure from Moscow on Azerbaijan. He said he regrets that the leadership of the republic does not react to the violations of Azerbaijanis' rights abroad. According to Seferli these people have left their motherland because of the difficult living conditions here. If the government had created some positive domestic conditions Azerbaijanis would not have gone abroad, nor would Russia have used the expatriate population against Azerbaijan. He added that most Azerbaijanis who move abroad go to Russia, so it is natural that most violations of expatriate Azerbaijanis' rights are taking place there. About 600 Azerbaijanis are killed in Russia every year, Seferli claimed. According to Seferli one of the most important reasons for the situation is the weak organization of Azerbaijanis living in Russia and other countries.
PRESS REVIEWMeherrem Zulfugarli, a deputy chairman of the opposition National Independence Party, tells the independent newspaper "Yeni zaman" about events taking place inside the party. According to him it would better for the party to get rid of members who betray their principles by cooperating with the leadership.
According to the pro-governmental newspaper "Khalg" the alleged meeting of former President of Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutallibov with Chechens outside Russia has made him persona non grata in Russia. But the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" in an article entitled "Kremlin has no 'Mutallibov issue'" writes that the claim that Mutallibov is to be evicted from Russia, where he lives, is propaganda planted by the Azerbaijani leadership.
Rafig Mammedli in an article entitled "Why there are no advertisements" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" discusses the reasons that newspaper advertising has sunk to a very low level. According to Mammedli the volume of advertisement has declined 30-40 times from the level of three or four years ago. Mammedli argues that in addition to theoretical reasons for the decline there are also some concrete causes. He points out that the government has prohibited cigarette advertising in the mass media. As a result the advertisement of tobacco goods has been limited and hundreds of people have lost their jobs. But the main point, Mammedli argues, is that tobacco giant Philip Morris's funds, totaling $100,000 for newspaper and street advertising in 2002, have disappeared. Mammedli concludes that under existing conditions advertising companies prefer newspapers to television and radio to promote their products.
Zahid Seferli in the article "Aliev's hopes" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that although President Aliyev tried to shed light on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during a 22 July meeting with newspaper editors, he did not succeed in hiding his failure to settle the conflict. According to Seferli it is difficult for the people to believe in the frankness of a president who has not succeeded in improving the social and economic situation in the country or liberating occupied Azerbaijani territories during his two terms as president. He could not achieve the people's hopes though he had enough time to act and no one preventing him from doing it, Seferli argues. The author concludes the hopes of Azerbaijani population and Aliyev do not coincide with each other.
Former member of parliament Shadman Husein in an article entitled "Azerbaijan requires a new opposition with civic consciousness" in the pro-governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" criticizes the opposition and writes that the opposition will never unite. Each opposition leader sees himself in the presidential post and they are therefore not able to find a common denominator. According to Husein the opposition possesses one weapon, mass protests. But it does not succeed in holding them, because the people know all the leading oppositionists well and do not accept them.
Parliament deputy Khanhusein Kazimli in the independent newspaper "525" expresses his view on events in Armenia. According to him the Armenian government faces serious problems both inside and outside the country. Even public figures who realize the seriousness of the current situation confirm the ineffectiveness of the present government's policies. Kazimli concludes that sooner or later Armenia will have to make changes in its position regarding its neighbors.
(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)