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Azerbaijan Report: November 5, 2002

5 November 2002
Local NGOs Dispute Claims That BTC Will Hurt the Environment
Some months ago 64 international non-governmental organizations appealed to international financial institutions not to finance the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, arguing that the construction of the pipeline would destroy the ecological balance and rekindle regional conflicts. However, Azerbaijani non-governmental organizations dispute those claims and at a 1 November meeting offered to form an international coalition of NGOs in support of the BTC pipeline.

Azai Guliev, the head of the National NGO Forum, an NGO umbrella group that works with the government's representatives, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that Georgian, Turkish, European and American non-governmental organizations are expected to join the coalition. Guliev invited the international organizations that oppose the BTC pipeline to open a dialogue.

"Let them prove their arguments," he said. "I am sure that some of these organizations have been involved in the campaign against the BTC pipeline because of lack of true and reliable information about the project," Guliev added.

(Zerkhanim Ahmedli)

Municipal Bi-elections Ignored
A total of 1,624 candidates vied for 743 vacant seats in Azerbaijan�s municipal bi-elections on 2 November. Although voting took place across the country, neither the government nor the opposition parties or non-governmental organizations attached much importance to them. Opposition members linked the indifference to the fact that municipal bodies have little real power.

The next poll will be the parliamentary bi-elections on 5 March 2003. It is being held to fill the seats of three MPs who were appointed to other posts: Nazim Ibrahimov, new head of the State Committee for Work with Azerbaijanis Abroad, Mirmovsum Abbasov, who was appointed to head of the executive power of Oguz District, and Yashar Aliev, the new Azerbaijani ambassador to China.

(Natig Zeinalli)

Editor: "Monitor" Magazine, Down Again, But Not Out
The independent magazine "Monitor," which has been taken to court several times for its harsh criticism of the country's leadership, has once again been forced to shut down. Elmar Huseinov, the magazine's owner and editor-in-chief, said at a 23 October press conference that the last six issues of the magazine were published in a small private publishing house. The seventh issue was to hit newsstands on 2 November, but the publishing house will no longer print the magazine. The publishing house acted on orders from above, Huseinov claimed, adding that in such a situation the editorial staff of the magazine has decided to shut its doors.

But Huseinov noted that despite the intense pressure, the magazine would not cease to exist. The staff intends to create its own publishing house, independent from government pressure.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho" writes that President Heydar Aliyev is expected to visit Sheki on 9 November. During his visit the president will participate in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Complex and get acquainted with the social and economic problems of the local population.

Most Azerbaijani newspapers ran articles on the parliamentary elections in Turkey and commented on how the victory of the Islamic Justice and Development Party will affect Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. Ali Kerimov, the head of the "reformist" wing of the Popular Front Party (AXCP), said in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" that the change of power in Turkey will not damage relations between the two countries.

According to the independent newspaper "525," Terri Davis, the PACE special rapporteur on Nagorno-Karabakh, will visit the region at the beginning of 2003.

The independent newspaper "Tezadlar" in the article "Poverty and policy" points out that the government continues to close its eyes to the problem of poverty in Azerbaijan. It either ignores the existence of such a problem or tries to prove that it is insignificant.

Under the headline "Charismatic opposition leaders and their conceptual programs," the official newspaper "Khalg" notes that since the opposition has no common concept for a political and economic development program for Azerbaijan, it is possible to predict that the crisis within the opposition camp will last a long time.

Ilias Ismailov, leader of the Adalat (Justice) Party, said in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" that the opposition must pursue every illegal action of the government revealed to them and direct the world's attention to them.

Gelani Ahmedov, vice-president of the International Chechen Congress, in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" commented on last month's hostage incident in Moscow and Russian-Chechen relations.

Ainur Jamalgizi in an article entitled "Ramadan in Nardaran: in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Ramadan--the sacred ninth month of the Muslim calendar--gives the government a last chance to come to an agreement with the inhabitants of Nardaran, who are devoted Muslims. Otherwise, the situation around Nardaran will escalate.

Under the headline "Who is Victor Kozeny?" the newspaper "525" writes that even the opposition knows well that the chief purpose of the Czech "businessman" who wanted to join the privatization process in Azerbaijan, was to earn millions through fraud. But he could not realize his dirty intentions, the paper adds. Under the pretext of privatization of large energy enterprises, he bought privatization vouchers at a low price and then sold them much at a greatly inflated price to companies from the United States and other countries, making promises of big returns that were never realized. Now that Kozeny has problems of his own, he throws mud at the Azerbaijani government in an attempt to save himself. The newspaper concludes that the opposition forces want to create "a storm in a teacup," using the "Kozeny card."

Rasul Guliev, ex-speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament, in an interview with the newspaper "Tezadlar" denied the allegation that he was on good terms with Victor Kozeny. He also said that it was not a secret to anybody in Azerbaijan that President Heydar Aliyev and his son Ilham Aliyev have deceived hundreds of people like Kozeny. The names of these people and their permanent address are well known. There is also concrete information about how much Kozeny and others paid in bribes to the Alievs. It is not a secret� "I know six or seven banks where Ilham Aliyev keeps a lot of money," Guliev said. The Alievs think that they can pillage the Azerbaijani people with impunity, as if it is their right, Guliev concludes.

Babakhan Muradov, the chairman of the Republican Teachers' Council, said in an interview with pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" that the quality of the teaching staff in Azerbaijan is gradually getting worse. According to him, the chief reason is that the preparatory level in teachers' training colleges is too low.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)