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Azerbaijan Report: November 20, 2001

20 November 2001
National Revival Day Celebrated In Azerbaijan
On 17 November, the Azerbaijan people celebrated National Revival Day. Thirteen years ago, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the former Lenin Square protesting the Soviet leadership's unfair approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict. People began raising other problems as well.The demonstrations were suppressed some 18 days later, but the square began to be called Azadlig Square.The Azerbaijani people did not only change the square's name but launched a new movement there.

According to psychologist Azer Garachenli, it is paradoxical that the square which was the center of the people's fight 13 years ago has now turned into a police post. He said there is logic behind this paradox. The logic is that the fight that existed 13 years ago does not exist now. According to Garachenli, the gathering of hundreds of thousands of people in Lenin Square marked the weakening of the Soviet Union. But now, some 5-10 police officials can fully control the square, demonstrating the strength of the present regime which restricts the population's freedom of choice and its right to employment and housing. Garachenli claims that restrictions have also been imposed on the ballot boxes, people's welfare and right to create. He stresses that the emptiness of the square also marks the government's fear of the people's desire for for freedom. The government has allowed the opposition to gather in other locations in the city but not on Azadlig Square. He thinks that there are very serious reasons for preventing people congregating on Azadlig Square. He said the square is the most appropriate place for actions of protest.There is a stone platform in the square and public transport is not blocked there. According to Garachenli, the government is succeeding in reducing the effectiveness of opposition protests. He said that this square is a source of energy, and this energy is infectious. The government fears that the energy can pass to other streets and squares of the city. Garachenli says that the regime, which is mistaken on many issues, is right on this one.

Anvar Aliev, who once was one of the leaders of the meetings in Azadlig Square, also regrets that the Revival Day is celebrated with such silence now. He thinks that if the country is governed by an administrative police regime, then its holidays must also reflect that regime, which is afraid of celebrating Revival Day.

Aliyev says that the Karabakh problem has still not been resolved, pointing out that every trivial issue regarding Karabakh provoked a serious reaction then, but now, the people are not allowed to express an opinion on the issue. It means that the government is either unable to resolve the problem or does not want to do so.

(Babek Bekir and Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijan Democrat Party Plans Action Of Protest
The Azerbaijan Democrat Party plans to hold its next action of protest on 24 November in Fizuli Square. According to Hesret Rustamov, the party's organization secretary, they have appealed to the Baku municipal authorities for permission to do so but the latter has not yet given its consent. Rustamov says that the Baku municipal authorities do not intend to respond to the appeal in time. But the party has made plans for the meeting and is ready to hold it.The only demand to be raised at the meeting will be that the leadership observe the Azerbaijani Constitution. He said that although the ADP encouraged other parties to join its protest, none has done so to date.

The classical wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party will hold an action of protest on 8 December.That party's leader, Mirmahmud Mirelioglu, says that the main demands will focus on the Karabakh conflict and people's social welfare. Mirelioglu said the party has not yet requested permission from the city authorities to hold the meeting or discussed whether to invite other parties to participate.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Yeni Azerbaijan Party Gears Up For Congress
The second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party will take place on 21 November. Parliament deputy Mubariz Gurbanli, a member of the party's steering board, said that the congress will be a significant event in the political life of the country. But it is possible to infer from Gurbanli's words and from those of other party members that the congress will discuss changes to the party regulations. Gurbanli claims that congress participants will not only discuss internal issues but also adopt a number of documents and appeals concerning the activities of Azerbaijanis world-wide.

It is certain that there will be redundancies in the party leadership. According to Gurbanli, the issue has been raised with the organization committee sometimes as an appeal and sometimes as a demand. Gurbanli says that YAP members consider it urgent to elevate the status of deputy chairman Ilham Aliev, taking into consideration his services to the party and the sociopolitical life of the country.

There are reports that Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev will not address the congress due to illness.

A group of poets and writers including Aydin Ulukhanli, Shamo Arif, and Rustam Behrudi has sent a letter to the congress accusing YAP of inflicting serious damage on Azerbaijan and claiming that the country's interests are being sacrificed for those of one family. The authors of the letter claim that nothing is done to liberate Azerbaijani lands from occupation and it is not clear whether the country's leaders intend to do so. Moreover, a major army of refugees is at God's mercy. The letter appeals to the congress participants to leave YAP and strive for justice and the nation's happiness.

(Babek Bekir)

What Is The Reason For Azerbaijanis' Indifference To Their Independence?
We should admit that over the past ten years, we have witnessed how years have refuted and replaced each other. In other words, we are beginning to make peace with the bitter truth, because of this, we have such an indifferent attitude to the National Revival Day. Thirteen years ago, the people were protesting because they did not want freedom in grams. Today, Azerbaijan's richest forests have been destroyed. And everybody is observing it silently. Then one tree was cut down in the forest of Topkhana and the whole nation was awakened by the sound of one gun. But now nobody is awakened by the sound of hundreds of guns. Azerbaijanis had such hot-tempered feelings some 13 years ago but are absolutely indifferent now. RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service appealed to a number of participants of the 1988 movement in an effort to clarify the causes of this indifference.

Vahdat Party Chairman Tahir Kerimli said that the Azerbaijanis have become depressed, as they could not gain what they fought for over the past 13 years. Professor Firudin Jalilov agreed, noting that people become depressed when they cannot gain what they want. Musavat party leader Isa Gambar however pointed out that everything has a climax and the situation cannot remain a permanent climax. As for why there is no national unity among the Azerbaijani people now, Gambar said it would be better to ask the population at large, not party leaders. One person to whom RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service asked that question replied that there cannot exist national unity among the Azerbaijani people as everybody now thinks of daily problems and how to settle them.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Former Deputy Prosecutor General Isa Najafov in an interview with the newspaper "Azadlig" responds to the accusations expressed in Kenan Gurel's interview with Radio Liberty. Najafov claims that Kenan Gurel is connected with the Turkish intelligence service and he regularly provided intelligence bodies with information about Azerbaijan and the activities of Rovshan Javadov. Najafov says that when Gurel's study was searched, documents were found confirming that. Gurel himself admitted in the course of the investigation that Rovshan Javadov received him as a general of Turkish intelligence. Najafov characterizes Gurel's statement as contradicting reality, noting that he was kept in the Ministry of National Security isolation ward. Nobody regardless of his position was allowed to enter the isolation ward with guns. Because of this, Najafov says that was impossible for him to threaten Gurel with guns there. Najafov avoided answering the question how logical and legal it is to accuse a citizen of another state of betraying Azerbaijan, noting that "It was possible to bring legal proceedings against Gurel for his participation in an attempted coup d'etat."

Galib Arif in an article entitled "Why is integration not possible among the opposition?" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" writes that the majority of opposition leaders were paratroopers in the liberation movement who considered themselves geniuses. At a later stage, these people were not represented in the government. Presently, all the former leaders issue proposals but nobody wants to be the first to make a gesture of reconciliation, because these people know each other very well and are aware that such a gesture would inevitably give rise to accusations in future.

Government officials have said that they are ready to cooperate with the constructive opposition. Ganimat Zahidov in his article in the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that the statement seems interesting and it is the first time such a statement has been made. The opposition has been divided into constructive and non-constructive on the basis of the false problems created by the government. According to the author, government-opposition relations are so tense that there is no point in sitting down at the negotiating table. Moreover, the initiator of this proposal is Ali Hasanov, head of the sociopolitical department of the presidential office, who is only a third-rank official.

The newspaper "525" carries an interview with U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson. Referring to the repeal of Section 907, the Ambassador said that it imposes no obligations on Azerbaijan. The new situation in the world has resulted in close cooperation between the U.S. and Russia in combatting terrorism. The Ambassador expressed confidence that it will positively impact the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. Mr. Wilson noted that he has visited a number of liberated villages of Karabakh and met the people living in those villages who told him that they want the other occupied lands to be returned.

Khalid Kazimli in an article entitled "The Black fate of a black nation" in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that killings of Azerbaijanis in Russia have recently become more frequent. It is clear that there is strong antipathy in Russia towards people from the South Caucasus. The Russian leadership bears no less responsibility for the murders than the citizens who committed those crimes. The Azerbaijani officials who have not been able to create normal living conditions for their citizens in Azerbaijan are also partly to blame. The author claims that if Azerbaijani officials do not act with greater responsibility towards the people in future, then Azerbaijan will be faced with greater tragedies. Russians' chauvinism is increasing and they regard Azerbaijanis as without protection.

Nurani writes in the newspaper "Ekho" that Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has issued a statement not ruling out Karabakh's annexation to Armenia.That statement coincided with talks between the Armenian Defense Minister and his Russian counterpart and the statement made by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs during their latest visit to the region that they have new proposals for resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Possibly, the Armenian officials decided to issue such a statement in order to prevent a government crisis. But before making any decision they should have realized that such statements can create serious obstacles in the negotiation process. The author writes that up to now, the Azerbaijani side has made concessions in resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The exception is that official Baku has rejected the proposals in the Paris talks. As for Oskanian's statement, Azerbaijan has long spoken about such a wish by the Armenians. The Armenian official's statement confirmed that Azerbaijan's claims are true.

(Compiled and translated Arifa Alieva)