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Azerbaijani Exclave Cracks Down On Street Vendors

Naxcivan borders Armenia and Iran.
BAKU -- Police in the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan detained some 30 women this week for selling food on the streets in violation of health regulations, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

One of the women, Cannat Bagirova, 62, protested her detention and was taken to a psychiatric hospital, from which she was later released.

Local authorities argue that the restrictions are necessary in hot weather to ensure that all food being sold is hygienic.

But several street vendors told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that they cannot afford the extra cost of renting a stall that has been checked by health officials from which to sell their produce.

Hasan Haciyev, Naxcivan's official representative in Baku, told RFE/RL that "there is no need to exaggerate the plight of the vendors."

He said the Naxcivan authorities are following the example of other countries by not allowing the sale of food unless it has been certified by health officials.

Haciyev said he was not present at Bagirova's detention and thus could not comment on the report she was taken to a psychiatric hospital. He suggested that "maybe [she] abused and insulted the police."

Mahammad Talibli, who heads the Economic Innovation Center in Naxcivan, said the restrictions would affect individual farms and eventually cause an increase in prices, especially for milk and other dairy products.

Azerbaijan Democratic Party Chairman Sardar Calaloglu, who is from Naxcivan, agrees that observing basic hygienic standards is important.

But he acknowledged that people with small farms have no alternative to selling their produce on the streets, as the government will not buy their crops and they cannot individually afford to rent market stalls.

The Naxcivan authorities have consigned protesters to psychiatric hospitals before. The local leadership is considered repressive toward journalists and often acts in an authoritarian manner toward citizens.