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Protest In Azerbaijani Capital Against Prostitution

A cafe in Baku's Badamar district
A cafe in Baku's Badamar district
BAKU -- More than 300 residents of a Baku district have staged a protest against the use of local cafes for soliciting by prostitutes, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The protesters forced some cafes to close and removed signs from others in Baku's eastern Badamar district late on September 21. Police persuaded the protesters to disperse, promising them that any establishments that disturb the peace will be closed.

One protester told RFE/RL that the demonstrators will stage bigger protests if no action is taken against "noise and immoral activity at night."

An RFE/RL correspondent who went to Badamdar on September 22 found that only one out of the three cafes the protesters had complained about -- Cafe Turan -- had been closed. Staff at one of the other cafes rejected allegations that they are frequented by prostitutes.

"Someone is intentionally denigrating the name of our cafe," a worker said.

RFE/RL was refused entry to the third cafe.

Badamdar resident Bahadur Salimov told RFE/RL the protesters have been appealing to local police for the past year to crack down on loud music and immoral activity at the cafes and decided to take matters into their own hands when police failed to take any action.

"Why are the police doing nothing to stop them? Because they are taking bribes from those cafes," he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Orkhan Mansurzadeh told RFE/RL on September 22 that Cafe Turan proprietor Tarana Aliyeva was detained and given a four-day sentence for resisting police.

Alimammad Nuriyev, head of the Baku-based nongovernmental organization Fund for Constitutional Research, said sometimes brothels are protected by high-ranking officials, so police cannot immediately take action to close them.

But Mansurzadeh denied any brothels in Baku enjoy police protection.

Prostitution is illegal in Azerbaijan, but local media have reported extensively on the existence of at least one exclusive bordello in the Azerbaijani capital.