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AZERBAIJAN: More than 200 anti-government protesters arrested

More than 200 protesters were arrested Saturday during an anti-government demonstration in the capital, Baku, marking the latest in a series of government crackdowns on opposition leaders and youth activists hoping to emulate the mass protest movements sweeping the Arab world.

Azeri police arrested at least 10 more anti-government activists on Thursday and Friday in what appears to have been an effort to thwart an anti-government rally Saturday, dubbed Day of Rage on Facebook and other social networking sites.

The activists were “quickly convicted in summary trials on charges of disobeying police orders and sentenced to administrative –- or misdemeanor –- detention ranging from five to 13 days, which would keep them locked up beyond the protest date,” according to a Human Rights Watch statement released Friday.

“It is clear that the authorities are determined to crush any attempts by opposition activists to gather peacefully,” said Rachel Denber, acting director of the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, in the statement.

Roughly 1,000 people convened at Fountains Square Saturday morning, shouting “Resign” and “No to the dictatorship!” before riot police broke up the crowd, pushing protesters onto awaiting buses, said Azeri blogger Anar Masimov, 22, during a phone interview. Authorities said the protesters had not received proper permission from the government to hold a public rally Saturday, according to Reuters.

Saturday's crackdown comes after a series of arrests in February and March of leading opposition figures and youth activists. Police detained about 150 people at opposition rallies in Baku in March, according to Reuters.

Before a planned anti-government protest March 11, Harvard graduate Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, 29, who has been politically active on Facebook, was arrested for charges of evading military service. Jabbar Savalan, 20, a member of the opposition party, Popular Front’s youth wing, who was also active on Facebook, was arrested Feb. 5 on charges of drug possession. Both men are still in prison. 

“They are obviously in jail because of their political actions,” Masimov said. “There’s no question.” Other anti-government protesters and members of opposition groups have been charged with hooliganism, “behaving dishonorably,” and “using abusive words,” according to local news reports.

Azeri authorities meanwhile are attempting to combat anti-government sentiment in Azerbaijan by organizing pro-government rallies of their own. Last week, Ali Ahmadov, deputy chairman of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, called on young Azeris to avoid the draw of “dirty forces,” meaning the opposition, who he said were betraying Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev during a crucial time for the country, according to Kavkazsky Uzel news service.

Azerbaijan is a primary supplier of oil to Europe and a vital transit route for U.S. troops headed to Afghanistan. Aliyev became president in 2003. His father, Heydar Aliyev, took power in 1993.

-- Haley Sweetland Edwards 


Photo: Azeri police arrest a protester. Credit: Turkhan Kerimov.


Comments () | Archives (13)

Thank you, Arthur.
I know that Americans are not happy with sending their children to Irag, Afganistan, Libya...
But if the American government sends troops to Afganistan and Iraq, where it was not neccessary, the world expects it to act similarily in Libya case where the people really need military help. Nevertheless, it is ridicilous to blame Americans (or Europe) that they want to "occupy" Libya.
I would like Turkey to interevene... but alas the Turkish premier is a fool...

Actually Anar & Azeri & Azerbaijan: Most Americans including myself know a lot about Azerbaijan, and do care about the people. For instance, we know about the continued conflict with Armenia that is actually Armenia’s fault, regardless of what some of our representatives have been claiming. Our comments are out of frustration with what’s happening in Washington, our economy, and the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. With the GOP in control, they are at least trying to bring some sanity back into Washington. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to help, even if it’s political help. Every American is just frustrated right now.

Let's clear something: Saying "help us" we mean, political support. For instance, when two azeri bloggers were imprisioned, Pr. Obama called on Azeri government to free them, and they were freed.
Then, ordinary Americans, please, do not talk about politics, especially, about the Middle East. I lived in the US for 3 months, and saw how you lovely people are. Nevertheless, as Russians say: "The East is fragile business".
Maybe Americans don't care about us, but US government does. Because, Azerbaijan is one of the core interests for the USA.
Another issue: The Azerbaijani Opposition does have plan on every single problem of the country. However, the regime ignored them all the time.
One more thing, Universal Suffrage low had been adopted in Azerbaijan before it was done in the USA. I.e. we do have democracy traditions, unlike Arab countries.

Arthur and Ethen, you seem over-eager to say America does not care about other places. This is not in dispute. My point was to point out the American arrogance and geographical ignorance. You probably think of Azerbaijan as just another Muslim country, just like the rest. Another place the US troops can be delployed. This can never happen. Even if Azerbaijan was beggining for it, which it is not (you seem so eager to jump over some idiot Azeri's posting that 'We need Obama's help' to enjoy saying US does not care about you), Russia would never let it happen. Go study geography. Yes, you are right. Most Americans have never heard of Azerbaijan. But then again, most American have not heard about much else either.

@ Azeri, Arthur is right. Us Americans don't care about your country and most have never even heard of it. We have bigger problems in America to worry about then your anger at the government. You guys should of done something about it decades ago. Go ask one of your fellow Muslim countries to help you out... They probably don't care either.

Government is not doing the right thing.

A typical oil driven economy and monarchy.

The opposition party/s have no clear vision for future of Azerbaijan nor they have economic, security, financial and political plan for Azerbaijan. All they can do is demonstarte with couple of hundreds supporters most of which are friends family and relatives of the party members. Shameful

Arthur, you just revealed your typical American ignorance. What AZerbaijani meant when he said our country needed Obama's help, he was definietely not talking about sending US troops or money, or anything like that. I know I know to your ignorant ears all these "middle eastern" countries sound and look the same. Never mind that Azerbaijan is neither Arab or Middle Eastern. Anyways. The help being mentioned was Obama not being in bed with the Azeri dictator and not closing his eyes to Aliyev's burtality and focusing on oil only. I felt compelled to write this comment because your post was so smug and all-knowing. Trust me, no one needs your help, the kind of help you think everyone around the world needs it. And let me take a guess: you believe America is who ultimately saved the world from the Nazis, right?

To comment Posted by: AZerbaijan | April 02, 2011 at 01:24 PM.

No we don’t want our President Obama to help you. In order to have freedom and democracy, you have to want freedom and democracy. And be able to fight for freedom and democracy. Not hiding behind American soldiers as you watch them do your dirty work for you. Libya was as everyone knows was a big mistake we don’t want to repeat.

I am an Azeri, and am ashamed of our government. What a bunch of brutes! And the Azeri population needs to wake up. Because of the oil money, the economic situation is not bad (even with the 90% of the revenues being eaten up at the top by the government crooks). Bravo to the few brave who dared to demonstrate. Aliyev the President must go!

hi ..what we want in Azerbaijan?>We want to democrasy,freedom....we want to Obama helps us..The Police kill strike us....helppp usssssss

A little correction; my name is Anar. ;)
Hasan Karimov - the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party member has been taken to hospital.


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