On March 1, security forces have fired tear gas in a bid to quell an outbreak of rioting in the northeastern Azerbaijani city of Quba after the local governor described residents as “traitors. Thousands of protesters had taken to the streets of Quba to demand the resignation of local Governor Rauf Habibov.
The protest action was caused when in his speech earlier this week, Habibov accused Quba residents of selling their “land, families and motherland” for as little as $40. Some local residents were given land by authorities as part of an ongoing agricultural reform, but many are too poor to cultivate them.
He, in particular said: “Quba is a very rich place. Everyone tries to get a place here,” Habibov says in the video. “Some men become famous with good deeds, others with bad ones. The Quba people have sold out Quba. The Quba people have sold their lands for 30 or 40 manats (around $40). Quba has been sold by the ungrateful men of Quba. The men of Quba have sold their nation, their lands, their families.”
His speech can be watched here:
Habibov met with the protesters earlier on March 1 and offered apologies, but he rejected demands that he step down.
Protesters broke windows at local government buildings and set fire to a private house thought to belong to Habibov.
All of the 14 arrested residents of Guba region arrested have been released, but the Chief Prosecutors office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs later in the evening announced the criminal proceedings to explore the unrest, which may involve new arrests.
Political parties did also voice their concerns about the unrest:
Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan issued a statement saying “this protest action can’t be explained with one excom’s head calling residents “traitors” and by the social concerns. Nevertheless, the residents had had right to raise their protest voice. The action means that the incumbent government has forced people to the direst living conditions as a result of its negligent attitude and people rose to defend their social, political rights as well as values.
Chairman of Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, member of the Coordinating Council of the pro-democracy and pro-oppositional Public Chamber Mr. Ali Karimli said: “Of course, one can understand the concerns of the residents; they’re right in their demands. Such a boor and uncivilized man shouldn’t represent the government. He has no right to insult the Azerbaijani nation, Guba residents, who’re the part of this nation and therefore represent the government”. Mr. Ali Karimli, then points out two major elements: first, it is regretful that President Ilham Aliyev did not remove him from the office as soon as he got to know it. It would be better to fire him instead of sending internal troops, quick police regiment to punish the protesters and outline a plan of silencing a dissent voice.
Seemingly, the social problems, concerns, injustice, unfairness have been accumulated for years and peoples’ nerves have been exasperated. The overall situation all over Azerbaijan is not different from the rest of the country. If the reforms are not started in Azerbaijan, the tyranny and arbitrariness of the state officials not prevented, then the rise of all Azerbaijan is a matter of time”
Chairman of “Musavat” party, member of the Coordinating Council of the pro-democracy and pro-oppositional Public Chamber Mr. Isa Gambar said: “The core essence of the protest action is that people do not want to put up with the current administrative management and injustice. Truly speaking, the protest is a model to be potentially happened across Azerbaijan on the whole. The government in a shorter time should draw a good lesson from this. It should not think of repressing the protesters, but rather of solving the problems. The problem is not solely to replace the excom of Guba region, but it should change the whole policy”.
To see the videos and photos go here: http://goo.gl/1VIRM
To see photos go here: http://goo.gl/P2zaa
Some information from the Turan Information Agency, Azadliq newspaper and RFERL posts have been used in preparation of this news outlet.
Turkish NTV has also broadcasted about the unrest: