Authorities in Azerbaijan respond with repression to rural protests
Events in Soyudlu
Serious repressions began after the protest of the residents of the Soyudlu village of Gadabay region was brutally suppressed. Entry and exit to the village are restricted, journalists covering the event were beaten and detained, and activists who protested on social media were arrested.
- The President of Georgia pardoned critical TV boss Nika Gvaramia
- “France will not provide the latest types of weapons, but will help” – Armenian analyst
- What will the exchange of press releases about armed provocations lead to? Comment from Baku
From the morning of June 22, entry and exit to the Soyudlyu village of Gadabay region were restricted. Local residents have been protesting here for the last two days. They oppose the construction of a new artificial lake to discharge sewage from the nearby Gadabay gold mine.
Soyudlu is located in a mountainous area 450 km west of Baku. The Gadabay field is being mined by the British company Anglo Asian Mining. The first gold mining here began in 2009.
According to the villagers, the environment has been seriously affected after many years of operation of the gold mine. The air is polluted with cyanide gas, which is harmful to public health. Villagers say the construction of a second artificial lake for pasture toxic waste will further aggravate the situation.
On June 20, police officers used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a protest rally by residents of the village of Soyudlu. According to them, about 10 residents were injured during the clash.
On June 21, residents continued to protest. Their representatives were received by the head of the executive power of Gadabay region.
Entry and exit to the village are limited
On June 22, a police post was set up at the entrance to the village, and only people with local registration are allowed into Soyudlu. This was told to Turan by a local resident Suraya Aliyeva.
According to her, there are “a lot of police” in the village and further protesting is prohibited.
The press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed the fact of restricting access to the village.
“In order to ensure public order, the entry and exit of unauthorized persons to the village is limited,” the ministry said.
The police violated the law by setting up a post at the entrance to the village of Soyudlu and restricting entry and exit, lawyer Samad Rahimli said.
“In order to apply entry-exit restrictions in any area, a state of emergency must be declared by presidential decree, and the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) must approve this decree within 24 hours.
The state of emergency is applied in accordance with the constitution (Article 112) and the Law on the State of Emergency and Social Status (chapters II-III).
Restriction of the freedom of movement of citizens and the establishment of a special regime governing movement is one of the measures and temporary restrictions implemented during the introduction of a state of emergency (the said law, art. 8.0.2). What is being done now is illegal,” the lawyer wrote on Facebook.
The commission established by the government is located in Soyudlu
Suraya Aliyeva also noted that local residents were not satisfied with yesterday’s meeting with Orkhan Mursalov, head of the executive power of Gadabay region.
“He did not listen to us, but spoke himself. A government commission has now been set up. We want the members of the commission to meet with us, listen to our complaints, conduct monitoring with the participation of local residents. If they are going to come and visit the plant’s yard, it’s better if they don’t come at all,” Aliyeva said.
By order of Prime Minister Ali Asadov, a commission was established to monitor and assess the current situation in the Soyudlu village of Gadabay region. Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev has been appointed chairman of the commission. However, no independent expert was included in the commission.
The chairman of the commission, Minister Mukhtar Babayev, has already left for Gadabay:
“Our plan is for the members of the commission to hold a meeting, a meeting in the executive authorities, and then go directly to the place and get acquainted with the situation there. We came to Gadabay to find out if there is an environmental problem or a threat to people’s health, and then to prepare any proposals. It’s still too early to say anything. The construction of the second lake has not yet been approved. But still, the main purpose of our visit to Gadabek is to look at everything together, and then make suggestions.”
Violence against journalists covering events
Journalists covering events in the village were subjected to police violence. Abzas Media employee Nargiz Absalamova and Voice of America journalist Nigar Mubariz were detained by police.
This was reported by journalist Nargiz Absalamova:
“The police acted very harshly when they detained us. They twisted my hand. Journalist Nigar Mubariz was gagged and choked. And now they forcibly brought us to the exit of Gadabay, they want to put us in a car and send us to Baku.”
VOA employee Nigar Mubariz said that three people, one in civilian clothes and two in police uniform, approached her and very rudely took her phone from her.
The journalists acted outside the law, Interior Ministry spokesman Elshad Gadzhiev told Abzas Media: “There is an appropriate commission in the village to solve the problems of residents, so outsiders are not allowed into the territory. Why are journalists there? How did they get in illegally? It was said that it was impossible to enter the village. We are following instructions.”
Over the past three days, up to ten protesters have been administratively detained in the village of Soyudlu, and another protester has been fined a large amount.
The arrests were not limited to residents of Soyudlu. Among the activists who criticized the brutality of the police against the villagers on social networks, there are also those arrested.
Elmir Abbasov, a member of the socio-political movement NIDA, disappeared on the evening of June 21. The next day it became known that he had been detained by the police. The activist appeared in court and was sentenced to 20 days of administrative detention on charges of disturbing the peace.
According to journalists and activists who were in court, Abbasov had traces of violence on his throat and hands. He said he was raped while being detained by the police.
On June 22, former political prisoner Giyas Ibragimov was also detained due to his critical status, written against the police and authorities in connection with the events. According to the activist’s mother, the police came to their house and demanded that the post be removed, and when he did not agree, he was taken to the police station.
A few hours after the arrest, Giyas Ibragimov appeared in court and was arrested for 30 days under Article 388-1.1 of the Code of Administrative Violations (Placing information prohibited for dissemination on an Internet information resource by the owner of an Internet information resource and its domain name) and 535 ( willful disobedience to a lawful command of a police officer or soldier).
Police are currently looking for journalist Elmaddin Shamilzade, who covered the events, and human rights activist Afieddin Mammadov. They were both called to the police station.