Feminist march in Baku: police does not interfere with protesters for the first time
Feminist march in Baku
For the first time in many years, a protest unsanctioned by the city authorities took place in Azerbaijan without the intervention of the police. Feminists, according to their tradition, have held their annual March 8 march to mark the International Women’s Day. For many, the decision of the authorities to allow the action, which they had not allowed the day before, came as a big surprise.
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For the fourth year in a row, Azerbaijani feminists have been organizing a protest against the violation of women’s rights in the country. Unexpectedly for many today, the action called “8 Marş” has been held calmly and without police intervention. Thus, the feminist march became the first peaceful protest in Azerbaijan in a very long time.
The participants of the march walked along the central square of Baku, stopped at the monument to the poetess Khurshudban Natavan, and read out their statement. In a statement, the feminists demanded that the authorities investigate crimes against women, as well as take steps to prevent them.
It was not the very fact of the feminist march itself that attracted public attention, but the fact that the police did not resist it in any way.
“I followed the march live on social media. Yes, I was very surprised that the feminists managed to go through the entire route and read out their statement at the end.
I think I won’t lie if I say that this is the first protest action in Azerbaijan over the past at least 15 years, which took place without police intervention and without detentions, arrests. I will try to answer the question, why did this happen right now?
At the very beginning of the rally, a well-known police officer, who is always the head of law enforcement at protest rallies, told one of the organizers that they had decided not to interrupt the protesters. And he explained the reason: today is a holiday. But all three former feminist actions also took place on March 8 – the same exact holiday. And all of them were dispersed by the police, there were numerous detentions. Why did they suddenly decide not to interrupt the March 8 rally in 2022?
I would also like to draw attention to the fact that just the day before the executive power of the city of Baku refused allow the rally. In other words, the march was unauthorized. Yes, the country’s constitution does not require permission for such events, but in fact it is necessary to obtain one.
In a word, it turned out that the authorities allowed the rally to be held, despite the prohibition of the authorities themselves. What does that mean?
These are echoes of what is currently happening in the world. Azerbaijan, albeit unofficially, clearly positions itself alongside the West in relation to the ongoing occupation of Ukraine by Russia. We can see this everywhere – from the pages of pro-government bloggers on social media to the materials coverage of the state media. There is no ambiguity here.
So the authorities decided to allow the action of feminists – to play a democracy, so to speak.
But the organizers were warned in advance about the inadmissibility of posters against the country’s authorities. During the march, feminists have voiced some slogans against the regime, but the police pretended not to hear them.
I would buy into euphoria about the fact that democracy has suddenly appeared in Azerbaijan, and tomorrow we will see new peaceful protests. I repeat, there were almost no protests against the authorities today. And if tomorrow they are heard at some other rally, then I have no doubt that we will see what we are used to seeing in recent years.
I was also pleased that the new “Law on Media” does not actually work. The action was filmed and shown by the same independent journalists. This is very satisfying”, Huseyn Ismailbayli, editor of the Azerbaijani edition of JAMnews, commented on today’s rally in Baku.