Republic Day in Azerbaijan: how football prevented mass celebrations
Azerbaijan is celebrating 101 years since the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
This year, the authorities banned the traditional festive procession on May 28 to the obelisk of the ADR in the city center, citing preparations for the Europa League final scheduled for May 29.
They said it would be difficult for the police to keep public order.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) was proclaimed on May 28, 1918 and existed for two years. In 1920 the Bolsheviks seized power in the country.
How the date was marked
The opposition Republican Alternative (ReAL) party intended to hold a march on this day, however the authorities advised them not to do this, arguing that these days Baku is hosting the Europa League final, and the police would not “be up to it”.
Due to the upcoming match in the city, law enforcement measures have been strengthened. This, inter alia, implies a ban on any public events.
ReAl instead decided to hold a “marathon”, inviting members of the party from 12:00 to 20:00 to lay flowers to the obelisk of the ADR “individually.”
Other opposition parties went to celebrate the holiday in the village of Novkhani near Baku, where one of the leaders of the ADR, Mammad Emin Rasulzadeh, was born.
The police watched the events closely but did not interfere.
For the evening a concert is scheduled on Primorsky Boulevard and fireworks.
Disrespect for the holiday or a reason to hinder the opposition?
In general, the ban on festive processions in favor of the upcoming finale was perceived negatively in society. Many considered this disrespect for the main state holiday of the country.
“The right of foreigners to entertainment should not exceed the right of Azerbaijanis to celebrate the Republic Day,” Ilgar Mammadov, the leader of ReAl, wrote on his Facebook page.
Mammadov, like some others, believes that the football final is only a pretext that the authorities used to prevent the opposition and citizens from celebrating the holiday on a grand scale.
An activist of the NIDA civic movement and former political prisoner Qiyas Ibrahimov reproached the opposition parties for listening to the authorities instead of joining them to organize a rally on Istiqlalliyet Street anyway.
Last year, when the 100th anniversary of the ADR was celebrated, ReAl’s attempt to hold a march turned into a clash with the police, and one of the party leaders was arrested for 30 days.