Outrage over footage of Arab hunters torturing pigeons on Azerbaijani reserve
Azerbaijani social media has been seized by bewilderment and outrage after footage surfaced of Arab tourists hunting in the Qakh region of Azerbaijan, depicting disturbing footage of the torture of pigeons by hawks belonging to the tourists.
On the morning of March 20 eco-activists from the Eco-front project received a message from local residents about the Arab tourists hunting on the territory of Azhynokhur in the Qakh region of Azerbaijan. The project members, led by the head of Eco-front Javid Qara, went to the village, located 400 kilometers from Baku.
The Azhynokhur field is located on the territory of the Qakh State Reserve. Hunting animals in this area is strictly prohibited.
Upon arrival in the village, local shepherds told the activists that “the tourists introduced themselves as personal guests of the president and use drones to train their falcons.”
Soon, Javid Qara, with the help of the translators accompanying the tourists, found out that they were the guests of the Minister of Emergency Situations Kemaleddin Heydarov. It also became known that employees of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan came to the place, but left without doing anything.
The Arabs came to the reserve to train their falcons. To do this, they tied pigeons to drones, and then released the predators brought with them to hunt for them. Local residents told activists that tourists pay the local minors 20 manat [about $11.76] to deliver pigeons to them.
On March 4, 2021, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan explained to the residents of the country the rules for using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). It is noted that the use of drones requires permission from five government agencies – the Civil Aviation Administration, the Ministry of Defense, the State Security Service, the Border Guard Service and the State Security Service.
This explanation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs followed after the well-known blogger Mehman Huseynov was detained in a suburb of Baku on March 14, filming the object of his investigation with the help of a drone. The drone was seized from the blogger.
On March 21, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan issued a statement about what happened in the reserve.
“It became known that tourists from Arab countries pitched tents for the purpose of rest in the territory of Ajynokhur in the Qakh region with the permission of the owner of the land plot, and also trained their falcons.
The tourists were fined for cruel treatment of pigeons, ”the ministry said in a statement.
After the publication of this statement, the head of Eco-front, Javid Qara, demanded clarifications from the ministry on several points at once: how the tourists ended up in the reserve during the quarantine period, from whom they received permission to use drones, and why ministry employees cannot distinguish domestic pigeons from field pigeons.
Activists found out that the Arab tourists were unofficially allowed to hunt in the reserve until April 4. The hunting season in Azerbaijan officially ended at the end of February.
Letter to the president
The head of the Eco-front project, Javid Qara, on his Facebook page addressed President Ilham Aliyev with an open letter.
“I ask you to punish, in accordance with the law, officials who have created conditions for foreign tourists for illegal actions on the territory of the state reserve,” the letter says.
“Mr. President, the government you have created over the past 18 years cannot work effectively, and we have to turn to you for help in an issue that only the guardian of the reserve can solve,” Qara said in his address to the president.
Social media reacts
Few were left indifferent to the event. Here are some typical comments:
“It is interesting that Arab tourists prefer to travel to Azerbaijan, and not to other foreign countries with a much more developed infrastructure. Because Azerbaijan is a ‘tourist offshore’ for them. Everything is possible here. As long as there is money. And the connections will find you on their own.”
“The hunting season in Azerbaijan began in September and ended on 28 February. The Arabs would never have dared to do this in neighboring Turkey, Georgia, Russia. This is a disregard for the laws of the country.”
“By creating arable land in Ajynokhur, the oligarchs threaten the lives of gazelles, who are protected at the state level. Thanks to the activists for their work, without them we would never know about it.