Demonstrators came out onto the streets in support of an individual who made an attempt on the life of the administrative head of the city one week ago. The individual was later beaten up by police
Two policemen were killed on 10 July during an attempt to disperse a protest rally in the city of Ganja in Azerbaijan, some 400 kilometres west of Baku.
The demonstration was in support of Yunis Safarov, a man who on 3 July tried to shoot the head of the city administration, Elmar Valiyev. He was wounded along with his guard, but they were not killed.
He is currently under arrest and being investigated for his ‘participation in an attempt to overthrow the government’. However, many in Azerbaijan believe that his actions were motivated by a personal grievance with Valiyev and he is considered by many as an ‘avenger and defender of the public’.
The demonstrations began in Ganja in the evening of 10 July in front of the building of the executive authority of Ganja where around 200 people gathered. Ganja residents say calls to protest had sounded from the very moment of the attempt on the life of the head of the executive authority of the city.
Video clips of the event do not clearly indicate whether those gathered had weapons in their possession, but the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that they had ‘piercing and cutting objects’.
The police dispersed the protest, but two policemen were killed in the process: Colonel Ilgar Balakishiyev and Lieutenant Colonel Samad Abbasov. Forty people were detained by the police.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs reports that radical Islamists participated in the demonstration and that the attempt on Valiyev’s life was an ‘attempt to sew discord in the country and to attempt at a coup d’état and turn Azerbaijan into an Islamic state’.
A resident of Ganja told JAMnews that the city is calm today.
The attempt on Valiyev’s life has elicited a strong reaction from both the authorities and society.
– In addition to Safarov, 11 others were arrested. It is as of yet unknown what they are being charged with;
– 17 bloggers and activist social media users have been charged with criminal and administrative offenses
– Four sites (bastainfo.com, criminalaz.com, topxeber.az и fia.az) have also been blocked and their editors charged with ‘spreading disinformation’. Bastainfo.com says that they simply published the information of other agencies concerning the case and were not defending Safarov.
In social media discussions regarding the demonstration, many have drawn parallels with the riots in Nardaran village near Baku.
In 2015 a clash took place in Nardaran between the police and Muslim Unity activists. Six people died, two of them policemen. The village, which was traditionally considered to be ‘the den of radical Islam’ in Azerbaijan, is still only accessible through a police cordon and the situation is tightly controlled by police.