An eyewitness account of clashes in Azerbaijan

>>Frustration at a lack of jobs and official corruption were the root causes of clashes between police and young men in an Azerbaijani provincial town

ISMAYILLI/Azerbaijan – Unrest, the worst in a decade in Azerbaijan, in this town of 80,000 people about 200km north of Azerbaijan’s capital Baku sparked after an argument apparently involving the son of a government minsiter late on Jan. 23.

A few hours later, a hotel in the centre of the town was in flames. On the street, the charred remains of three American-made cars, a Humvee and two Chevrolets, lay crumpled and black. Around 250 men were loitering on the street. They said the hotel and the cars belonged to the minister’s son — also the nephew of the town’s mayor — and his friends.

During the night, hundreds of riot police hung back on the outskirts of Ismayilli. As dawn broke, they slowly moved in. At around 0900, several hundred young men organised into different groups converged on the town hall. They chanted: “Resign! Enough!” and threw stones at police.

A Conway Bulletin correspondent then described the scene.“”The police fired tear gas and used water guns. At one point it was a chaos, crowds of people were running in various directions,” he said. “Troops were catching protesters, beating them and dragging them into police cars. I witnessed the detention of at least 25 protesters.”


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