Police crush protests in Azerbaijan; “regime change” next?

Riot police dispersed an opposition rally in Azerbaijan’s capital Oct. 23, beating and detaining protesters who defied an official ban on downtown demonstrations two weeks before parliamentary elections. Opposition groups say the government will try to rig the Nov. 6 vote and have been holding rallies nearly every weekend, clashing with police.

About 200 riot police moved to disperse several hundred protesters, swinging clubs and pushing them away from the square where they had gathered. Protesters, some carrying red carnations, chanted “Free Elections!” Police officers detained several dozen protesters, dragging them to waiting minibuses. Two opposition candidates for parliament were among those detained.

Despite the violence, demonstrators kept gathering in small groups on the perimeter of the square for about an hour, and some engaged in shoving matches with police. The protest was organised by the Azadlig (Freedom) bloc that unites three main opposition parties. (AP, Oct. 24 via Caucaz)

Meanwhile, Fuad Akhundov, a political analyst in the administration of President Ilham Aliyev, charged that the opposition is preparing a violent coup for Nov. 7, anniversary of the victory of Russia’s 1917 October Revolution. “Today’s unauthorized opposition rally, which will of course be dispersed, is one in a series of recent rehearsals for the staging of a coup d’etat, set for early November 7 — a revolution which our opposition calls ‘orange’ for easy reference,” Akhundov said. “In an attempt to shift responsibility for the aftermath of the coup over to authorities, the opposition is saying that if the authorities falsify elections returns, it will have no choice but to use force. Though even an ordinary user of the Internet is familiar with the revolution rhetoric being practiced by the opposition.” (Mosnews, Oct. 23)

Akhundov said the conspiracists are using the code-word “orange” for the revolutionary plot, invoking the recent “tulip,” “orange” and “rose” revolutions in Kyrgyzstan, Ukrainia and Georgia which further decoupled those countries from Moscow’s orbit. Uzbekistan likely witnessed a near miss this spring.

See our last posts on Azerbaijan, the politics of the Caucasus, the Great Game in Central Asia, and the expanding US military interests in the region.