Opposition access restricted to Martyrs' Alley to mark Black January
Opposition groups have claimed they were denied access on Monday by Azerbaijani authorities to Martyrs' Alley to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Soviet crackdown.
According to the Musavat Party and the National Council of Democratic Forces of Azerbaijan, or Milli Shura, the police divided them into groups before they let them into the alley. In addition, they said that although the road to the alley was empty, they faced regular police cordons.
Seymur Hezi, the deputy chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), told the RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service that what happened on the commemoration day was painful for the modern history of Azerbaijan. “This is an indication that the government's attitude has changed both towards the 20 January events and the people marking the tragedy,” he said.
Hezi mentions that it is also a message to Azerbaijan's northern neighbor Russia. “As the government tries to improve its ties with Russia, it adequately changes the attitude towards the 20 January events."
Ehsan Zahidov, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told Turan news agency that some of the opposition members abuse the nation's tragic and any other important national days and use them for public display of their interests. According to him, these forces separated themselves from the nation and came in a certain group on 20 January to commemorate the victims of what is known in the Caucasus nation as “Black January”.
According to Zahidov, their arrival made a big difference in the alley. According to him, the opposition intended to violate public order. “But their behavior was prevented by police.. Of course they were also given opportunity to visit, though they were not allowed to abuse this visit.”
Lawyer Hafiz Hasanov told RFE/ RL Azerbaijani Service that what is happening now is more of a legal regulation, rather than a way of organizing the nation's tragic day. According to him, the convenience of people should be taken into consideration as he believes forcing people to visit in small groups is been a waste of time.
According to Hasanov, the regulation imposed on the opposition is discriminatory: “The rule of visiting in groups is not applied to others, but only to the opposition forces. I would say it is political discrimination.” He also added that the only aim of the authorities has been to create an image that few people from the opposition joined the nation to commemorate the day.
The government rejects the opposition's discontent and states that the criticism is political motivated.
On 20 January, 1990, Soviet troops entered Azerbaijan to prevent the country's independence movement from overthrowing the Soviet Azerbaijani government. According to official estimates, 134 civilians were killed in Baku and 13 more in the cities of Neftchala and Jalilabad.
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