Salyan official under fire for a controversial picture

Local commentators are outraged at an image showing high school students lined up to hold flowers over an official’s head in Salyan. But the Salyan authorities remain unfazed and threaten journalists that “insult” authorities.

An image that went viral in the Azerbaijani media this week portrayed the head of the Salyan District Executive Power, Tahir Kerimov, greeted by local high students with flowers in what appears to resemble an ancient Roman ritual.  Kerimov is shown walking solemnly flanked by a group of students on both sides holding roses above his head in a greeting gesture, evocative of imperial Roman rituals.

The image that circulated on social media immediately touched off a whirlwind of reactions in Azerbaijan, including calls for resignation. Some


initially that the picture may be fabricated. However, the Salyan District authorities confirmed the authenticity of the image, sparking even stronger reactions.

Yusif Aliyev of

opined that the image suggests that “the central government is losing control over its feudal regions.”

“There is no other explanation to this theater of the absurd,” he wrote. “Azerbaijan is back in the primitive Middle Ages. The day nears when the chief executive will begin to restore the feudal law.”

Aliyev commented that the same ritual was used by Roman emperors who would line up captured slaves in a show of subjugation. Aliyev’s commentary has then been removed from

Local authorities threaten journalists

However, the Salyan authorities remained unfazed by the ballooning controversy. Kerimov reportedly


the image as “nothing out of the ordinary.” In a statement, the Salyan District Executive Power admitted that the image was authentic and stated the following:

“Today the photo of the head of the Salyan District Executive Power, Tahir Kerimov, made back in 2014 during a flower festival was posted on various online media outlets, and a number of comments were made on the subject. We confirm that the photo was taken at an event held as part of the flower festival in Salyan district on May 9, 2014.”

The statement further added that local schools and other institutions held events to mark the festival where participants, including members of the public and law enforcement officers, entered the venue through a “wreath of flowers.”

Furthermore, the authorities blamed journalist Gunel Movlud for sharing the picture and vowed actions against media outlets that “insult” authorities.

“We are aware that Gunel Movlud has shared this photo through social media. We pity her for acting in an unladylike manner, especially during the times of national mourning in order to draw attention to her persona. We will appeal to the law enforcement bodies regarding the commentators and websites that insulted us,” the statement read.

Movlud responded in a comment to Meydan TV that she “wouldn’t want to be in Tahir’s shoes.”

“Kerimov needs to pray for the photo not to be seen in certain circles. I applaud Kerimov for the audacity to take this photo in the first place; personally, I would be scared to do so,” she said.

The image was also published on the Salyan District Executive Power website. It is noted that Gunel Movlud’s brothers were arrested in October on charges of drug possession. Rights groups view the arrests as a government attempt to pressure Movlud over her cooperation with Meydan TV.

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