Movements Monday: Azerbaijan Cracks Down on Demonstrators, Egyptian Protestors Killed
Thumbnail cover photo Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Co
As part of Movements.org’s ongoing work to amplify the voices of digital activists fighting for basic human rights in closed societies, each Monday we’ll highlight critical events from the past week, trending cyber activism tactics, or growing movements that you should know about. Occasionally, we’ll also provide an opportunity for you to directly engage with the activists on the front lines of the struggle for their rights. We hope you share and discuss these updates widely and we look forward to hearing your feedback!
Azerbaijan Rounds Up Activists
Though all eyes are focused on the protests taking place in Egypt, activists in Azerbaijan have also been coming under violent attack for demonstrating in support of human rights.
During a protest in the capital city of Baku on Saturday (1/26), police and regime-sponsored thugs beat and arrested dozens of peaceful demonstrators, including some prominent critics of the authoritarian Azerbaijani government. Dressed in full Storm Trooper armor, security forces dragged away activists from Baku's Sahil Park as they defiantly chanted slogans in defense of human rights. The demonstration in Baku was a show of solidarity with protestors in the Northern Azeri town of Ismayilli, where protests earlier in the week over pervasive economic inequality and poor local governance erupted into riots. Eurasianet.org reported:
As they attempted to gather in the capital on January 26, protesters chanted: "Ismayilli doesn’t sleep and Baku supports it! Take away the guns!" Security forces blocked access to Fountain Square, a usual venue for opposition protests. When demonstrators tried to shift to Sahil Park, police moved in wielding truncheons. Over 40 protesters were arrested, including investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, rights advocate Malahat Nasibova, and opposition blogger Emin Milli. Some protesters were reportedly subjected to pepper spray after they had been taken into police custody.
Alarming videos surfaced of protestors in Baku being dragged away by riot police:
Even as well-known Azeri journalist Khadija Ismayil pleaded with security forces to join their free expression movement, she was grabbed and thrown into a police van:
Blogger Arzu Geybulla shares a compelling first-hand account of Khadija’s detention and sham trial via her latest blog here.
Protests and the inevitable subsequent crackdown by well-armored riot police have been occurring with increasing regularity in Azerbaijan since 2011. The family of current President Ilham Aliyev has been in power since 1993, variously employing military coups, rigged elections, and heavy-handed repression to maintain its stranglehold on the country’s extensive energy resources. Corruption in Azerbaijan is rampant, the political system is designed to support the ruling family, and journalists are not able to express themselves freely without facing arrest, heavy financial penalties, and torture. Azerbaijan has received significant international attention over the past year, as the host of Eurovision 2012 as well as the United Nation’s Internet Governance Forum this past November. Movements.org hosted a live Twitter chat with prominent rights activist and journalist Emin Milli during the IGF conference to get his perspective on the rights situation in Azerbaijan and the ways the opposition is fighting back. You can read the summary of the chat here: Going #InsideIGF with Emin Milli.
To learn more about the protests in Azerbaijan, visit this Facebook page, which has been created to show solidarity with the detainees:
Clashes in Egypt Turn Ugly
Over the weekend, Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi instituted a 30-day State of Emergency in Egypt, covering some areas in a curfew and allowing the army broad powers of arrest and detention. The move did little to halt ongoing protests in Port Said, Suez, and Cairo or stop the violence between protestors and police that has claimed the lives of more than 50 people. Opposition forces led by Mohamed ElBaradei have also refused to accept an offer from President Morsi for a national dialogue unless he meets their demands.
In Port Said, protests erupted on Saturday when a judge handed down death sentences to 21 locals who were implicated in violent clashes that killed 74 people during a soccer match last February. That match was between Al-Masry, the club from Port Said, and Al-Ahly, the club from Cairo (and Egypt’s most successful franchise). Because numerous reports and many witnesses from the stadium clashes implicated Mubarak sympathizers and security forces in instigating and carrying out the attacks, residents of Port Said felt that they had been unfairly punished by judges wishing to appease residents of Cairo. During Port Said protests on Saturday an additional 31 people were killed by security forces, while several more were killed on Sunday during a funeral for the previous day’s victims.
Over at the Committee to Protect Journalists, veteran activist and CPJ MENA Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour details the list of grievances revolutionary forces have leveled against the administration of President Morsi, finding a disturbing symmetry with the practices of the Mubarak regime: CPJ Blog.
Today marks the second anniversary of #Jan28 or the “Day of Rage” protest in Egypt, during which peaceful demonstrations that began on January 25, 2012 were met with violent crackdown by security forces and government-sponsored thugs. More coverage of the ongoing situation in Egypt can be found here: Protests and Clashes Mark Second Anniversary of #Jan25.
Movements.org has postponed its live Twitter chat with Egyptian activists until later this week.
Thumbnail cover photo Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.