Violent Protests in Azerbaijan

Violent Protests in Azerbaijan –

Radio Liberty – Security forces have dispersed a protest in Azerbaijan’s northeastern Quba district, using water cannon and tear gas and detaining several people amid a national outbreak this week of unrest over worsening economic conditions.

Some 1,000 people had gathered for the January 15 demonstration in the district capital to protest unemployment, and demanded that overdue social allowances be paid off and bank loans recalculated.

The local currency, the manat, has seen a drastic depreciation brought on by a drop in world oil prices.

Quba district chief Yashar Mammadov met with protesters at a location called the Old Bus Station and said he was ready for talks to address their problems.

But an RFE/RL correspondent on the scene said demonstrators dismissed Mammadov’s promises and continued the protest, prompting the security forces to use water cannon and tear gas.

Security forces made several arrests before protesters dispersed, the correspondent reported.

The city is now under the authorities’ full control. It was not immediately clear whether more protests were planned for January 16.

There was no immediate official reaction to the protest in Quba, the RFE/RL correspondent said.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators attempted to block access roads leading toward the capital, Baku. The RFE/RL correspondent said police subsequently established checkpoints on all major roads in the Quba district.

Quba was the scene of violent protests in 2012 that resulted in a number of convictions after windows were broken at government buildings and a home belonging to the local governor was set alight.

In the latest unrest, authorities on January 15 deployed a large number of security forces — police officers and Interior Ministry special forces — to Quba, saying they had information that a bomb had been placed in a mosque in the city center. But officials later said no explosive had been found at the site.

Scores of protesters and several opposition activists have been detained this week since protests broke out, sparked mainly by price hikes on staples such as flour and bread.

The rising price of flour has been a lightning-rod issue during the protests that have taken place this week in several districts — Fizuli, Aqsu, Aqcabardi, Siyazan, and Lankaran. Scores of people were arrested on January 13 after taking part in the protests, which authorities labeled “illegal” and which they accused the opposition Popular Front (AXCP) and Musavat parties of staging.

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