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10BAKU39 2010-01-19 13:43:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baku
Cable title:  

AZERBAIJAN: DIPLOMATS HARASSED IN NAKHCHIVAN

Tags:   PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL KIRF AJ 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: As detailed in reftel A, on December 28 and
January 5, police mistreated hundreds and arrested dozens of
residents of Bananyar, a small village in the Azerbaijani
exclave of Nakhchivan. Poloff and a political LES joined the
Norwegian DCM on a fact-finding trip to Nakhchivan on January


13. While trying to enter Bananyar, the group was verbally
and physically harassed by approximately 50 people, and
forced to leave the town without speaking to anyone. Through
phone calls and meetings with human rights defenders later in
the day, the delegation was able to obtain more information
about the events in Bananyar. The culturally conservative
village has a history of disagreement with the ruling regime.
These incidents seem to have been sparked by the town's
refusal to obey the regime's orders, both in their religious
practice and in their political and economic activity. END
SUMMARY.

Mob Harasses Diplomats


--------------------------





2. (C) As explained in reftel B, poloff, a political LES, and
the Norwegian DCM Lars Hansen entered the village of Bananyar
at approximately 11:00 local time. A man stepped in front of
the car in which the group was riding and asked it to stop by
a small square, where about 50 people were gathered. Poloff
introduced herself and explained the purpose of the visit.
Without provocation, several men began shouting that
everything was fine in the village and nothing had happened
there. One began shouting about U.S. financial assistance to
Armenia. When the LES tried to clarify the group's purpose,
three men grabbed and pushed him. The mob then forced the
group towards the car, shouting at the diplomats to leave the
village. One man pushed poloff and Norwegian DCM Hansen into
the car, saying, "everything is normal here." Several people
then pounded on the car, and the driver quickly started the
car and exited the village. The beating of the car resulted
in the denting of the hood. Several cars followed the
vehicle carrying the diplomats, screaming for them to leave
when they pulled over outside the village, and again in the
next town. Later in the day two different women from the
village called the diplomats, while others called local human
rights defenders to say that the mob was composed of people
from the neighboring village Abraqunus, and they were brought
there by the local authorities specifically to stop the
diplomats from entering the town.

Further Detail of Police Brutality in Bananyar


--------------------------

-



3. (C) Poloff and the group later met in the exclave's
capital Nakhchivan City with four local human rights
defenders, Malahat Nasibova, Ilgar Nasibov, Elman Abbasov,
and Vafadar Eyvazov, and spoke to two different women from
the town on the telephone, and met with the head of the
branch office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
Nakhchivan. Through these discussions poloff was able to
piece together a more detailed picture of what happened in
the village, despite not being able to enter the village or
meet the residents face to face.



4. (C) These representatives told Poloff that Bananyar is a
traditional village which has held on to its local culture.
Residents practice Islam faithfully, although women do not
cover themselves. Due to their strong culture, they have
previously resisted some of the Nakhchivan regime's
regulations, such as the order to close small shops and tea
houses. On December 27 residents of Bananyar, along with two
neighboring villages, staged a traditional Ashura mourning
ceremony. This ceremony was held without any interruption.
(Note: The MFA representative in Nakhchivan stated, however,
that such celebrations are not allowed in Azerbaijan and much
public education has been done to prevent them. End Note.)



5. (C) The human rights activists told Poloff that on the
morning of December 28, the morning after the Ashura

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ceremony, local police entered Bananyar and took 8 or 9 men
from the village to the police station in the next village.
A human rights defender claimed that the local executive
authority (ExCom) had made the list of people to be arrested,
as some of the arrested had business disagreements with the
ExCom, and some had participated in the Ashura ceremony. An
eyewitness told the human rights defenders that the men were
handcuffed and then tied to a tree by their handcuffs. The
son of one of the detained men, Yusif Aliyev, set himself on
fire after seeing his father treated in this manner. He is
currently being medically treated in Iran.



6. (C) Human rights defenders told Poloff that 1,000
villagers then came to the police station to demand the
release of the detainees. The police gave into this request,
letting the men go without charging them with any crime.
Iranian television reported this story, spreading the false
rumor that Yusif Aliyev was dead. According to the human
rights defenders, this worried residents of the village as
well as angered the Nakhchivani authorities.



7. (C) The activists further noted that on January 5 the
police raided the town again and indiscriminately beat
people, including women. They provided additional details,
stating: houses were raided and windows broken. Some small
shops were destroyed by tractors. Forty people were
officially arrested, including nine women who were kept for
one night in the police station. Police specifically
targeted the local head of the opposition Popular Front
Party, Rza Nuriyev, beating and arresting his two sons when
they did not find him at home. Nuriyev later turned himself
in to free his sons. The human rights defenders say that all
40 people arrested were mistreated at the police station.
Several were also taken to the local psychiatric hospital
were they were kept. Phone lines were cut for 36 hours, but
have now been restored. There also seem to be no uniformed
police guarding the town, although women in the town say they
are afraid to exit their houses. One woman reported that she
was fired from her job as a librarian. Currently, according
to several groups of human rights defenders, there are five
people still being held in police custody, two people in the
psychiatric hospital, and one person is still missing. The
human rights defenders believe this second raid was an
attempt to prevent any future demonstrations.



8. (C) Interlocutors from human rights defenders to taxi
drivers told poloff that Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs
Viliyat Eyvazov did come from Baku to Nakhchivan to try to
resolve the incident. Eyvazov is from Abraqunus and also has
relatives in Bananyar. Eyvazovreportedly had an angry
meeting with Vasif Talibv, the longtime head of Nakhchivan.
Eyvazov was eportedly not satisfied with Talibov's response,
and brought the matter to the attention of Ramiz Mehdiyev,
head of the Presidential Administration. Given that both
women from the village told poloff on the phone that they are
still not allowed to leave their homes, this does not seem to
have improved conditions for the people of Bananyar.


Embassy Follow-Up


--------------------------





9. (C) On January 14 the Embassy sent a diplomatic note to
the MFA protesting the treatment of Embassy staff in
Nakhchivan. The Embassy also requested meetings for the
Charge with the Presidential Administration and the Minister
of Internal Affairs. In response to many questions from the
press, the Embassy and the Norwegian Embassy issued a joint
press statement expressing concern about the situation in
Nakhchivan and calling on the government to protect foreign
diplomats.

GOAJ Response


--------------------------





10. On January 15 the Charge and poloff met with Deputy
Foreign Minister Vaqif Sadikov, at his request, regarding the
incident. Sadikov defended the GOAJ's position that
everything that happened in Bananyar in December and January
was in accordance with the law, and that an investigation was

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underway. He asked the Embassy to inform the MFA in Baku in
writing well in advance of any travel to Nakhchivan, as the
situation there is "very sensitive." He said that such
visits do not help to improve bilateral relations, and the
USG should focus on larger issues. The Charge agreed to give
more advance notice of travel if the security services
committed to take every effort to provide security for
Embassy staff. The Charge also asked for a more constructive
high-level dialogue with the Presidential Administration on
the human rights situation in Nakhchivan. The incident was
also discussed with FM Mammadyarov in another meeting.
(septel)

Comment


--------------------------





11. (C) The December 28 and January 5 incidents of police
brutality in Bananyar show the complex nature of the
political situation in Nakhchivan. In many small villages
there is a culture which is conservative in its values and
traditional in its religious practice, and this often clashes
with the dictates of the ruling regime. In addition, small
businessmen find it hard to compete with the ruling elite's
monopoly in almost every industry. Local police act with
impunity to brutally enforce the regime's absolute control
over political, economic and religious life. In addition,
authorities in Baku seem to have little control over what
happens in Nakhchivan, despite it being the homeland of the
President and many other powerful people within the central
government. While the mob was harassing diplomats,
Nakhchivan strongman Vasif Talibov received a "medal of
glory" from President Aliyev for his service to the State.
LU