JNN 11 Dec 2012 BAKU – Police in Azerbaijan detained around 30 activists on Monday who rallied in Baku to demand President Ilham Aliyev’s resignation, the latest in a string of protests opposition groups hope will ratchet up pressure on the government , trying to stage a peaceful demonstration against the government of President Elham Aliyev in the capital Baku.
About 100’s demonstrators took to the streets of Baku, shouting “Dissolve the corrupted parliament!”, “Free elections!” and “The government should resign”.
“Today is an International Human Rights Day and we hoped that we would be given a chance to give voice to our complaints, but it has not happened,” Sevindzh Huseynova, a member of oppositionMusavat Party, said. “We need a fair election.”
Western governments and human rights groups accuse Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, of rigging elections and of clamping down on dissent. Protests are often swiftly broken up by security forces.
The arrests came after hundreds of people gathered near the Fountains Square in central Baku on Monday where they demanded the resignation of President Aliyev and the dissolution of parliament.
The opposition parties including Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and Musavat (equality) Party say the sitting lawmakers are corrupt and do not represent the will of the people.
Marking International Human Rights Day, the protesters chanted, “Freedom” and “Resignation”.
“With this protest, we have managed to draw the international community’s attention to the alarming situation regarding human rights, media freedom, and political atmosphere in Azerbaijan,” said leader of the Musavat Party, Isa Gambar during the protest.
Carrying Azerbaijan’s national and opposition party flags, protesters also demanded release of people arrested during the previous rally.
On November 17, a similar protest occurred in the same city where security forces arrested dozens of anti-government demonstrators including journalists who covered the protest rally.
Under pressure from the West, the government released several opposition bloggers and reporters earlier this year, but dozens of activists and journalists are still in jail.
The Azeri protesters are furious about the gap between the rich and the poor, rampant corruption and an economy highly dependent on oil in the country of nine million.
The Azeri government insists the oil-rich nation enjoys full freedom of speech and has a vibrant opposition press.
Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, Azerbaijan’s beleaguered opposition has staged a series of small protests in the wake of bigger demonstrations earlier this year.
Public Chamber, an umbrella movement which unites major opposition parties, called on Monday for the dissolution of parliament, the release of political prisoners and the participation of opposition parties in politics.
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea, is an important energy supplier to Europe and a transit route for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.