Amateur video of abuse in the Azerbaijani army: a fake?

According to bloggers, this video shows the abuse of young recruits to the Azerbaijani Army. The authorities, however, say it is a fake; a montage of scenes acted out by civilians. Warning: you might find these images upsetting.

The video appeared on YouTube at the beginning of October. A group of young men wearing the Army of Azerbaijan uniform - apparent new recruits - look as though they're being physically abused by other soldiers.

For blogger "Unzipped", an Armenian who lives in London, the video should serve as a warning for the authorities, who he advises to "deal with the problem of bullying and violence in the army NOW". Spokesperson for the Defence Ministry Eldar Sabiroghlu, quoted by Armenian site Today.Az, condemned the clip as a "smeary provocation against the army" that had been edited together by people who filmed themselves dressed as soldiers.

Another Armenian blogger, Onnik Krikorian, who alerted website Global Voices to the video, says not to believe the official version. According to him, the video is probably authentic for the following reasons: "The men are wearing genuine Azerbaijan uniforms; they appear to be in a place that looks like army barracks (hard to recreate); the slaps could be faked, but the kicks appear to be particularly violent, and hard to simulate. I find the official line particularly strange, as they say that it wasn't even soldiers who filmed the footage. By denying it entirely, they seem less credible."

We haven't managed to verify the authenticity of this document, which we continue to look into through our contacts in Azerbaijan. We'll update the post when we learn more about the images.

UPDATE (10 Oct 08 - 6.30pm): An Azerbaijani journalist (who wants to remain anonymous) has informed us that a local radio station has identified the soldiers in the video. He also told us, himself having spent some time in the army, that he was not surprised by the treatment of the young recruits in the video. He said that during your first 40 days in the army, you're "tamed" by your elders - a custom that comes from the Soviet era.    

If you have any information about the video, please share it with us by posting a comment at the bottom of the post, if possible leaving an email address so that we can contact you.

WARNING, YOU MAY FIND THESE IMAGES UPSETTING.

Originally posted on the site Azerbaycan.TV.

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