Time and time again, opposition groups have applied for permits to demonstrate in the city centre. They’re always denied. Last time, they applied for a permit quite far from the city centre, but near a metro station, so that people could at least reach the demonstration. Again, they were denied. So several opposition group, united under the umbrella group Public Chamber
, decided to hold a small protest Monday to demand freedom of assembly.
The goal was to march to the mayor’s office, but the police stopped us. They were quite confrontational – they kicked and punched protesters, and even pushed foreign journalists around.
“It’s quite risky to hold an unauthorized protest in Azerbaijan”
It’s quite risky to hold an unauthorized protest in Azerbaijan. Protesters are often put in police vans and driven hours outside of the city, where they’re left in the middle of nowhere, and must get back on their own. This happened to me just a week ago during another protest. But it can be much more serious than this. Last year, the police arrested opposition members taking part in such demonstrations and jailed them
for "disturbing the public order."
This time, it seems we were luckier – it appears that everyone who was detained has since been released. Perhaps the government wants to avoid too much bad publicity during the Eurovision, although they certainly didn’t seem to care too much when they broke up our protest Monday. We fear that they’ll crack down on us even harder when the contest is over, and when foreign media leave the country.