Screen capture from the video below, showing rioters setting fires at a hotel in Ismailli.
What started out with a row over a minor car accident has spiralled into rioting, the torching of a hotel and calls for a regional governor to resign in Ismailli, a town in central Azerbaijan. According to our Observer, rioters believed the wealthy driver involved in the crash was related to the governor, and that this unleashed their pent-up anger against him.
Trouble began when a 22 year-old hotel owner, Emil Shamsaddinov, drove his Chevrolet Camaro sportscar onto a sidewalk and crashed into an electricity pole on Wednesday night. According to witnesses
, he then got into an argument with another motorist, attracting a crowd, which he proceeded to insult. The dispute escalated to the point that, once Shamsaddinov was taken away by police, at least a thousand people headed to his hotel and set fire to it, as well as to several luxury cars, including a Hummer. According to police, the rioting lasted for about four hours. Protesters also set fire to expensive cars and motorcycles at a home belonging to the governor’s son.
Rioters cheering and setting fires at the Chyrag hotel. Video courtesy of Hebib Müntezir.
On Thursday evening, hundreds of protesters demonstrated in front of the regional government’s offices, demanding the governor’s resignation. Many of them expressed frustration with their poverty and dismal job prospects. They were dispersed by police using tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets.
These protests follow several other instances of public disorder in Azerbaijan over the past few weeks: on Saturday, market traders blocked a highway
over increased rents for their stalls, and last week, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the capital
to protest against the death of a military conscript.
, violent protests forced the governor of the northern province of Quba to resign. Ismailli’s governor, however, is adamant that this will not be his fate: “I won’t resign over the demands of five or ten people,” Nizami Alekperov told reporters. “It’s inadmissible to make a political conflict out of a car accident and a quarrel between two people.”
Activists in the capital, Baku, have relayed calls via social media to stage a protest there on Saturday, in solidarity with Ismailli residents.