I will try to evaluate this issue both from the position of a human rights defender and at the same time as a citizen, as well as from the reality of Azerbaijan.
First of all, I must inform you that according to the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan, freedom of assembly is one of the rights of the people, the fundamental freedoms of citizens. Organizing rallies and mass actions is one of the activities of political organizations, each organization has the right to hold mass actions.
The law also makes it clear that any protest actions – rallies, pickets and marches – MUST BE AGREED with local authorities. This is our right, so no permission is required. However, it is important to agree on the location, time and format.
One might ask: Why should the protest be coordinated or agreed with the relevant government agencies?!
Because the relevant authorities should ensure the security of the demonstration (the safety of both the protesters and the other citizens). It is the direct responsibility of the relevant government agencies. Because, if citizens take part in the action, if ordinary citizens are harmed, then all the responsibility falls on the government agencies.
Therefore, the executive authorities review the location and time of the action, analyze how it can ensure the safety and comfort of citizens, and make appropriate decisions. This is clearly reflected in the Law.
One of these actions was held on October 8th by the National Council and the PFPA in front of Baku City Executive Power. The action took place in a specific place and time in a pre-agreed manner. Despite the fact that it is located in the center of the city – at the intersection, in the densely populated area of educational institutions, as well as in various shopping and catering facilities – law enforcement agencies have fully provided security for both protesters and other citizens. The police have fulfilled their duty.
Ten days later, the same political forces decided to hold a protest again. This time, the organizers said they wanted to hold a rally in the city center, but the action WAS NOT AGREED with local authorities.
Why not agreed? What prevented it? Let’s take a look.
The location was chosen in front of the May 28 subway station. Residents of the capital are well aware that this area has been the largest HUB of Baku for the past 30 years, that is, about half of the capital’s residents use it every day – the May 28 metro station serves to hundreds of thousands of passengers every day. There are universities, shopping facilities, bus stops, underground shopping centers and dozens of catering facilities in the vicinity.
When you walk around in the area at noon, you touch someone’s shoulder, whether you like it or not. It is inevitable. And as long as it is unacceptable to hold a protest in such an area, it is not possible to fully secure the safety of the protestors and the integrity of the citizens and facilities in general.
Therefore, the relevant executive authorities did not approve of the protest on May 28 Square (In fact, it is not a square, because of the use of vehicles and catering facilities) and offered alternative locations. Under the law, this is perfectly normal. A safer and more convenient location was offered.
Why was the alternative place not accepted? – We have to show some political views here.
The alternative space is a bit far from the city center, but it is vast in terms of terrain. However, filling that area with protesters seems to be a separate problem. Because, if those political forces have tens of thousands of members, at least hundreds of thousands must support them. The logic says so. Those political forces say in their statements that “the people of Azerbaijan support them.”
The Republic of Azerbaijan consists of 10 million 35 thousand 351 people. In fact, today there are at least 8 million people in the country, and 1% of them are 80,000. Maybe I give subjective figures in terms of those political forces, but I still decided to take the minimum interest rate as an example.
Half of the 80,000 members of those political forces – 40,000 may not be in Baku on the day of the rally, some may not join this protest, some may get sick and many mores there. There are 40,000 people…
We came to the root of the matter. 40,000 people means more people to fill Tofig Bahramov Republic Stadium. With so many people, it is possible to fill any square of Baku, or even the square in Lokbatan. Freedom of assembly can be guaranteed everywhere, regardless of location…
We live in 2019. It is possible to hold a spectacular rally anywhere, to make photo and video shoots (of course, without photoshop), to make live broadcasts on the Internet, to convey their demands and slogans to the political authority, the people of Azerbaijan and the world community.
However, the above-mentioned opposition forces insist on the territory around the May 28 subway and try to take action even if it is not agreed. Why?! Do you know what the reason is?
They are well aware that, first of all, they do not have up to 0.4% of the Azerbaijani population, ie 40,000 members and supporters. Large squares will not be filled.
They are well aware that the May 28 subway is used by around 200,000 people a day, and their mere sight as an outsider can make a mass protest.
They understand that if protests are held in the area, it will never be possible to ensure the safety of both protesters and citizens, in any case there will be people squeezed under their feet, there will be people who faint from anxiety, there will be the little ones who leave their parents’ hands and crushed among the masses, nearby catering facilities will be damaged, there may be disputes and even clashes between ordinary citizens and protesters, during the protest, subway entrances will cause chaos and human losses, vehicles moving in the center of the capital will be paralyzed… and it will still happen something negative. It will not be possible to avoid it!
But why are they persistently wanting to hold a rally around the May 28 subway?! Interesting! Is that right?
Because they want all of the aforementioned negative situations to occur and that all responsibility be left to the authorities.
They want to blame the authorities for all the negative things that can happen and to create hatred against political power in the population of the country.
They want to be able to attract the attention of foreign donor organizations to themselves by appearing to be the majority, and to create the impression that they are the only force that can make a difference in Azerbaijan.
The only way to make change in the country is through political struggle… peaceful political struggle. The law provides concrete ways to do this – ELECTIONS!
Municipal elections to be held in December this year, parliamentary elections in November next year, presidential elections in 2025!
In addition, any way, any means or method is illegal, unacceptable and must be prevented by law.
Human rights are also multidimensional, human rights are not just about freedom of assembly and includes other rights as well… Holding protests every day, especially in densely populated areas, violates the rights of other people…. that the protection of these rights also rests with the state. That is why the authorities do not consider holding mass actions in certain areas…
Knowing this, however, violating the law and public order is not only a struggle against the government, but also against the State and the people!
The Great Leader Heydar Aliyev said that no matter who is in opposition, it is impossible to oppose the nation and the state.