In Azerbaijan, Young Protesters Take To Streets Despite Police Crackdown March 11, 2011

Small groups of Azeri youths staged antigovernment protests on March 11 in the capital, Baku, despite a police crackdown on protest organizers in recent days.

Inspired by popular uprisings in Arab nations, young Azerbaijani activists had campaigned via Facebook to designate the date as “Great People’s Day” and stage protests against the country’s autocratic leader Ilham Aliyev.

Police in one district said they had detained 10 people in an attempt to thwart an unsanctioned protest, but activists behind the “Great People’s Day” protests put the number detained in the “dozens.”

In one protest, activists marched from a downtown McDonald’s restaurant toward the National Bank building chanting, “Freedom!” and “Resignation!”

They shouted, “Freedom to Eynulla Fatullayev,” a reference to an Azerbaijani journalist imprisoned on charges his supporters say are politically motivated.

Protesters also chanted, “Release Bakhtiyar Hajiyev!” “Freedom to Dayanat,” and “Freedom to Jabbar,” referring to a journalist and two youth activists who have recently been jailed.

Our correspondents in Baku said police were stopping and searching young people in the streets and metro stations since the morning.
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