Demonstrators in Baku seek a harder line against Armenia.

Pro-war Azerbaijani protesters break into parliament

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The unprecedented protest came following three days of fighting on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the deaths of at least 11 Azerbaijani soldiers, including Major General Polad Hashimov.

The protest grew out of a funeral on the evening of July 14 for one of the fallen soldiers in the Akhmedli district of Baku. Mourners then began marching toward the center of the city, gathering others as they walked, local independent media reported.

The protesters chanted slogans “Karabakh is ours,” “End the quarantine and start the war,” “Commander-in-Chief, give us weapons,” “Karabakh or death,” “Najmaddin resign,” “We will not leave until Karabakh is liberated.” Najmaddin Sadigov is the chief of staff of Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces.

“We have put up with enough,” one protester shouted, according to live streams of the event. “We don’t need money or jobs, let us go and fight!”

The protest wended its way toward the center, passing the war memorial space knowns as the Alley of Martyrs, though police prevented them from entering the memorial. All along, even late into the night, they gathered more and more people from different parts of the city. The independent newspaper Azadliq reported that police prevented about 3,000 from Baku’s Khirdalan district from reaching the center to join the main protests. Zaur Shiriyev, a Baku-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, estimated the crowd at perhaps 30,000.

Eventually they reached the parliament building, some breaking in and causing minor damage.

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After the parliament break-in, police used tear gas and truncheons in attempts to disperse the protesters, who fought back, tipping over police cars. Other marchers tried to convince police to join them. “When Armenians rose up, their police were on their side, but you came to beat us,” one shouted. “They are worse than Armenians,” shouted another.

Nevertheless, police treated the protesters much more delicately than they do with unauthorized demonstrations organized by the political opposition, which are typically harshly shut down. Some police officers were seen chatting amiably with the protesters.

The protest was not covered by local state-friendly media and as of the time this piece was posted there was only scant commentary from government officials.

Some interpreted the parliament break-in, and some other earlier episodes, as provocations meant to discredit the protesters. “A group entered the Milli Majlis, the police used force, and instead of witnessing the unity between the Azerbaijani people and the state, Armenians saw an entirely different thing,” wrote activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev on his Facebook page.

Eventually, as dawn approached, the protesters dispersed.

Later in the morning of July 15 the parliament press office issued a statement complaining that breaking into the parliament was the result of “some provocateurs aiming at destruction” and that it was “disrespectful to the holy spirit of the martyrs.”

In the protests, seven police officers were injured, two cars were ruined and 14 more were damaged, according to a joint statement from the prosecutor general’s office and the Interior Ministry. An investigation has been launched on charges of “mass rioting and resistance or use of force against a government representative,” the statement said.

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