Friday, May 1, 2009

Tipping Point in Azerbaijan?

Today in Baku, one day after the senseless shooting at the prestigious oil academy that left 13 people dead, students took to the streets demanding answers. The government has released very few details of what happened. Based on video shot today at the demonstration and placed on, it looks like thousands of students demonstrated near the school -- they came to demand that the government give them answers and to demand that the government observe a day of mourning for the students. This appears to be totally impromptu and amazingly the police did nothing today -- unlike the last demonstration that was held in Azerbaijan -- in 2005. At that time, protesters took to the streets after the sham presidential elections -- dozens of people were beaten.

Today, police and the Aliyev government appear to have been caught completely off guard by the demonstration. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Students are vowing to continue their protest until they get some answers.

In March, in a staged referendum by the presidential apparatus, the current president was given the right to serve as long as he likes.

Many Azerbaijanis, perhaps most, were angry over this rigged referendum. Perhaps, Thursday's senseless shooting by a gunman in the oil academy is the spark that will force the government to be accountable to the people -- for once.

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