BAKU: Paper reports high turnout in Azeri march in Iran

Paper reports high turnout in Azeri march in Iran

Vatandas Hamrayliyi, Baku
4 Jul 04

Text of Mansura Sattarova report by Azerbaijani newspaper Vatandas
Hamrayliyi on 4 July headlined “Our tricolour was raised over Fort
Bazz” and subheaded “Despite serious resistance by the Persian police,
200,000 of our compatriots managed to get into the fort”

“The march to Fort Bazz has been staged for eight years, but never
before has there been so much pressure and resistance against the
participants. Moreover, there were attempts to reduce the number of
demonstrators by changing the timing of the march. Despite this, the
march to Fort Bazz was successful,” said Ali Nicat, head of the
analytical-information centre of the Southern Azerbaijan Department of
the Congress of Azerbaijanis of the World CAW . In all, more than
500,000 Azeris took part in the march, he said.

It started on the evening of 30 June and became a mass rally on 1
July, Nicat said. The Iranian government resorted to some measures,
including pressure and intimidation, to prevent the march, and the
fort was surrounded by the police and the special forces, he
said. There were about 40,000 policemen and servicemen around it. In
addition, one of the two roads to the fort was closed. “Buses were
stopped on the road and forced to turn back. There were six
checkpoints on the 10-kilometre road between the fort and the town of
?Kalheydar . There were over 20 checkpoints on the road between the
fort and Tabriz. Hotels near the fort – ?Azadliq and Babak – were also
closed and entry into the nearby village was banned. The government
tried everything possible to dissuade the people from attending the
march. They even staged military exercises around the fort and
announced that this was a military zone.”

The activists of the National Liberation Movement NLM , including
members of Shams-e Tabriz, were officially banned in advance from
joining the march and placed under house arrest on 1 and 2 July, Nicat
said. “The police asked the people on 1 July to leave the fort, but
nobody took notice of it. The police did not allow the 400,000 Azeris
inside and outside the fort to come together. Some 200,000 managed to
get into the castle, but the rest could not cross the police
barriers. In order to show their unity, the people inside and outside
the fort shouted the slogan ‘Unity’. There had been several clashes
between the police and Azeris by 3 July. More than 200 demonstrators
were arrested, including well-known intellectuals and activists of the
NLM – Ali Suleymani, Seyid Calil Huseyni, Mansur Mahammadi and Huseyn
Abid all names untraced . On 2 July, the police and people in plain
clothes attempted to destroy the tents around the fort. They beat up
some demonstrators and injured 60 women.”

There were more than 300 bonfires in the area. While slogans such as
“Long live United Azerbaijan”, “Russians, Persians and Armenians are
enemies of Turks”, “Death to the enemies of Azerbaijan” and “Karabakh
or death” were chanted, the people around the bonfires sang various
songs in their mother tongue. On the night of 2-3 July, at about 0000
2030 gmt on 2 July , they sang the national anthem of Azerbaijan and
raised the tricolour in and around the fort, Nicat said.

Although the 3 July was the last day of the march, some people were
arrested and faced police resistance yesterday. “A person named ?Lavai
went to the top of the fort and spoke about the life of Babak Azeri
national hero who fought the Arabs in the 8th century , his actions
and the significance of the march. The police arrested Lavai and 30

The police did not allow filming outside the fort and all cameras were

There are seven CAW members among those arrested. There is no official
information as to where the detainees are kept. Reports from some
sources suggest that most of them are in Tabriz and others in Ardabil.