A symbol of Novruz Bayram installed in the centre of Baku. Photo by Aziz Karimov for the "Caucasian Knot"

20 March 2019, 18:04

Novruz Bayram celebrated in Azerbaijan amid eased repressions

In connection with the celebration of Novruz Bayram, March 20-26 were declared non-working days in Azerbaijan. For the first time in many years, President Ilham Aliev refused from official celebrative events in favour of informal communication with residents of Baku. Rights defenders have linked the massive pardoning of political prisoners on the eve of Novruz-Bayram with changes in authorities' policies.

In Azerbaijan, Novruz Bayram has been officially celebrated since 1992, after the declaration of the country's independence. It is a holiday of spring, and symbolizes the awakening of all living things.

In his traditional congratulatory address to the nation, the president, Ilham Aliev, has touched on the topic of reforms.

Since the start of 2019, the authorities are demonstrating "changes in the style of behaviour," said Togrul Djuvarly, a member of the Azerbaijan National Public Committee for European Integration. "A lot of social directives have been adopted. The minimum wage has been raised; and banks were instructed to pay off a part of population's debts," he has explained.

He pointed out that the authorities are demonstrating the willingness to dialogue with people. Mr Djuvarly has suggested that the authorities "are no longer able to ignore people's opinion." The hidden pressure of the West on the Azerbaijani authorities has also increased, he said, adding that among those pardoned by the president on March 16 there were also critics of Aliev himself.

Novella Djafaroglu, the head of the Society for the Protection of Women's Rights, has also drawn attention to the changes seen in the country. "The situation is changing for the better, and very quickly," she said.

In total, 74 political prisoners are still in jails, Rasul Djafarov, the head of the Human Rights Club, has recalled.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 20, 2019 at 10:23 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

Author: Faik Medjid; Source: CK correspondent

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