Baku on May 6 saw a brief flare-up of last year's protests against an informal ban on females wearing hijab in Azerbaijani schools, with a clash outside Azerbaijan's Ministry of Education between police and supporters of the traditional Muslim head coverings for women.
Displaying signs in English that asserted that "Hidjab is schoolgirls' constitutional right," the chanting protesters, mostly young men, did not have long to wait for the arrival of baton-waving police. Some demonstrators responded with stones; others with louder chants.
Initial online coverage of the fray, which shut down street traffic outside the ministry for about an hour, came predominantly from Russia and Armenian mainstream news outlets. Azerbaijan's pro-government APA news agency posted a terse brief about the scuffle, noting that local and rapid-reaction police stopped the "unsanctioned protest." Several protesters were arrested and taken into custody, it reported.
A video of the scuffle posted on YouTube depicts something less than an orderly resolution of the matter, however. One policeman sprays an unknown substance into the face of a chanting protester as he is bundled into a police car. Another, sporting an officer's flamboyant hat, delivers a well-aimed kick to the backside of a departing protester.
Don't look for any reprimands, though. Discussing unauthorized opposition demonstrations with News.az last month, Fuad Alasgarov, head of the presidential administration's law enforcement policy department, charged that "the purpose" of people "shouting and violating public order is to impede the development of Azerbaijan." Scant chance that a different view will be taken in this instance.