A week after prolonged rioting shook the Azerbaijani provincial town of Ismayilli, one question lingers: why there?
The violent clash between police and Ismayilli residents started after an apparently mundane car fender-bender, allegedly involving Vugar Alakbarov -- the son of Labor and Social Security Minister Fizuli Alakbarov, and nephew of Nizami Alakbarov, the governor of the Ismayilli region. The disturbance, which resulted in the torching of a hotel allegedly owned by Vugar Alakbarov, was followed by a demonstration calling for the governor’s resignation, an event stamped out by police. Scores of arrests followed and the town remains in an effective lockdown.
Set against the backdrop of a presidential election looming in October, government officials have blamed the unrest on a political provocation carried out by unnamed “foreign powers.” But some observers argue there’s an economic explanation for the outburst. Economist Kenan Aslanli contended that the anger of those, who, to quote Karl Marx, had “nothing to lose but their chains,” was the primary cause of the riots.
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Khadija Ismayilova is a freelance reporter in Baku and hosts a daily program on current affairs broadcast by the Azeri Service of RFE/RL. She was arrested on January 26 while participating in a Baku demonstration against police violence against protesters in Ismayilli and at Baku’s Bina shopping center, and fined and released.