ISLAMISTS THREATEN EUROVISION IN AZERBAIJAN
In preparation of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, Europe's largest television event which will be hosted by Azerbaijan in May, the national security forces have conducted mopping-up operations throughout the country. On April 12, Russian news agency Interfax cited an article published on Ummanews.com, stating that an author who introduced himself as Muslim threatened the participants of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Baku. Ummanews.com, a Russian-language web site, presents itself as an “international Islamic information portal” opened by a group of Islamic students studying abroad. (The word ummah means the community of Muslims or even the whole Muslim world.) According to the article published on April 8, Eurovision was termed “a nightmare” for all Muslims. “The forces of the Devil, perverts and homosexuals from across the world should not think that they can so easily come to the land on which the blood of faithful Muslims was shed and behave any way they want. They will certainly be attacked,” the author allegedly said.
It added that “no Mossad, MI6, CIA, NSM [National Security Ministry] or other three-letter organizations can protect them from the punishment they deserve.”
The author of the article highlighted the Istishhad [act of self-sacrifice] committed by Vugar Padarov during a special operation in Ganja, the second biggest city in Azerbaijan. It said that Padarov has become “the first man” who performed this act on Azerbaijan’s territory. The 37-year-old Padarov, who arrived a week before the attack and rented an apartment in Ganja, blew himself up, killing also Elshad Guliyev, a National Security Ministry lieutenant-colonel.
Referring to a well-informed source in the law-enforcement agencies, Turan news agency reported that mopping-up operations in the Northern and Western regions of Azerbaijan were aimed to indentify persons belonging to the terrorist group “Forest Brothers” that has connections with radical Wahhabi followers in the North Caucasus. So far, several operations against the “Forest Brothers” have been conducted in the country, especially in mountain areas on the border with Russia.
The Ministry of National Security reported that 17 members of an armed group that planned a series of sabotage, subversion and terrorist acts to disrupt social stability and creating panic among the population were located and arrested.
As a result of the special operations in Baku, Ganja and Sumgayit, as well as in the Gakh, Zaqatala, Sheki and Gusar regions, several firearms with ammunition, hand grenades, explosives and other military equipment, and literature that promotes terrorism and jihad was apprehended and seized from armed groups. During operations in Ganja, the staff of the Special Forces group “Gartal” faced armed resistance, killing one MNS employee and injuring three. One of the suspects was killed and one wounded, while another two members of the group were detained.
There is a possibility that the signature Muslim in the ummanews.com article is short for Muslim Muvakhkhid, who propagates jihad in the Russian social network vkontakte (vk.com). With reference to the arrests in Azerbaijan, Muslim said that these operations are “just an advertisement of the brave abilities of Azeri Muslims,” which will not miss “such a chance to deal with targets eligible for destruction.” He expressed his satisfaction with the “expansion of geographical areas where ‘brothers’ were detained,” which he attributed to the growth of a “right understanding of Islam and its purposes among Muslims.” At the end, he expressed hope that recent events would wake up a large army of Muslims lulled by the puppet Imams of Baku.
Recent events again raised the question of a growing Islamic factor and the threat it poses to secular Azerbaijan. Arif Yunusov, an independent expert on Islam and author of books on the problems of Islam in Azerbaijan, predicts a gradual strengthening of Islam as a political factor in Azerbaijan. His assessment is based on sociological studies showing that a majority of the supporters of Islam are young people. According to Yunusov, at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union only 2-3 percent of the country's Muslims fully complied with the requirements of Islam (prayer, regular attendance at mosques). By the beginning of the 2000s, this figure had risen to 10 percent and has now reached 20 percent. In addition, the regime’s authoritarian tendencies and regular suppression of human rights causes disappointment with secular democratic values and promotes the growth of religious sentiment, he argues.
Yunusov states that Azerbaijani Muslims are split into three major groups: Shia, Salafi and Nurcu, while they do not have one single and charismatic leader. However, the ongoing radicalization of Azerbaijani society makes it possible that the Islamic factor might increase in importance. Yunusov considers developments in accordance with an Iranian scenario as unlikely, while he acknowledges the possibility of a Turkish version of Islamic development.
APA news agency has reported that Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry will hold a meeting bringing together the chiefs of departments of all cities and regions of the country. The meeting chaired by Interior Minister Ramil Usubov will discuss special security measures in connection with the Eurovision contest apart from the general issue of ensuring public order.