The crowd was estimated at 30,000, and what started as a demonstration in support of the country’s military turned into an anti-government protest.
Tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis demanding war with Armenia protested in Baku, challenging the government to take a harder approach to the conflict and breaking into the country’s parliament building.
The unprecedented protest came following three days of fighting on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the deaths of at least 11 Azerbaijani soldiers, including Major General Polad Hashimov. The outpouring of rage, partly directed against the government, illustrates how difficult it will be for the authorities to control the patriotic fervor that has arisen as a result of the clashes, the worst violence between the two sides in years.
The protest appeared to be spontaneous and unorganized. It grew out of a funeral on the evening of July 14 for one of the fallen soldiers in the Akhmedli district of Baku. Mourners then began marching toward the center of the city, gathering others as they walked, local independent media reported.
The protesters chanted slogans “Karabakh is ours,” “End the quarantine and start the war,” “Commander-in-Chief, give us weapons,” “Karabakh or death,” “Najmaddin resign,” “We will not leave until Karabakh is liberated.” Najmaddin Sadigov is the chief of staff of Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces.