The local administration of the town of Lankaran, the police, and local residents clashed this weekend over the status of a deceased local resident, whose death on the front, locals claimed, the authorities tried to hide.
The body of Aflatun Farajov, an Azerbaijani soldier killed in action, was brought to his home village of Osakuja in the Lankaran municipality on 20 November. Farajov’s brother, Ramin, was informed that Aflatun’s death was the result of a traffic accident and as a result, he was not a martyr.
In Azerbaijan, if a soldier dies during combat, they are granted the status of ‘martyr’ and the cost of their funeral is covered by the state. Their immediate relatives also receive a payout from the government.
Ramin Farajov and local residents then opened Farajov’s coffin and after examining the body came to the conclusion that the body had bullet wounds. The villagers immediately organised a protest and carried the coffin containing Farajov’s body to the centre of Lankaran.
During the march, police unsuccessfully attempted to disperse the protesters with scuffles breaking out between police and the demonstrators. A local spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs described the events that took place as a ‘breach of strict quarantine measures’.
Following the police’s unsuccessful attempts to disrupt the protest, the mayor of Lankaran reportedly met with the protestors and informed them that Farajov would be buried with the status of a martyr.
Yadigar Sadigli, a prominent member of the opposition Musavat party from Lankaran, stated that Farajov was initially denied martyr status so officials would not be required to pay for his funeral, the customary mourning ceremonies that followed, or to grant a financial payout to his immediate relatives.
In a statement published on Facebook, the Lankaran mayor’s office has denied that Aflatun Farajov was ever denied martyr status and that in any case, ‘the granting the status of martyrdom is generally not within the competence of the city executive power’.
The mayor’s office also stated that the mayor personally attended Farajov’s funeral, and that to claim that his administration attempted to deny that Farajov had died in combat ‘serves to pour water on the enemy’s mill’.