Hijab protests in Azerbaijan

The Hijab protests in Azerbaijan are a consequence of recent changes in the formal and social aspects of Azerbaijan with the banning of the hijab in schools and universities. The hijab ban lead to protests by some religious activists and to their subsequent arrests, due to their opposition to the new laws banning the hijab in educational institutions.[1][2][3]


The two main factors in the protests were Azerbaijan's hijab ban and the arrests of religious activists.

Hijab Ban in Schools

On December 10, 2010, Misir Mardanov, from the Azerbaijan's Education Ministry, announced the ban on hijab. According to the new law, students are forbidden from wearing hijabs in schools and universities. The government also brought Soviet-era uniforms back into schools.[4]

The Republic of Azerbaijan is a secular state. The hijab was effectively banned in schools last year by new rules defining what kind of uniforms pupils should wear in this mainly Shiite Muslim country, which emerged as one of the most secular in the Islamic world after decades of Soviet rule.[5]

Religious activists being arrested

The government of Azerbaijan arrested a few leaders of the religious opposition and this caused a new round of protest by their supporters which led them to be arrested.[6] these Parties include:Popular front of Azerbaijan, musavat Party and Islamic party. Leaders of these parties face long prison terms. Movsum Samadov, leader of the banned Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, was charged with preparing an act of terror.[7][8][9]

Protests and further arrests

Several demonstrations and rallies took place in different cities of Azerbaijan to protest against the anti-Islamic policies of Azerbaijan government, which resulted in a new arrest wave.[10]

After anti-government activists used social media to call for street protests inspired by the Arab uprisings on Friday March 11, 2011. Activists inspired by the overthrow of autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt by pro-democracy protests vowed to stage more demonstrations as they were being arrested by police outside Baku's Oil Academy. Azerbaijan security forces faced protests and detained 43 people in the event. [11]

On Saturday the 2nd of April 2011, another protest took place. Riot police seized protesters near the Fountains Square in Baku, where the opposition had wanted to hold a rally but failed to receive approval from the authorities. One of the opposition leaders said after the protest that about 1,000 people had taken part and more than 200 were arrested.[12]

On 6 May 2011, some protesters in Baku, chanted "God is great" and "Freedom to hijab", the name for the scarves traditionally worn by devout Muslim women, before being areested by the police. [13]

International reactions

There were international protests against the government's actions.


The European Union criticized Azerbaijan for "lack of respect of fundamental freedoms" after the 2 April rally was broken up by security forces. The supranational body called on authorities to allow for freedom of speech, free assembly, and freedom of the press, rights it suggested the government's response disrespected. On 13 April, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov summoned the head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan to express his government's displeasure over the statement.[14]

Human rights organizations

Amnesty International has also called upon the government to allow peaceful protests. In a letter published in British daily The Guardian on 20 April, its UK affiliate called for the release of Eynulla Fatullayev and other detained journalists and insisted the government should "comply with international standards on human rights – specifically the right to assembly and the right to free expression".[15] The International Press Institute echoed Amnesty's criticisms, condemning the Azerbaijani government's deportation of three Swedish journalists for reporting on the 17 April demonstration in Fountain Square. [16]

Other countries

United States Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza expressed concern over the Azerbaijani government's response to protests in March.[17]

The Iranian Ayatollahs have criticized Azerbaijan's decision to ban the hijab.[18]


  1. ^ [1] Islamic Human Rights Commission
  2. ^ [2] PressTV
  4. ^ "Azeri Hijab ban bars scores from school". PressTv. 10 December 2010. 
  5. ^ "School hijab ban divides in Muslim Azerbaijan". alarabiya. 1 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Opposition party leader arrested in Azerbaijan". easternpartnership. 10 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Trial over Arif Hajili and three other opposition leaders will begin on September 1". Contact.az. 23 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "Nemat Panahli faces long prison term". Contact.az. 2 June 2011. 
  9. ^ "Terror charges brought against Islamic Party leader". News.az. 21 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Azeri Hijab ban bars scores from school". PressTv. 20 December 2011. 
  11. ^ "Police detain 43 in Azerbaijan protest bid". Reuters. 11 Mar 2011. 
  12. ^ "Police break up opposition rally in Azerbaijan". Reuters. 2 April 2011. 
  13. ^ Agayev, Zulfugar (6 May 2011). "Azeri Activists Protest Against School Ban on Islamic Headscarf". Bloomberg. 
  14. ^ "Azeri govt protests EU over critical statement". AzerNews. 13 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Azerbaijan urged to stop targeting peaceful protesters". Amnesty International. 24 April 2011. 
  16. ^ "IPI Renews Call to Free Azerbaijani Journalist Eynulla Fatullayev". International Press Institute. 26 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "Azerbaijan detains 50 opposition protesters". ZeeNews. 13 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Protests in Iran against ban on wearing hijab in Azerbaijan". Panorama.am. 7 February 2011.