March 10 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of Azeris demonstrated in the capital, Baku, in a rally organized through Facebook Inc. to protest non-combat deaths in the armed forces.
Riot police used water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters in the central Fountains Square. The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Stop killings in the army” and “Stop turning the army into a morgue.” Almost 100 were detained in the unauthorized protest, according to the opposition daily newspaper Yeni Musavat
More than 22,000 people signed up on Facebook to attend the rally. Ali Karimli, leader of the main opposition People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party, said “thousands of people” attended the demonstration.
Azerbaijan’s largely conscription-based army has suffered 15 deaths in non-combat incidents so far this year, according to Jasur Sumarinli, head of the Doctrine Center of Military Studies in Baku. Seventy-seven died last year, he said by e-mail last week.
Military service is mandatory for all men aged from 18 to 35 in the Caspian Sea nation, which has a population of more than 9 million. The government has rejected calls to shift to an all-volunteer force because of a military standoff with neighboring Armenia. Accusations of bullying are common.
--Editors: Stephen Cunningham, Jeffrey Donovan