Facebook Calls Rally Azeris to Protest Army Hazing After Death

Thousands of Azeris are signing up on Facebook Inc. to rally against violence in the armed forces tomorrow after the death of a conscript that his family has blamed on a beating in a hazing incident.

The campaign, which has been joined by more than 13,000 Facebook users in the former Soviet republic, was prompted by the Jan. 7 death of an 18-year-old conscript, Ceyhun Qubadov, at an army base in the western Daskasan district. The U.S. Embassy in the capital, Baku, has warned the planned demonstration may turn violent.

The Defense Ministry, which first said Qubadov died of heart failure, has backtracked after pictures of the soldier’s bruised body were posted on the Internet. An army commander was reprimanded and criminal proceedings initiated into the case, the ministry said on its website yesterday. In video statements on Facebook, Qubadov’s mother said he was beaten to death.

Azerbaijan’s largely conscript-based army lost 77 soldiers in non-combat incidents last year, Jasur Sumarinli, head of the Doctrine Center of Military Studies, said by phone from Baku. Many of the deaths were caused by hazing and illness, he said.

Military service is mandatory for all men aged between 18 and 35 in the Caspian Sea nation, which has a population of 9 million. The government has rejected calls to shift to an all-volunteer force because of the country’s military standoff with neighboring Armenia.

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