Who Cuts Down Trees?
Even in Azerbaijan, I don’t think a woodchuck could chuck wood. The woodchuck would have to find a way to get a timber permit, and that might be difficult.
I’ve noted before that my current apartment lacks the connection to the city gas line, so residents in my building regularly buy wood and burn it for heat. It’s not a bad system, and certainly gets the job done, but things get a little sticky when it comes to actually chopping down the trees. As far as I understand it (this is a surface-level understanding; there may be more nuance), it is generally illegal to cut down trees in Azerbaijan unless they are on your own property. That doesn’t sound too drastic, I suppose. For those who need to cut trees on public land, they need to secure a permit from the Ministry of Ecology, which probably isn’t very easy to acquire. People who go cutting down trees without the permits are then subject to fines. This story, however, takes the situation to a whole new level:
An Azerbaijani villager has died after setting himself and his home ablaze in desperation after police pressured him to pay a fine for chopping down trees, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reports.
Adalat Huseynov, 35, died of his burns on January 21, one day after setting himself alight. His wife and two sons, aged 12 and 14 years, remain in critical condition in a Baku hospital. The family’s daughter was not at home at the time.
Huseynov’s familiy lived in the village of Zamanli in Azerbaijan’s western Gadabay district, which does not have gas lines. Huseynov’s relatives say local police officials had been harassing him into paying a fine of 1,000 manats ($1,250) for cutting timber to heat his home.
This is a heartbreaking tragedy. The article goes on to report a fairly brutal mistreatment of Adalat by police leading up to his self-immolation.
I can’t say that I disagree with the policy of having protected zones where trees are protected. Imposing and enforcing fines on those who violate the policy also makes sense. Yet, this is another case of the rule of law having very little connection with the situation on the ground. Up in Lerik, there are many villages which are not hooked up to a gas system. They must heat their homes with wood, and that wood must come from somewhere. The only conclusion we can draw is that people are probably illegally chopping down trees all across Lerik for basic survival through the winter. And the truck of wood that comes outside my apartment building each week is probably bringing in illegally chopped trees, too.
Adalat’s situation is regrettable. He was put in the situation of having to choose to follow the law or seriously compromise his chances of survival through the winter. And then police officers made it all the worse through unprofessional behavior and outright cruelty. Azerbaijan is overflowing with gas-why can’t we work on getting it to the citizens?