Monday, January 18

Qul Bazari (Market for Slaves)

Few men are standing on the corner of one of the main streets of the capital. Its early morning. They are smoking, hats on, talking. It is cold...

They are there for a reason, waiting from an early morning... They are unemployed men waiting for someone to pull down their car and hire these men for hourly, daily, weekly or perhaps if they are lucky monthly jobs. They are workers and these spots in Azerbaijani language are called markets for slaves (qul bazari).

According to data provided by Azerbaijani State Statistical Committee the total number of economically active population is 4.318 million; the number of employed persons is 4.056 million. The same institution provides indicators for minimum wages, setting the minimum living salary/pension to 75 manat (2008- roughly 75EUR). For 2009 this amount is planned to be raised to 87. The average monthly nominal wage was 289 manat (2008). Just as the minimum wage this too is planned be raised to 297 manat in 2009.

1 kilogram of red meet costs between 6- 7 manat; 1 kilogram of meet costs between 5- 6 manat; the cheapest phone credit starts from 1 manat and goes up to 40 manat; lunch roughly between 5 and 10manat (and higher depending on the restaurant quality and etc.); and so on and so forth.
Baku has been raised to number 20 (from 109th place) on the list of the most expensive cities of the world.

Average citizen lives from salary to salary- each penny is planned.

Perhaps its one of the unique countries in the world, where a taxi driver could be a mathematician or a physician or someone else with a university diploma.

I wonder what would an average minister do if every morning he wold take the underground and go to work. What would he say if he sees no line to get credit for metro card; no straight lines at the escalators; someone pushing him and not apologizing while getting onto the train; only one escalator working at the exit and no stairs to take if you need to.

Or what would a Parliament member feel if he/she was to get only minimum pension of 75 manats a month and not their average 1,000. How would they feel if they were sick and had to buy medicine but couldn't because they thought of many other things they had to pay that month? Or if their child asked for money to pay their teacher at school that day?

Every day I see the faces of those men, waiting and waiting... Perhaps waiting for a change to take place, for them to find a proper job, to be able to take care of their families, to live in a community where things are better. Perhaps, these slave markets will also disappear, and people will change and attitudes will change and many things will change just in general... perhaps soon very soon...


Anonymous said...

They have been standing there for years. I remember passing by them every day after school.
And the way they run to the cars stopping near them - heart breaking indeed.

farida said...

Arzu, I have discovered your blog through women's blog. I just wanted to let you know that I love how you write, how you touch upon sensitive issues, upon the reality of today's Azerbaijan, painful to watch from miles away...I do applaud you for your courage to speak your mind. Qul bazari and many other things that take place in Azerbaijan break my heart as well. I hope things will change and one day we will talk about a better Azerbaijan.

Arzu Geybulla said...

Thank you Farida for your warm comments. I share with you your feelings and also hope for better Azerbaijan.