Welcome to Azerbaijan!
Countdown: 3 days and 9 hours at the moment of publishing this blogpost until the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, the event of the year we are all looking forward to, starts in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan. For a promo-talk about the country, please click here. Of course, a country hosting the Eurovision Song Contest will show its most beautiful side (not exactly an exception, if you ask me) and, in the case of Azerbaijan, take the opportunity to promote the country as a prosperous, modern society.
Notwithstanding their promo-talk, the Republic of Azerbaijan has its dark side: Violation of human rights is warp and weft and the democracy they are talking about looks much more like an authoritarian regime led by President Alijev. Journalists and political activists are threatened and jailed (see a report from Amnesty International). Some examples: Two months ago Khadija Ismayil, one of the country’s few remaining investigative journalists in Azerbaijan, revealed she had been the target of a blackmail attempt because of her critical postings in the international press. Yesterday, a peaceful demonstration was hard-handedly stopped. Protestors in general are regularly beaten up and imprisoned (see report from Human Rights Watch).
Thanks to this European-identity-creating-event, I know more about the current situation in Azerbaijan. Sounds good, isn’t it? As Emin Milli, a blogger and youth activist who was beaten and jailed in 2009 after posting critical videos on YouTube, put it: “Eurovision is an opportunity for the international community to focus on what is happening in Azerbaijan. The best way to understand is to come and see it.” Please go, international press (well, you probably are already there). Film some great music performers and, if possible, also turn your camera to the other side just for a moment. Thank you in advance.
For the people interested in better music, next Saturday an alternative Eurovision Song Contest is organised in Amsterdam called ‘Douze points for freedom‘ : Same time, different place, and freedom of speech is allowed. Please go and light up your fire.