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Eurovision Song Contest 2012 Bulldozes Homes and Human Rights
European Broadcasting Union organises whitewash of Azerbaijan's human rights abuses in the guise of 'culture'
Posted by Ozymandias, 17th December 2011.
OK, strange subject line, but true; people are being forcibly removed from their homes for the continental festival of schalger music, Eurovision. If you've watched events in Central Asia for a while, you may have heard of some of the excesses of the states which Western nations now support as a bulwark against "international terror". Fuelled by oil wealth, in Azerbaijan this sorry story has taken a new twist. In order to beautify the city of Baku and construct facilities for the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 (22nd to 26th May 2012), people are being evicted to clear sites for construction of contest facilities.
Azerbaijan, despite its inclusion in European institutions such as the European Broadcasting Union (organisers of Eurovision), does not uphold the principles of democracy and civil rights which Europe enacted following the Second World War. National and international human rights and democracy groups are not exactly welcome in Azerbaijan as shown in August when, in defiance of the law and a court order, the building used by various human rights organisations in Baku was bulldozed by the state. That came in the wake of a government crack-down on protest to put down any chance of a public mass movement developing in Azerbaijan in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Now the bulldozers are back again this time to make way for the facilities that will broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. People are being forcibly evicted from their homes the water, gas and electricity having been previously disconnected to encourage them to leave in order to make way for the redevelopment of parts of the city which will host the contest. Some have even been arrested on concocted charges and held in custody so that their homes could be demolished.
There is no public oversight of this process. The BBC, who have broken the story internationally, have been refused interviews with those directing the construction work. In Azerbaijan itself, according to a report by the Council of Europe, there is no free media to hold the government to account, and bloggers and journalists critical of government policy are routinely arrested and imprisoned. Even academics have been detained for criticising the errors in the government's school text books.
At the same time Wikileaks has shown that, from the bungled negotiations with investors to the excesses of the country's elite, Azerbaijan is a state run for the needs of a few influential groups. The systematic repression of its peoples, and the persecution of religious groups, are a necessary part of maintaining minority control over Azerbaijan's mineral wealth. That in turn creates a problem for the West, which has thus far tolerated these abuses because of Azerbaijan's key role in Central Asia, and recent Middle East conflicts.
It's also rather ironic that whilst Eurovision is considered a gay/transgender icon, Azerbaijan is not a safe country for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 2001, the LGBT community suffers police harassment and brutality, including bashings, blackmail, intimidation, bribery and invasions of privacy. They have no legal protection against discrimination and systematic homophobic prejudice from state organisations.
The Azerbaijani government closely associates Eurovision success with its own, and staging the event will only add to the self-aggrandisement practised by the state. By holding this event in Azerbaijan the European Broadcasting Union are sanitising human rights abuses with glamour, popularising repression with pop songs, and reinforcing the antidemocratic rule of a wealthy elite by showcasing a state whose government flouts the human rights principles established by the Council of Europe.
However, the position for the BBC is arguably worse. Their journalists have produced a string of condemnatory reports on the situation in Azerbaijan (linked throughout this document). At the same time, in a recent speech, the Chair of the BBC Trust stressed the importance of a free press and independence from government control to ensure the maintenance of democracy. But in contrast to this worthy position, over the next few months the BBC will be planning its participation in the contest, leaving it open to claims of hypocrisy because whilst it defends civil rights and press freedom in one part of the organisation, another will be organising its participation in the whitewashing of human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.
To highlight and demand action on the human rights abuses of Azerbaijan, the BBC, on behalf of the nation, should not participate in or screen next year's Eurovision Song Contest if it takes place in Azerbaijan. The BBC should lobby within the European Broadcasting Union to withdraw the event from Azerbaijan, and move it to a European state which properly upholds human rights.
We suggest that people complain directly to the BBC, as the UK partner in the Eurovision contest, and to the European Broadcasting Union. We're not specifying any particular form of objection, but we suggest that you question whether participation in the Eurovision contest is valid given that staging the event will endorse/validate the human rights abuses that will be an implicit part of its production.
Here are the relevant contact details:
Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington DL3 0UR. Tel. 03700 100 222.
Complain on-line at https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/
- Jean-Paul Philippot, President,
L'Ancienne-Route 17A, CH-1218 Grand-Saconnex, Suisse.
Tel.: + 41 (0)22 717 2111. Fax: + 41 (0)22 747 4000.
- We also suggest that people contact the BBC's complaint programme, Points of View, asking that BBC One's Controller Danny Cohen severs links with next year's event in Azerbaijan because of the human rights abuses associated with its production. Contacts: email, firstname.lastname@example.org; tel. 0370 908 3199; by post to POV, BBC Birmingham, Birmingham, B1 1AY.
- Read the report from the BBC Evicted in Baku to make way for Eurovision, Damien McGuinness BBC News, 17th December 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16223311
- Watch the YouTube video from ObyektivTV Violation Of Civil Rights To Be Presented To The Public, Obyektivtv 18th November 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkXp-HpOEWs (embedded here on the right)
- Go to Wikipedia, 'Human Rights in Azerbaijan' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Azerbaijan
For more detailed background information to compile your complaint see:
- Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan http://www.hrw.org/europecentral-asia/azerbaijan (note, HRW is currently working on a report around Eurovision, to be published soon)
- Amnesty International, Azerbaijan http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/azerbaijan
- Azerbaijan: "Worrying clampdown on journalists and human rights activists", Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 29th September 2011 http://www.coe.int/t/commissioner/news/2011/110929hrazerbaijan_en.asp
- Eurovision 2012: Serious human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, Ashley McAlister, Peter Tatchell Foundation, Monday 16th May 2011 http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/azerbaijan/eurovision-2012-serious-human-rights-abuses-azerbaijan
- Azerbaijan: Rights situation no cause for celebration, Giorgi Gogia, Open Democracy Russia, 27th January 2011 http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/giorgi-gogia/azerbaijan-rights-situation-no-cause-for-celebration