We would like to bring to your attention the news of very disturbing developments under way in Azerbaijan, which you will be visiting very soon and which has to do with the Government’s “preparation” for the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC).
Azerbaijan’s human rights records are deteriorating as ordinary citizens face violations of their human rights and civil liberties, as well as corruption and abuse by government officials on a daily basis. The oil-rich country headed by President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, is ranked 134th out of 183 countries for corruption perception index (2011) by Transparency International. Journalists who attempt to criticize the government are intimidated, severely beaten, defamed, blackmailed, and even killed. The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, a local media monitoring organization, reported that more than 50 domestic and foreign journalists were harassed or attacked in 2011.
In the recent years there has been a spike in the violation of citizens’ property rights in the capital Baku as the authorities have been illegally evicting thousands of people and demolishing their private houses without any court decision in the name of “beautification” plans of the city. Most recently, the authorities have evicted 283 families around the area of the so-called “Crystal Palace” which is being constructed for the ESC. In many cases the residents were given very short notice and were forcefully and brutally evicted when they rightly refused to leave their private property without due process. (watch the video by Radio Free Europe) This is how one of residents, Arzu Adigozelova, describes it: “It happened at night. I was sleeping with my children and all of a sudden we felt the building shake. They used a bulldozer to break down the wall of the apartment next door.”
According to the local human rights activists, between 23 to 45 people are in prison in Azerbaijan for their political views, including 15 activists involved in the March and April 2011 protests who have called on social networks for peaceful rallies demanding long awaited changes and reforms, inspired by the recent popular demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Many in the country and abroad see Eurovision as a chance to spotlight Azerbaijan’s dire human rights record and the government’s encroachment on political rights and civil liberties. Any gesture of support to the people of Azerbaijan coming from you during such an important event can literally play a restraining effect on these widespread violations and help the civil society in their efforts to protect human rights in the country. We would deeply appreciate your support in bringing more attention to the state of human rights in Azerbaijan by either dedicating your song or making a short remark, either in one of the press conferences or from stage, regarding the importance of the protection of human rights. Showing this support will in no way stop you from successfully participating in the Contest and winning it. On the contrary - you are very likely to win the hearts of people from all over the countries that will be voting during the contest. We are very hopeful that we can get your much-needed attention and support for the protection of human rights and civil liberties in Azerbaijan.
Sign this petition if you believe that singers who will attend the Eurovision Song Contest should show support for the protection of human rights and civil liberties in Azerbaijan.