FRNAN: Eurovision Song Contest 2012 Bulldozes Homes and Human Rights

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Sat Dec 17 16:40:58 GMT 2011

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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'

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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 

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.

Action ideas

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:

# BBC Complaints --
PO Box 1922, Darlington DL3 0UR. Tel. 03700 100 222. Complain on-line at

# Jean-Paul Philippot --
President, European Broadcasting Union --
L'Ancienne-Route 17A, CH-1218 Grand-Saconnex, Suisse. Tel.: + 41 (0)22 717 2111. 
Fax: + 41 (0)22 747 4000. Email: ebu at

# 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, pov at; tel. 0370 908 3199; by post to POV, BBC Birmingham, 
Birmingham, B1 1AY.

Links/background information

# Read the report from the BBC – Evicted in Baku to make way for Eurovision, 
Damien McGuinness BBC News, 17th December 2011.

# Watch the YouTube video from ObyektivTV – Violation Of Civil Rights To Be 
Presented To The Public, Obyektivtv 18th November 2011. (embedded here on the right)

# Go to Wikipedia, 'Human Rights in Azerbaijan' –

For more detailed background information to compile your complaint see:

# Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan –
asia/azerbaijan (note, HRW is currently working on a report around Eurovision, 
to be published soon)

# Amnesty International, Azerbaijan –

# Azerbaijan: "Worrying clampdown on journalists and human rights activists", 
Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 29th September 2011

# Eurovision 2012: Serious human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, Ashley McAlister, 
Peter Tatchell Foundation, Monday 16th May 2011 –

# Azerbaijan: Rights situation no cause for celebration, Giorgi Gogia, Open 
Democracy Russia, 27th January 2011 –



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