Monday, April 23, 2012

Going for a song

Repression, evictions, demolition: three words you don't normally associate with the Eurovision Song Contest. Azerbaijan has bulldozed its capital's center to make way for the glitzy palace that will house the contest, evicting people and demolishing homes without notice.

The song contest, watched by an average 125 million people, has a political dimension. The spotlight will be on Azerbaijan, giving the country a chance to show how modern it has become. Among other things, a magnificent crystal palace that will welcome the contestants and 25,000 spectators was built in record time in the heart of the capital. In order to carry out Baku’s extravagant facelift, national and municipal authorities have neglected the rights of small home-owners. The demolition program began in 2009, but is accelerating as Eurovision approaches. For people who live in the city center, this contest is a tragedy, which will yield nearly 60,000 victims.

Azerbaijan is ruled with an iron fist by President Ilham Aliyev, who took over after his father Heydar’s death in October 2003. Since then, hopes of liberalization have been dashed. Human rights organizations want to make the most of Eurovision to attract international attention to the degradation of individual liberties in the country. In recent months, Amnesty International has taken numerous initiatives to bring attention to the situation –although it did not ask for a boycott of the Eurovision Contest.

The revolutions of the Arab Spring have made the authorities nervous.
"The situation is much worse than it was three or five years ago," says Leila Yunus, President of the Institute for Peace and Democracy. "We are confronted with Soviet and mafia-like attitudes."
On April 8, thousands of protesters answered the call of the opposition and took to the streets in Baku.


http://worldcrunch.com/eurovision-song-contest-not-so-fun-if-you-are-azerbaijani/5066

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