Eurovision is nearing and the excitement is mounting. And host nation Azerbaijan has clearly got swept up by it all.
The barriers are down. Gone is any pretence. Azerbaijan is sticking to its guns. If you thought that the flood of international media would lead to more freedom of assembly, association or expression in the Eastern European state then you would be sadly mistaken.
Yes, just in the last few days opposition activist Jabbar Savalan has been conscripted into military service. It is a move that should never be allowed to happen. Not only is he a history student – undergraduates are exempt from conscription – but he is also deaf in one year and would have failed the medical examination. Amnesty believes he is being targeted purely because of his peaceful activism.
Meanwhile, reports over Twitter have indicated a new clampdown has begun with up to 20 people being arrested. Watch #azerbaijan and @geysar and @huseynovaturkan.
All this follows on from the horrific case of Khadija Ismailova, Azerbaijan’s most distinguished investigative journalist. Her flat was secretly bugged and she was told a video of her having sex with her boyfriend would be made public if she continued to investigate corruption by the president. She refused and the video was released a week later.
Rapper Jamal Ali is another victim of the clampdown. According to an excellent piece in Live magazine yesterday, the young rapper was beaten and jailed for ten days after he performed at an opposition rally.
So when you tune in to watch Euro-pop’s annual showcase on Saturday 26 May spare a thought for the hundreds of people whose freedom is not so secure as your own.
The one hope perhaps is that the entry from Engelbert Humperdinck, representing Royanne Uni, might inspire them to change. The title of the song? Love Will Set You Free.
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