Saturday, August 27, 2016


Azerbaijani Authorities Interrogate Music Fan Over Eurovision Vote For Armenia

The offending song: Inga and Anush perform "Jan-Jan."

BAKU (RFE/RL) -- It's a simple song competition. Or is it?

The Eurovision Song Contest has long promoted itself as an event where national audiences in Europe and beyond can put politics aside and enjoy a long night of entertainment performed in the spirit of friendly competition, if not necessarily musical mastery.

But as Eurovision's reach has traveled further east, old political rivalries are muddying the contest's claim on good clean fun.

Rovshan Nasirli, a young Eurovision fan living in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, says he was summoned this week to the country's National Security Ministry -- to explain why he had voted for Armenia during this year's competition in May.

"They wanted an explanation for why I voted for Armenia. They said it was a matter of national security,” Nasirli said. “They were trying to put psychological pressure on me, saying things like, 'You have no sense of ethnic pride. How come you voted for Armenia?' They made me write out an explanation, and then they let me go."

A total of 43 Azeris voted for the Armenian duo Inga and Anush, and their song, "Jan-Jan."

Nasirli, like others, used his mobile phone to send a text message expressing his preference, little imagining his vote would eventually result in a summons from national security officials. (By contrast, 1,065 Armenians voted for the Azerbaijani team, apparently without consequence.)

Simmering Tensions

Azerbaijan and Armenia remain locked in a protracted dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic-Armenian enclave located within Azerbaijani territory. Relations between the two countries are poor, even as they appear to be nearing a breakthrough on Karabakh.

The official antipathy can frequently trickle down to personal bias among ordinary Armenians and Azeris. But not always.

In the case of Eurovision, Nasirli said he preferred the Armenian entry because it sounded "more Azeri" than his country's own submission, a duet featuring Arash, a pop superstar born in Iran and based in Sweden:

"I voted for Armenia to protest the fact that Arash was representing Azerbaijan. Also, the Armenian song was closer to Azerbaijani style than Arash's song,” Nasirli said.

Azerbaijan's Eurovision entry was a duo of Azeri singer AySel and Iranian-Swedish pop star Arash.

Some Azeris cried foul when Arash was chosen to partner with a relatively young and unknown Azerbaijani singer, AySel, for the country's Eurovision entry with the song "Always."

But others saw the decision as a shrewd move that would lend star power and an international name to the Azerbaijani submission.

In the end, the gamble appeared to pay off. Azerbaijan came in third place, its highest Eurovision showing ever. Armenia's Inga and Anush came in tenth.

Many Azerbaijanis celebrated the results as a victory over Yerevan. The third-place finish, however, was apparently not enough to satisfy Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry, which summoned Nasirli to its Nasimi district office on August 12.

Nasirli, who was contacted by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service after posting a comment about his experience on the station's website, said he saw nothing wrong in his vote for Armenia.

"If Azerbaijani parliament members can go to Armenia, then what's wrong with voting for the Armenian song in the contest?” he asked. “I told them, 'If you don't want people to vote for Armenia, then why are you in the same contest with them?'"

'Police State'

Ministry officials were not available for comment on Nasirli's experience. But the case has set off alarm bells in Azerbaijan's rights community.

Activist Avaz Hasanov called the move "unbelievable" and warned that Azerbaijan, which has already seen a steady clampdown on civil rights under President Ilham Aliyev, was moving toward a police state.

"There are no state secrets involved here. It was an open contest. It's just people expressing their personal taste,” Hasanov said. “It's unbelievable that they are trying to keep that kind of control over people. Limiting people's choices in such an obvious manner won't do any good for the country. If all SMS and phone conversations are being screened, then this country is nothing more than a police state, with people being watched all the time."

Some see the ministry's scrutiny of the Eurovision vote as a bizarre extension of the government's preoccupation with gaining the upper hand in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Baku argues that the enclave represents a violation of its territorial integrity and that the region must eventually come under Azerbaijani control.

Shades of the 21-year-old dispute could be detected in the Eurovision contest itself. The Armenian team sparked a storm of controversy when the original video backdrop for their performance featured an image of a memorial in Nagorno-Karabakh that is deeply meaningful for Karabakh Armenians.

Russia, the 2009 Eurovision host, requested the offending image be removed. But Armenia stoked the dispute further when its 2008 contestant, Sirusho, appeared during this year's contest holding a photograph of the same monument.

Elmir Mirzoyev, a commentator on Azeri cultural issues, says some issues related to Nagorno-Karabakh undoubtedly fall within the purview of the National Security Ministry. Stoking ethnic hostilities, however, should not be one of them, he said.

"I have to know what the ultimate goal for our state is -- to restore territorial integrity, or to refuse to accept Armenians as an ethnicity? Security services are serious organizations. What is their function? To spread ethnic hatred against Armenians, or to restore our territory?” he asked.

Mirzoyev continued: “Our government has never declared that Armenians can't live in our country, or that those voting for Armenia should be summoned to the National Security Ministry."

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service contributed to this report.
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 6
by: Inga Anush from: Armenia
August 14, 2009 17:04
Eurovision 2009 - Azerbaijan steals song from Armenia<br /><br />The Azerbaijani Eurovision entrants successfully borrowed the dress of Sirusho and the music of Armenia this year at Eurovision. <br /><br />Thank you for bringing the wonderful Cascada's melody &quot;MEGIN EM SIREL&quot; from the year 2001 to third place in Eurovision !<br /><br />**************************************** <br />Son of Minister of Azerbaijan stalks Hadise while she was in Baku for her concert :<br /><br />Hadise (turkish Eurovision 2009 participant) who gave a concert in Baku on july 10th lived through a big scandal before her concert even started.<br />The son of a Minister in Azerbaijan sent Hadise an imoral message to the well known hotel she was staying at in Baku : &quot;You didnt come here to give a concert , but to go to dinner with me tete-a-tete . I am waiting for you&quot; .<br />This made Hadise go nuts and she locked herself up in her own hotelroom (bride-kidnapping still excists nowadays in Azerbaijan , forced marriage after kidnapping and raping) .The ministers son kept stalking Hadise with similar messages , and she had to call the turkish consulate for security and help .By the time she had to give her concert she was very insecure and in a very bad mood .<br />

by: Inga Anush from: Armenia
August 14, 2009 17:05
Eurovision 2009 - Azerbaijan steals song from Armenia<br /><br />

by: Gregg from: Washington DC
August 14, 2009 17:25
Bizarre indeed. Are the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh realistically expected to live in that kind of environment? Seems they might rather prefer North Korea or Burma than any return to Azerbaijan.

by: til from: derrow
August 14, 2009 18:19
I am more than convinced that the number of voters was more than 43 ...

by: Vugar from: Berlin
August 14, 2009 19:18
&quot;Enclave&quot; is the wrong word. Why are you using this term? Check its definition before using it!!! Enclave means territory of ANOTHER country. The right word would be &quot;province&quot; - a largely Armenian populated province within Azerbaijan.

by: J from: US
August 14, 2009 19:51
Ah, a real hero!

by: John Harduny from: Reston, VA
August 14, 2009 20:11
The article confirmed what is becoming common knowledge anyway: Azerbaijan is an especially nasty case of a Muslim petro-dictatorship. In addition to corruption, distorted economic relations, suppression of freedom, censorship of the Internet, and ubiquitous police brutality, Azerbaijan is becoming an icon for its bizarre display of nationalist madness. The Eurovision contest is a key example of this troglodyte-era hate.

by: Leon
August 14, 2009 20:52
This type of Azeri fascism is nothing new. I can't even begin to imagine what would happen if Azerbaijan actually succeeded in re-occupying Nagorno Karabakh, the de-facto independent Armenian populated region that was put under Soviet Azerbaijan's control by Stalin. This type of Azerbaijani racism and hatred toward Armenians is exactly why the the indigenous Armenian population of Karabakh had no choice but to break free from the oppressive regime in Baku.

by: Phantom from: CA
August 15, 2009 01:05
This article leaves no question that Azeris cannot be trusted to rule over even a single Armenian. To be an Armenian in Azerbaijan means to live in constant peril.

by: AZAD from: Baku
August 15, 2009 01:50
This article is not for peace loving people of Armenia or Azerbaijan.<br /><br />This article is to show that why MINSK negotiators did not achieve anything from negotiating and more, it seems they don’t know the real issues of the conflict and they are living in a fantasy land by saying that the conflict is close to be resolved. <br />Any body can tell these comments to MINSK negotiators.<br />
Comments page of 6

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