By Elmar Chakhtakhtinski
The title of the Reuters article "Azerbaijan rights row drowns out Eurovision Song Contest", summarizes worldwide media coverage of Eurovision 2012. Indeed, the issue of human rights have overshadowed the contest itself in some ways. Every day, for the past couple of weeks, we saw an article after article, a documentary after documentary, a statement after statement exposing and condemning repression, injustice and corruption in Azerbaijan.
But it all came a full circle when the only contestant who openly defended rights and freedoms of Azerbaijani people, speaking out on TV interviews and attending meetings with local civil rights activists, became the contest's winner. After her resounding victory, when asked about her winning composition "Euphoria", she said that its meaning was "Freedom".
Beautiful Loreen, representing Sweden, deserved to win because of her excellent performance. That was, first of all, her personal victory, and that of her country, Sweden, as well as her many fans. And her victory was even more significant because of the principled stance she took.
The other winners in this year's Eurovision were the brave Azerbaijanis who took to the streets of central Baku, facing the police and thugs of Aliyev regime. Despite all the physical brutality and arrests, they managed to send a message to the world that their country is not only about fancy buildings, oil, caviar and one family that owns all that. But it is also about the struggle of courageous and selfless people, insisting that they deserve much more than a mafia dynasty currently ruling over them. It is these protesters and the Azerbaijani journalists, reporters, rights defenders and civil activists who fight for the future of their nation day in and day out, risking their own lives and personal freedoms.
Those around the world who support them in this struggle - from international rights groups and media representatives that have put the spotlight on Azerbaijani people's plight, to people like an American singer Sara Hickman who refused to accept a regime sponsored trip to Azerbaijan in protest to human rights violations there - they all too have a reason to celebrate.
It was a very small victory, of course, as the road to freedom in Azerbaijan will be hard and long. Nevertheless, it matters.
Ilham Aliyev might have not known what he got himself into, ordering hundreds of millions of public funds, which he is used to treat as his own, to pay for Eurovision. He and the regime he leads were the main losers, whether they realize it or not.
Eurovision is over, but the Azerbaijani people and the Aliyev regime that deceives, oppresses and robs them are there to remain, locked in a struggle over the future of their country. And it is the same old question: Whose side are you on?
|Loreen holding a T-shirt with a famous Donkey-blogger image. The message on the T-shirt: "Don't be a Donkey - Support Human Rights in Azerbaijan"