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From: The Socialist issue 719, 23 May 2012: Action now to save the NHS!

Search site for keywords: Azerbaijan - BBC

Eurovision hosts are top of the charts for repression

Clare Doyle, Committee for a Workers' International

BBC's Panorama investigation - 'Eurovision's Dirty Secret' - looked at the 2012 host country Azerbaijan. It revealed the depths to which its ruling regime, based on massive oil wealth, will go in trying to crush any resistance and opposition to its dictatorial power. It should get 'nil points' for its human rights record!

Since a coup in 1992 the country has been run by the Aliyev family - first Heydar, followed by his son Ilham who, in 2009, won the presidency for life with a 90% referendum vote!

Ilham's daughters own multi-million dollar business dealing in things like telephone networks and gold-mining. Through a Panama-registered company his 15 year-old son has a major interest in a luxury hotel in Baku and a $40 million stake in in the prestigious 'Dubai Palm'.

Millions of dollars were spent on the hasty construction of a 'Crystal Hall' on the banks of the Caspian Sea for the Eurovision Song Contest final which has more viewers than any other non-sporting event in the world.

As undercover journalist, Paul Kenyon, showed, the slightest criticism of the regime can be punishable by years in prison. Journalists are followed, beaten up, imprisoned and sometimes killed. There are at least 70 political prisoners, although the regime denies there are any.

The 'parliament' has not one opposition MP. The Azerbaijan Popular Front party had its headquarters closed by the state. Its leader, Ali Karimli, is under 24-hour surveillance and its members are constantly harassed and persecuted.

Protests are brutally attacked. Homes are bulldozed while people still live in them to make way for prestige building projects like those for the Eurovision festivities.

The programme challenged past and present Eurovision organisers and participants - including Sandie Shaw and Engelbert Humperdinck - about the competition's host country. They appeared to believe it had nothing to do with them!

The singer for Azerbaijan's entry is Aliyev's son-in-law. His wife - an MP with a claimed 94% vote - chairs the country's Eurovision committee!

Armenia, Azerbaijan's 'long-time enemy', will not be participating in the contest this year. In 2009, Azerbaijani TV suddenly went blank during the Armenian team's entry! Kenyon interviewed an Azerbaijani who, after voting for Armenia, was taken in for interrogation.

A popular singer, Jamal, was imprisoned and tortured for insulting Aliyev. Now he has been ordered to get out of the country before the contest begins.

In its own words, the BBC's Panorama has "pulled back the curtain" on the Aliyev dictatorship. On 28 May, Panorama turns its attention to the anti-Semitism, racism and attacks on foreigners in Poland and Ukraine, hosts to the Euro 2012 football tournament.

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