LGBT Activist Peter Tatchell: Azerbaijan Has No Business Hosting “Campy” Eurovision Song Contest

It’s not just Iran that’s ticked off at Azerbaijan for hosting the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. Veteran gay-rights advocate Peter Tatchell says the country’s record on LGBT and human rights is too shoddy for it to be home to such a “glitz, camp and kitsch” affair as Eurovision.

Tatchell said in a statement to the press:

“Eurovision is renowned for its glitz, camp and kitsch. It has a huge gay following, yet Azerbaijan is often not a welcoming or safe country for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people… The reality is that Azerbaijan has a very poor human rights record on all fronts. It restricts religious and media freedom, suppresses peaceful protests, tortures political prisoners and jails journalists and opposition activists on trumped up charges. The Baku government’s human rights record has been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe.”

The Eurovision finals take place Saturday in the capital city of Baku, with millions worldwide watching the proceedings on television.

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  • Robert in NYC

    Azerbaijan is in Eurasia so that alone should disqualify it from hosting the event. Keep the Euro in Eurovision, keep it strictly Europe-orientaed. Those backward countries should host their own.

  • Astounded

    The view from Tatchell’s winged chariot as he flies over Azerbaijan must be amazing.

    A brief history lesson on Azerbaijan: The people in Azerbaijan have been exposed to many different extremes since they first tried to become a democratic country back in 1918. The country finally became free of the iron fist of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 but was at war with Armenia. As the war was ending, the democratically elected president was over thrown in a military insurrection. There have been a number of coup attempts since but the people are trying to create what they think a proper country should be, and doing that, in less than 21 years, is amazing. IMO, hosting the Eurovision contest in Baku is a step in the correct direction for the people of Azerbaijan.

    Azerbaijan is about as backward of a country, Robert, as Texas is, but with a lot more beautiful landscapes and no Texans. :P

  • Geri

    They won it last year so they have to host it this year. That’s the rules.

  • Belize

    “It restricts religious and media freedom, suppresses peaceful protests, tortures political prisoners and jails journalists and opposition activists on trumped up charges.”

    An equal opportunity offender. We have so little of that now. ;)

  • Nick Farben

    @Robert in NYC: Before you start calling it non-Europe because it’s in Eurasia, go look up the meaning of the word. Eurasia refers to the entire supercontinent which includes all of Europe as well. As such, the border between Europe and Asia is determined by diplomatic recognition. As such, Azerbaijan is part of Europa, even if it isn’t a member contry of the European Union. Many countries in Europe aren’t part of the EU including Switzerland & Norway. They are still Europe.

    I’ve been to Baku and it’s really very nice. The Caspian sea is amazing. Parts of the country is still very backward, and part of it is still separated from the whole by Armenia, which is still contesting their area of influence. Baku however, is far from all that. It may be naive, but that is how it is for many countries. I was in downtown Beirut, and it looked and felt like Paris. Meanwhile, somewhere else in Lebanon is still a hotbed of middle-eastern problems.

    It’s easy to forget that the USSR only dissolved about 20 years ago (1991 to be exact). Like so many of the ex iron curtain countries, Azerbaijan still has a got a ways to go, but two decades is hardly enough time to catch up to other developed democracies.

    Things like Eurovision do help lend it some legitimacy as an emerging democracy. And it’s why something like Eurovision even exists. Many criticised South Africa’s nomination as FIFA World Cup host, or China as the Olympic host, but both events have had an indelible positive effect on those countries.

    And who knows what Baku will be decades from now. As recently as 1990, Berlin was a devastated city in communist East Germany. Today, Berlin is a huge seat of power for the EU.

  • Rex

    Peter Tatchell is a professional complainer. If the Euro-vision event was held in a LGBT friendly country he’d find something to bitch about with that country.

  • MikeNYC

    Azerbaijan has an ancient and historic cultural heritage. Aside from having been the first Muslim-majority country to have operas, theater and plays, Azerbaijan today is among the Muslim-majority countries where support for secularism and tolerance is the highest.

  • DrewSF

    This is actually a good thing even if the idiot Tatchell wants to claim it isn’t.

  • jason

    The whole Eurovision contest is a collection of Auto-Tuned blowhards in shiny costumes. It’s embarrassing. I feel the same embarrassment watching untalented drag queens miming to crappy tunes.

    As for Tatchell, he’s not one for not stating the obvious. He ought to be applauded.

  • Hephaestion

    Peter Tatchell is a great man, and it’s good to be reminded of Azerbaijan’s LGBT record, but I do think it’s a great thing for Eurovision to take place there. It will be good for the gays there. Baby steps.

  • Geri

    @jason: Wot! They’re going to autotune Engelbert?

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