Human rights groups around the world are putting pressure on the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest to pressurise Azerbaijan, this year's host country, over its harsh treatment of political dissenters and ordinary citizens who are being evicted from their homes in Baku as the city gets an oil wealth funded pre Eurovision song contest makeover. Azeri authorities are imprisoning opposition figures and beating up journalists and they are now attacking (with only weeks until the competition) local musicians who have spoken out against the repressive Azeri president have become the latest target for repression and harassment. Last years parliamentary elections (held on 7th November) were described by the OSCE as “peaceful” but “not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country.”
Despite the oil wealth, Azerbaijan is a deeply troubled country, with a troubled past. The flawed election took place against a backdrop of skirmishes along Azerbaijan and Armenia's ceasefire line and an increase in the defence budgets. Little or no progress has been made in the negotiations to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group). The country has around 600,000 people internally displaced by the war, who continue to suffer discriminatory registration requirements and inadequate housing. What price are the people of Baku playing for the Eurovision contest?