Azerbaijan's nul points

Tomorrow it’s time to curl up, get that mug of coco, and sit back and take it all in as Europe puts on its glad rags, kicks back its heels and basks in the greatest festival of Europop. Yes, it’s Eurovision time.

I’ve got to own up and admit I’m already in the zone when it comes to this year’s contest. And I’m not the only one, our campaigner Max Tucker has also been overwhelmed by the festivities.

But, apologies to all you Eurovision fans out there, our focus is not on whether Jedward can still win without the quiffs, or even whether two Russian ladies can beat off the teeny idols of Italy, or indeed whether Spain’s determination not to win is some elaborate double bluff, we’re in the human rights zone. And Azerbaijan is not a bed of roses. This is country where human rights are severely restricted.

Speak out and you risk the wrath of the authorities. Youth activist and history student Jabbar Savalan has been recently called into the army, despite laws banning students from being conscripted  – a move Amnesty believes is purely to silence him.

Protests are being attacked on an almost routine basis. And if you are brave enough to be critical in the media, then be prepared to have your home tapped and wired as Radio Free Europe journalist Khadija Ismayilova did earlier this year.

It’s been enough to fill pages in The Scotsman, The Express, The Financial Times and The Independent. Max has also been on Panorama, ITN, Channel 4, local and national radio.

So when you tune in and listen to Engelbert Humperdink belting out Love Will Set You Free on behalf of Royanne Uni, spare a thought for those Azerbaijanis who aren’t free and hope that the spotlight on the human rights abuses there won’t disappear once the Eurovision train leaves town.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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