Can Azerbaijan Be a Good Host for Gay Eurovision Fans?
Azerbaijan next year will face an invasion of raging fans -- many gays among them -- of Eurovision, an annual celebration of pop, glitz and camp. But how polite will conservative Azerbaijan's welcoming smile actually be for its gay visitors?
Ever since Azerbaijan won the right to host the 2012 Eurovision , questions have been raised about whether it has what it takes to host Europe’s most celebrated music contest. Question areas range from human rights to hotels. Some news stories, including this BBC report, have focused on the gay dimension of the festival, something that many Azerbaijanis may find hard to digest.
As in the rest of the South Caucasus, homosexuality is a big cultural taboo in Azerbaijan. By contrast, the Eurovision contest is so popular among gay music fans that one observer even described it as “a gay world cup.”
With preparations in full throttle, visitors may be surprised to see what oil money can do in terms of upgrading concert and hospitality facilities. But the mentality is unlikely to change overnight, some fear.
On paper, Azerbaijan’s law has protected sexual minorities since 2001, but a man featured in the BBC story describes the gloomy reality of discriminatory attitudes, especially in rural areas. Others argue that the concerns are exaggerated; homosexuality, they say, may not be encouraged, but still is accepted in Baku.
For their part, Azerbaijani officials dismiss the concerns and say they look forward to see gay Europe come visit.