With Eurovision now a thing of the past, Azerbaijan’s Sing for Democracy civil rights activists are expressing concern about how to keep the country’s spotty civil-rights record in the international spotlight. As media attention moves on to other countries, they say, government crackdowns could resume against outspokenly critical human rights activists and journalists.
During May, campaigners for Sing for Democracy, a loosely organized group made up of some 35 non-governmental groups and individuals, held five public demonstrations in downtown Baku, which, given the city government’s usual refusal to allow such events in the Azerbaijani capital’s center, can be considered a record.
Senior presidential administration aide Ali Hasanov earlier had pledged that no post-Eurovision crackdowns against such activists would occur, but, in a June 1 interview with Obyektiv TV, he called for a campaign of “public hatred” against those who had taken aim at various government shortcomings while Azerbaijan was on center stage for the May 23-26 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku.
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Khadija Ismayilova and Ulviyya Asadzade are freelance reporters based in Baku.