The Azerbaijani authorities detained several members of a rapper’s family after a video, in which he sharply criticized the government, went viral.
The song, called Heykel Baba, or Monument Grandpa in Azeri, was released on December 31, the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis. It is devoted to Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, two young activists now serving 10-year prison terms after spray painting “Fuck the System!” on a monument to the late president, Heydar Aliyev.
“They are in jail for nonsense, a fact that most people see but can’t express in Azerbaijan out of fear,” the rapper, 29-year-old Jamal Ali, told EurasiaNet from his home in Berlin. “As a musician, I wanted to give voice to the existing silence via my raps.”
The video became an instant hit, quickly amassing over 100,000 views on YouTube (viral by Azeri-language standards). “Jamal Ali is a role model for people like me and I hope he never changes what he does,” Aydan Mammadova, a 24-year-old fan in Baku, told EurasiaNet.org. “There are so many people here who try to limit what you do – not inspire, like he does.”
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Lamiya Adilgizi is a freelance Azerbaijani reporter.