Art for Democracy in Azerbaijan

Sing for Democracy, a human rights campaign launched by several Azerbaijani civil society activists in advance of their country playing host to glitzy Eurovision Song Competition earlier this year, is embarking on something new.

In September 2012 the campaign paid special attention to the performances of three famous superstars, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Shakira, who came to Azerbaijan to perform at the FIFA U-17 Women’s Football World Cup. Inspired by popular international support against the detention of members from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, the campaign encouraged the singers to speak up in protest against human rights violations in Azerbaijan. Together with other international NGOs, the Sing for Democracy campaign sent a letter to Rihanna and Shakira to inform the singers about the state of human rights in Azerbaijan. In particular, Sing for Democracy drew their attention to the still unsolved murder of journalist Elmar Huseynov in 2005 as well as the numerous arrests and harassment of journalists, bloggers and political activists, and restrictions on citizens' exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, as adopted in 2006.

Motivated by the successful outcome of the Sing for Democracy campaign during the Eurovision, which saw international attention brought to bear on Azerbaijan’s oppressive regime, the organizers decided to build on the momentum and convert the current campaign into Art for Democracy. The initiators of the new campaign are in contact with many musicians, artists, cartoonists and other creative persons living in Azerbaijan, or those who fled abroad under pressure, who will join this new campaign.

From October 25 to 26 2012 the coordinator for Art for Democracy will participate in the World Conference on Artistic Freedom of Expression in Oslo, which will help the campaign to establish itself and widen its global ties. By building global relations, the campaign members hope to develop new ideas and improve and advance the campaign. The Eurovision Song Contest may be over, but human rights violations are still widespread in Azerbaijan. Art for Democracy seeks to seize the opportunity to attract local and international attention to human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. As activists, we are embarking on a new initiative that can be part of people's everyday life and we encourage others to get involved in the Art for Democracy campaign. Those interested can join the Art for Democracy page on Facebook. Art can play a prominent role in promoting democracy, protecting human rights and freedoms, and strengthening civil society and civic activism. Let's prove it together!


Written by Rasul Jafarov, Art for Democracy campaign coordinator