Wednesday, April 13

Your first name is Free, Last name is Dom but not in a country where you will perform

I enjoy Pharrell William's music. It is on my running play list. His songs have a tendency to impact you and generally put you in a good mood. 

But now I am asking myself whether I should continue listening to him since he is scheduled to "perform" in Azerbaijan for the opening of the European Grand Prix on June 19. 

The announcement came today. The local online news outlet Report, said Pharrell will be taking stage together with other stars such as Chris Brown, and Enrique Iglesias. I don't really care about those two but Pharrell was certainly a disappointment. 

The concert is closed to public by the way and only holders of Formula 1 race tickets will be able to attend. 

Such a fall for Pharrell especially when you tune in into his "Freedom" song. 

"Your first name is Free,
Last name is Dom"
he sings, and all is left for me to add "but not in a country where you will perform".

Seeing these names appear on the line up for the opening is not surprising. My country and its leadership have a tendency to spend big money to get big starts come and perform. Last year, people watched Lady Gaga perform rendition of Imagine of which she left some parts out and was allegedly paid 2millionUSD for 10 minutes of stage time. Maybe it was her revenge for keeping her locked inside a hotel room for 3 days prior to her performance. 

Keeping people locked up is something the government of Azerbaijan is well accustomed to do. You all know the stories of activists, rights defenders, journalists who end up in jails of Azerbaijan. And trust me, they are not paid 2million$ for sure. 

I wonder now what Pharrell is charging for his performance in an authoritarian state and will he too stay locked up inside his hotel room?

p.s.: the list of stars goes on including Shakira and  Rihanna who performed at FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012. 

Thursday, March 24

Dear optimists and enthusiasts- Azerbaijan ain't improving!

If you think regime in Azerbaijan is softening on freedoms and rights issues with the amnesty of 14 political prisoners you are deeply deeply mistaken. 

First of all, it is simply the old school method of putting on a veil ahead of some international event. In the past, some described this practice in Azerbaijan as "revolving door policy". One goes out, another goes in. 14 go out, I am pretty sure, the regime will soon enough find replacements for them.

Aliyev is soon to arrive in DC for a nuclear summit, so he had to do something, the man is tired of criticism and scrutiny. So what a tired dictator does when he wants to get some of the heat off? Release some prisoners, change legislation or do something else.

All of rights watchdog community said immediately after the release that this was in no way a sign of good will. It was simply something the regime did ahead of the US visit. 

Second of all, Azerbaijan's record of complying with its responsibilities to international treaties ain't stellar. So it should come as no surprise that there is a draft bill at the parliament on executing international decisions on the protection of human rights and freedoms by Azerbaijan. If you are not sure what it means then think European Court of Human Rights. Then think about all of their decisions including the one about political prisoner Ilgar Mammadov, then insert this new draft and you will hopefully get the picture. 

Yes... Azerbaijan has no intention of improving. In fact, it is only getting worse. So to all those enthusiasts and optimists out there- spare yourselves from another disappointment and prepare for the worse.

Oh and in case you missed the news, two journalists were told they cannot leave the country last week because they had travel bans. For what and since when they have not been told. But who cares, this is Azerbaijan, where the regime does not need any explanations.