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Azerbaijan: Eurovision scandal continues

Despite attempts by the authorities in Baku to downplay the incident, news that the names and addresses of 43 citizens who voted for the Armenian entry in this year's Eurovision Song Contest had been obtained by police in Azerbaijan continues to send out shock waves through the international media and the Internet.

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Of course, Eurovision has been no stranger to such controversies, with all three countries in the region letting politics and ethnic rivalries spill out into proceedings.

The competition had already got off to a bad start in February when Georgia entered an entry mocking the Russian prime minister, former President Putin, but then Armenia and Azerbaijan soon took the level of animosity to even greater heights with actions that bordered on the infantile. This might be reason enough for many to consider Eurovision as more absurd than it already is, but when the two countries remain in a state of war, even a simple and otherwise mundane song contest takes on a frightening new dimension.

However, many consider this latest development as more serious than those before it. Indeed, says FR33 Agents, it identifies the intolerance and racial prejudice many have accused the Azeri government of promoting against Armenians in the past.

When you’re talking about government, “strange” is a relative term. Still, voting for the wrong team in the Eurovision Song Contest hardly seems like a matter of national security. Azerbaijan’s National Security Ministry seems to disagree. Rovshan Nasirli, one of 43 Azeris to send a text message voting for Armenian duo Inga and Anush over the national team, was summoned last week to answer for his treasonous behavior.

[…]

The Azeri government is a little on edge about the Nagorno-Karabakh region. This disputed territory is within the imaginary lines of Azerbaijan, but most residents are ethnic Armenians. There seems to be a lot of hate flying between the two ethnic groups, and at least one of the governments appears ready to punish race traitors.

Eternal Remont also recognizes the same, but manages to see the funny side.

[…] it seems that liking Armenians in Azerbaijan is kind of being considered a crime. […]

[…]

Frightening and hilarious. However, before you judge the Azerbaijani authorities for overreacting, look at the Armenian Eurovision entry from this year. I got some questions for people who voted for this.

It Is What It Is agrees.

[…] Azerbaijan just does not get it. According to a news the police there had been questioning people who voted for Armenia. Get with it, Azerbaijan, caring about the Eurovision Song Contest is sad! Are you trying to be camp or something? If so, I think you're getting it wrong. The whole heavy thing – you're not quite getting it, like if Santa Claus dyed his beard pink in an attempt to be feminine. Just not as cute.

Regardless, the ramifications were clear.

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Reports that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will now be investigating the incident prompted Thattalkshop's Blog to consider whether Azerbaijan will be prevented from entering the competition in the future.

Despite the fact last November both the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders agreed to intensify their efforts to find a political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh region it seems the problem is far from sorted.

[…] what a conundrum?

Well it seems like the EBU will try to brush this under the carpet, would they not want to upset some countries in the region, allies of Azerbaijan such as Turkey, which indeed in previous years we have seen Azerbaijan broadcaster promoting people voting for Turkey.

Does this really amount to less than Lebanon law requiring non recognition of Israel not being able to compete in 2005, the EBU forcing them to withdraw. We will just have to wait and see […]

Ianyan, a U.S.-based Armenian blog, however, considers what this all means for peace between the two estranged neighbors, but ends on an optimistic note.

A total 1,065 Armenians voted for the Azerbaijani entry and Armenia gave Azerbaijan one point. A total of 43 Azerbaijanis voted for the Armenian entry.

Here’s to hoping this scandal is just a small blip on the radar that will be overshadowed by strong desires and efforts for mutual peace.

Writing for The Armenian Weekly, a U.S.-based newspaper incorporating blogging and commenting features for its online version, Andrew Turpin also hopes that something good can come out of the scandal.

The fact remains that as the world saw in Iran, “It rains on the just and unjust alike.” And there are good Azerbaijanis that need to be supported in their efforts if Azerbaijan is ever to make headway in its desperately needed civil society reforms.

So if you know a good Azerbaijani activist or student, send them a gift of support and solidarity, as they dwell like Daniel in a geopolitical lion’s den. And if you don’t, find one and forge a new friendship, if for no other reason than to counter the Azerbaijani rhetoric and deflate the sounding war drums.

For, if there’s not a single Azerbaijani we can call “jan, jan,” then we may win Eurovision 2009, but that’s as good as it gets.

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