Giorgi Gogia: We should be able to enjoy the songs without complicity in ruthless forced evictions

It is disappointing that the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the contest, did not take a stand

Share
Related Topics

As I approached National Flag Square in Baku, the entryway to the glittering Baku Crystal Hall where the Eurovision Song Contest is being staged tonight, I remembered Arzu, a single mother forced to flee her apartment here with her two young children when bulldozers arrived without warning at 5am one day last October to destroy her building, burying many of their belongings in the process.

I remembered Viktor, a retired military officer who remained with his wife in their apartment of 20 years until it became utterly unbearable to stay, after workers started dismantling the building with them inside. And dear Natalia, 79, who spent a substantial part of her pension and countless days trying in vain to convince the authorities to compensate her at market rates for her modest apartment.

As hundreds of millions of viewers tune in to watch their favourite performers at the contest, what they won't see are the ruthless evictions and demolition of houses that took place to transform a quiet and modest neighbourhood.

I have been to Baku several times since Azerbaijan won the song contest last May.

On each of those trips I interviewed people from the several hundred families who were about to be or who had been evicted from the neighbourhood next to the Baku Crystal Hall.

This time I'd been deliberately avoiding the square, as I imagined it would be hard to see what used to be a lively neighbourhood transformed into a lifeless area with a major highway running through it.

Governments may in certain circumstances lawfully expropriate private property. But forced evictions of the kind that took place in Baku – without fair process, protections or adequate compensation – violate a host of binding human rights standards and are always illegal under international law.

Looking out at National Flag Square this week, I also felt disappointment in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which oversees the annual contest.

Human Rights Watch has been urging the EBU to take a stand against the forced evictions and urge a fair resolution of claims. Instead, it accepted the Azerbaijani government's argument that the evictions and demolitions in the neighbourhood were not related to the construction of the Baku Crystal Hall. Certainly, the new highway might have been planned before Eurovision. But many of the evictions took place just after Azerbaijan won the right to host the contest.

I don't know if Arzu, Viktor, or Natalia will be watching tonight. But if they are, the least they should have is the hope that they can be in some way compensated for what they've lost. The EBU and Azerbaijan's other international partners, like the EU, should also speak up. The joy of this year's Eurovision shouldn't have to come at their expense.

The writer is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star