The Eurovision Song Contest is the most-watched non-sporting competition in the world. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Azerbaijan's government sees Saturday's gala as a ticket of admission to the community of nations. Nor that President Ilham Aliyev has spent around $134m on a spanking new venue to host the event.
But behind the preposterous glitz stands an oppressive, oil-rich regime where a corrupt ruling elite enjoys fabulous wealth and those who dare to protest are routinely arrested and beaten.
The statistics are grim. Amnesty International records at least 12 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijani jails and the country comes near the bottom of the press-freedom index. And nothing has changed in the run-up to Eurovision. Just this week, more people were held during a pro-democracy protest. It will take more than a song competition to distract attention from the manifest inhumanity of the Azerbaijani regime.Reuse content