Armenia’s Absence: Eurovision 2012

By: | Posted on: 11.07.2012

Eurovision has been a very popular song contest that has been entertaining millions of viewers since 1956. It is mostly European countries who participate, but is not exclusive solely to Europe- countries from other continents may also participate. Armenia started participating in Eurovision in 2006. I remember being young and watching Armenia make its debut with Andre singing his hit song “Without your love”. I felt such a sense of pride knowing that my country was participating in such a big event. Year after year I looked forward to the competition, to hear new songs and watch all the good performances.Azerbaijan won the competition last year, and by default, hosted the competition the following year. The song competition had now turned into a political battle and decisions had to be made.

Earlier this year, in May, the president of Azerbaijan, released a statement that said, “Our main enemies are the Armenians of the world”. This statement was the final force that held Armenians back from participating in the Eurovision song contest. In reality, who in their right mind would enter into someone’s home in which they were not welcome? For the security of its citizens, Armenia made a choice not to participate this year. This sparked a lot of controversy and curiosity for the outside world, who was unfamiliar with the relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Since the early 1990s, Azerbaijan has been trying to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within its borders, and secure the return of ethnic Azeris into the region.  Although a cease-fire has been held since 1994, lately,Azerbaijan has failed to respect the rules. In June, three Armenian soldiers were killed during a border conflict. There is constant fear that war will soon break out over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

With the Armenians withdrawing from the contest, a lot of reporters and journalists dug deeper to find the truth behind this issue. Reporter Paul Kenyon from BBC News went to Azerbaijan under cover and developed a video documentary called “Eurovision’s Dirty Secret”. This documentary uncovered so many elements which were hidden from the naked eye. It revealed how Azerbaijan was using the Eurovision song contest as political propaganda. In the documentary, Paul Kenyon interviewed different residents who were victimized by the Azeri government, and how Eurovision was turning the lives of innocent people upside down.

The interview that stood out the most was a man who had been called in for an investigation because he had voted for Armenia in the Eurovision song contest the year before. He explains that as he was watching the show, the list of countries and their vote codes were being shown to the public, so that they could vote for their favourite. Apparently, every time Armenia was shown, the broadcast was cut off and the voting code was not shown. This was to ensure that nobody in the country voted for their “enemy” country,Armenia. To protest, this citizen searched for Armenia’s vote code online, and cast a vote for Armenia. But little did he know that the Azeri government was tracking those who were voting for Armenia, and calling them to the Ministry Of National Security. There, they were questioned and threatened to be humiliated on live television.

After the reporter discovered similar stories, he went straight to the European Broadcasting Union and interviewed Ingrid Deltenre, the director-general. They agreed that Azerbaijan was using the song contest for its own political propaganda. Although the head of Eurovision tried to prevent this from happening, it was just not possible to have everything in the right order.  To host Eurovision in one’s country is like hosting the Olympics. Azerbaijan was thrilled when they won last year because of the fact that they would get to host it the following year.

Since Azerbaijan was going to be the host of Provisioner, they needed to build an arena where the singers were going to perform. After building the arena, they violated the rights of their citizens by tearing down an old building which still had residents living in it, just so the area where the arena was built would look more modern. One witness describes it as follows: “A bulldozer started demolishing the other side of the building; we were scared and I ran out with my children.” The citizens have since been subsidized for their homes, but only with a small fraction of what they truly deserve for their property. Thus, many residents have become homeless because of this terrible ordeal.

Although Azerbaijan promised the safety and security of all its contestants, in the end, Armenia decided not to participate. Although this remains a controversial issue, I don’t think Azerbaijan was a suitable country to host the song competition in all together because of all its hidden corruption. It was such a disappointment that Armenia was unable to participate in the contest this year, and that I could not share in my country’s pride. Azerbaijan does not have security and safety for its own citizens so they shouldn’t promise the safety and security of everyone else. It’s no wonder that last year’s winning song by Azerbaijan titled “Running Scared” is a reality occurring in its own country.

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