Baku-based rights group the Human Rights Club is marking International Human Rights Day by launching an innovative new campaign called
“Art for Democracy is a unique initiative in Azerbaijan,” said Human Rights Club Chairman and Art for Democracy Coordinator Rasul Jafarov. “We hope that this new, creative approach will be effective in engaging new actors – such as artists and youth – in discussing and promoting human rights in Azerbaijan”.
The Art for Democracy campaign seeks to expand upon the concept of the previous
The Eurovision 2012 winner, Swedish pop star Loreen, took note of the issues highlighted by Sing for Democracy,
Post-Eurovision, as the authorities continue to
The campaign will particularly aim to improve the environment for artistic freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, including by providing direct support to artists who are marginalised because of the politically sensitive nature of their work. This will include cases of artists who are subjected to human rights violations, such as exiled Azerbaijani musicians Jamal Ali and Azer Cirttan.
Rocker/rapper Ali was forced to flee Azerbaijan after he was detained for 10 days and
Cirttan chose to leave Azerbaijan with his wife, an opposition activist, and their young daughter due to concerns for their safety. In an
But the authorities’ actions to limit freedom of artistic expression did not start or end with the Eurovision Song Contest. As examined in a November 2011
As Cirttan explained in his interview with Free Muse, musicians of non-traditional genres, such as rock, have “handicaps” in Azerbaijani society – even if their music is not political. He pointed both to overt forms of censorship by the authorities – such as not giving radio airtime to certain artists and putting pressure on or closing down venues that host the “wrong” concerts – as well as to self-censorship as the result of systemic forms of pressure, as contributing to the poor climate for artistic freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.
In the absence of other options, marginalised artists such as Ali and Cirttan are increasingly reliant upon the Internet as a means of disseminating their work – and so the fates of freedom of artistic expression and Internet freedom in the country are intertwined. While the Internet can currently be considered as
In addition to addressing the broader human rights and freedom of expression issues which hamper the ability of artists to express themselves freely, the Art for Democracy campaign aims to fill a gap which has been to date overlooked. “There are artists who want to contribute to the process of democratisation in Azerbaijan, but don’t know how”, noted Jafarov. “Art for Democracy will give them a platform to come together and use their talents to impact positive change. This is one of many reasons why Art for Democracy is so needed right now”, he concluded.
In addition to being a freelance human rights consultant and a Foreign Policy Centre Research Associate, Rebecca is the Advocacy Director for the Art for Democracy campaign.