20 May 2012 11:00
The 2012 Eurovision Song Contest was held in Azerbaijan. Often called the land of fire, it put on a massive and spectacular show, however the festivities were tainted by the country's poor human rights record and its harsh crackdown on peaceful protesters.
The country’s opposition used the opportunity to draw attention to the state's undemocratic practices, despite the government’s attempts to present itself otherwise.
Peaceful protesters were arrested for participating in a rally on the lavish boulevard along Baku’s harbor front. Secret police walk among protesters and singled out those chanting slogans. Many were taken away in police cars or piled into buses and taken to a police station.
The protest was organized by critics of the current regime, and was held to capture the attention of foreign media. According to Amnesty International, protesters are often arrested, registered and jailed indefinitely. Organizing a protest is punishable by imprisonment, and the regime often charges citizens with hooliganism, or forcibly drafts them into the military if they suspected of activism. There are also reports of alleged torture of incarcerated people, and targeting of independent journalists.