Rihanna and Shakira Should Think Twice before Performing in Azerbaijan Because of Human Rights Abuses in the Country

Press Release
October 5, 2012

Rihanna and Shakira Should Think Twice before Performing in Azerbaijan Because of Human Rights Abuses in the Country

Joint Letter Details Country’s Human Rights Violations

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(New York) -- Top-selling artists Rihanna and Shakira should bear in mind the human rights abuses being inflicted on the people of Azerbaijan before they perform in the country’s capital later this month, Amnesty International and Sing for Democracy warned in a letter addressed to the singers before their concerts. The two singers are appearing in Baku during the current FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012.

In a joint letter, the two organizations draw attention to the current state of human rights and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. Stadiums may cheer for internationally renowned recording artists like Rihanna and Shakira, but citizens within the European country do not enjoy such freedom of expression and are often persecuted when attempting to speak out.

As the letter informs these artists, the 2005 murder of reporter Elmar Huseynov still remains unsolved. Today, many Azerbaijani journalists, bloggers and political activists have been arrested and persecuted multiple times.

The letter – signed by John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program director, and Sing for Democracy coordinator Rasul Jafaro - highlights the ban on anti-government protests in the center of Baku.

“Both singers should be aware of the situation in the country post-Eurovision,” the letter states. “This includes the spurious criminal case against photo-journalist Mehman Huseynov on trumped up hooliganism charges.”

Huseynov had actively been involved in human rights campaign conducted ahead of the Eurovision 2012 Song Contest. If convicted, he faces five years in jail.

In a separate case, a singer arrested at a peaceful protest by young people on March 2012, had to leave the country because of ongoing harassment.

“Amnesty International believes that the Azerbaijani government should afford all artists, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens the right to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal. We hope that you share our belief,” concludes the letter.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.