Sources

The Eurovision Song Contest: Not So Fun If You Are Azerbaijani

Repression, evictions, demolition: three words you don't normally associate with the Eurovision Song Contest. Azerbaijan has bulldozed its capital's center to make way for the glitzy palace that will house the contest, evicting people an

Ell & Nikki, the pop duo that won the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 for Azerbaijan (Vugar?badov)
Ell & Nikki, the pop duo that won the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 for Azerbaijan (Vugar?badov)

BAKU - Everyone knows the Eurovision Song Contest: improbable artists and cheesy folklore. But in 2012, the musical competition, watched by an average 125 million people, will also have an unprecedented political dimension. All because of Ell & Nikki: By winning Eurovision in May 2011, the Azerbaijani pop duo provided the capital Baku with the opportunity to organize the 2012 edition.

On May 26, the spotlight will be on Azerbaijan, giving the country a chance to show how modern it has become. Among other things, a magnificent crystal palace that will welcome the contestants and 25,000 spectators was built in record time in the heart of the capital.

But behind the glitz lies a darker reality. Azerbaijan is ruled with an iron fist by President Ilham Aliyev, who took over after his father Heydar's death in October 2003. Since then, hopes of liberalization have been dashed. Human rights organizations want to make the most of Eurovision to attract international attention to the degradation of individual liberties in the country.

In recent months, Amnesty International has taken numerous initiatives to bring attention to the situation –although it did not ask for a boycott of the Eurovision Contest. Armenia is the only country that called for such a measure, notably because of clashes with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The revolutions of the Arab Spring have made the authorities nervous –in Azerbaijan but also in neighboring countries. "The situation is much worse than it was three or five years ago," says Leila Yunus, President of the Institute for Peace and Democracy. "We are confronted with Soviet and mafia-like attitudes." On April 8, thousands of protesters answered the call of the opposition and took to the streets in Baku.

The most sensitive issue concerns housing. In order to carry out Baku's extravagant facelift, national and municipal authorities have neglected the rights of small owners.

Leila Yunus was one of the first to report such abuse, back in July 2011. She paid a heavy price for blowing the whistle: In August 10, her apartment was demolished without notice. "The demolition program began in 2009, but is accelerating as Eurovision approaches," she says. "For people who live in the city center, this contest is a tragedy, which will yield nearly 60,000 victims."

Read more from Le Monde in French. Original story by Piotr Smollar.

Photo – Vugarİbadov

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Society

Germany's Legendary Clubbing Culture Crashes Museum Space

The exhibition “Electro” in Düsseldorf is an unlikely tribute to a joyful and uninhibited club culture, with curators forced to contend with limits of a museum setting ... and another COVID lockdown.

A woman with a "Techno" tattoo in front of the famous Berghain

Boris Pofalla

DÜSSELDORF — The last party at the Berghain nightclub in Berlin lasted from Saturday evening until Monday morning. On the first weekend of December, some clubbers lined up for nine hours outside the former power plant – and still didn’t make it past the doormen. A friend said that dancing in the most famous techno club in the world on its last evening was like landing a spot in the last lifeboat to leave the sinking Titanic on 14 April 1912.

It is surely a coincidence that the first comprehensive exhibition charting the 100-year history of electronic music in Germany opened in the same week that nightclubs across the country were forced to close. It wasn’t planned that way, but it’s like opening an exhibition about the cultural history of alcohol the day after the introduction of prohibition.

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