Sport for Rights wrote letters to Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias, and Chris Brown regarding their up-coming performances in Baku in connection to the grand prix urging them to take a stand for human rights and to “cancel your Baku performance, and to speak out publicly, condemning the human rights crackdown in Azerbaijan, and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners.”.
“Azerbaijan continues to be honoured with hosting international events, now the Formula One European Grand Prix, after the Eurovision, the European Games. It uses these events to distract the international community away from its poor human rights record and continued violations of fundamental freedoms.”, says Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy, HRHN.
In the letters, Sports for Rights detail the cases of; Khadija Ismayl, inprisoned for uncovering high-level corruption through her work as an investigative journalist; Seymur Hezi, jailed following years of pressure against him, including abduction and torture; opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov, who has been in prison for over three years and has reportedly been repeatedly tortured; and youth activist Ilkin Rustemzade who has been in prison for over three years, and was initially arrested in connection with a “Harlem Shake” video filmed in Baku.
Despite recent conditional releases of 16 political prisoners including Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli and Intigam Aliyev, Baku still holds many more in prison for trumped-up charges, the reality being that they have been jailed for defending human rights.
Similarly, in 2015, the European Games were held in Baku amidst a grim climate for human rights. The Azerbaijani authorities, used the event as a platform to project an image of the country that did not reflect reality, and contradictory voices were silenced. Sport for Rights arranged protests across Europe to mark the opening ceremony of the games with action taking place in Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Istanbul, Kiev, London, Oslo, Prague, San Foca (Italy), Tbilisi, Warsaw, and Zagreb, as well as in Belarus and Russia online.