Azerbaijan Is Demolishing Veterans' Apartments to Build Venue for Eurovision 2012

Last year, singers from Azerbaijan won the 2011 Eurovision Singing Contest, meaning that their country would host the international competition this year in late May. To celebrate, authorities decided to forcibly evict some residents of Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku, destroy their apartments and build a performance venue in their place. In a February 17 report, Human Rights Watch questions whether illegal expropriation is the best course of action in preparing the capital for a celebratory, feel-good international contest:

"Hosting Eurovision means the Azerbaijani government can showcase Baku to thousands of visitors and millions of television viewers," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "However, the event is overshadowed by the illegal evictions, expropriations, and demolitions for hundreds of local residents forced out of their homes."

Indeed. There is a vast difference between the citizens' reality and the government's fantasy of hosting Eurovision 2012 in Baku, apparent from the videos below.

The government's version of the capital city, a glamorous convertible-topped hybrid of East and West, ancient and modern:

And the reality of Eurovision in Baku, courtesy of Human Rights Watch:

Some already doubt the country's qualification to host Eurovision based on its gay rights record. A group of Armenian pop singers are also considering boycotting the contest because of their home country's marred history with Azerbaijan.

Nevertheless, the Azerbaijani government has pressed on in the demolition while residents, many of them military service members and their families, are still living in the complex.

Notes the Human Rights Watch report:

The Gusseinov family had entered into the forced sale of their apartment, but the family remained because the sale had not been finalized. Meanwhile, the demolition of the roof and 9th floor caused a giant pipe to fall into Gusseinov’s apartment. Gusseinov, who had celebrated his daughter’s wedding on February 12 in the apartment, had to abandon many of his possessions because he did not have enough time to pack and move. ...

The authorities offered Gusseinov 300 manat (approximately US$380), to rent a temporary apartment.

The Azerbaijanis can't seem to get a break. Spiegel Online reports that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organizer for the Eurovision contest, denies any responsibility for the forced evictions:

EBU officials insist that they didn't ask anyone to build new venues or to raze old buildings. In fact, they say, they have only now approved Crystal Hall, on a site that was previously wasteland, as the venue for the event. Besides, they add, the city has shown them that the redevelopment plans that require tearing down existing structures were made before Azerbaijan won the contest last May, thereby securing the right to host this year's contest.

The company in charge of producing the contest is also washing its hands of uprooting the lives of Azerbaijani families just to put on on a pretty face for the international community:

Jörg Grabosch, the head of Brainpool, the German company that will produce the giant television show for the Azerbaijanis, has nothing but praise for the speed at which the arena is being built. "The loss of the buildings isn't a tragedy," he says, suggesting that the gray apartment towers didn't look pretty anyway.

Read more about governments stealing people's homes and rights abuses in Central Asia.

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  • ||

    For me, the two takeaways form this story:

    1. I'm not too proud to admit I've never heard of Azerbaijan

    2. The Eurovision people, if they have any integrity, should immediately announce that they're switching their venue to another country until those forcibly displaced are fully compensated for their stolen property

  • ||

    The two takeaways FROM this story.

  • sticks||

    I have heard of Azerbaijan, but I've no idea what eurovision is. Sounds distressing.

  • us||

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  • SIV||

  • Jerry||

  • Paul||

    Why she should have won in '66.

  • Ted S.||

  • Ted S.||

  • Ted S.||

    I was in Riga, Latvia in May 1992 and got to see the 1992 Eurovision on live TV, so I got to see crap like this entry from Switzerland

  • sounds real good||

    How can y'all discuss the history of Eurovision winners without a mention of this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FsVeMz1F5c

  • ||

    I wonder if Hoppy Potty can win.

  • Red Rocks Rockin ||

    +10 points to Julie for posting the pic of Gunther.

    -15 points for not also posting pics of the Sunshine Girls.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    One of my Finance professors from college was Azerbaijani. He was completely insane. Nice guy, but just out of his fucking gourd.

  • Vote American (1969)||

  • Vote American (1969)||

  • Vote American (1969)||

  • Vote American (1969)||

  • Vote American (1969)||

  • Vote American (1969)||

  • Vote American (1969)||

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  • ||

    We do it for sports stadiums, they do it for singing contests. What's the difference?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    We do it for sports stadiums...

    and shopping malls/centers,
    and industrial parks,
    and concert halls,
    and office buildings,
    and anything else that promises to yield higher taxes than the people currently occupying a piece of property.

  • robc||

    No difference. Does us sucking somehow excuse them?

  • Rokk Krinn||

    Maybe the NEA helped fund the eurovison thing.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Sorry, but in 2010 Moldova won Eurovision. And by 'won,' I mean, 'EPIC SAX GUY is the winner for all time.'

  • anon||

    It's still funny.

  • el Commentariosa||

    Beat me

  • el Commentariosa||

    Lena Landrut-Meyer is the hottest winner in a long time.

  • anon||

    Azerbaijan is one of the most beautiful places I have been to. Really euro-trashy, but super fun if you have the money to spend.

  • el Commentariosa||

    I'd love to go visit

  • ||

    "Jörg Grabosch, the head of Brainpool, the German company that will produce the giant television show for the Azerbaijanis, has nothing but praise for the speed at which the arena is being built. "The loss of the buildings isn't a tragedy," he says, suggesting that the gray apartment towers didn't look pretty anyway."

    Wow. Moral bankruptcy must be great, you fucking prick.

  • Paul||

    To celebrate, authorities decided to forcibly evict some residents of Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku, destroy their apartments and build a performance venue in their place.

    It's difficult to get all self-righteous about this, when your own beacon-of-freedom country does this public purpose shit every single day.

  • WanT||

    Ooo I've been to Azerbaijan before...

    Funny thing I realized about Azerbaijan vs the US - Azerbaijan is so corrupt it feels like you actually have more freedom there than here. For a couple bucks (literally $5) an official will ignore any missing forms, fees, etc and let you do business. Amazingly simple compared to the bureaucratic mess here. There are downsides however (especially if you don't have an extra $5)...

  • Paul||

    Apparently the apartment owners didn't have the five bucks.

  • ||

    And if someone wants to do business on your property without your permission, they just have to pay $5 and you're SOL.

    Anarchy is a double edged "S" word.

  • ChrisO||

    Better yet, somebody in charge should consult their atlas before holding a European singing competition in Azerbaijan.

  • el Commentariosa||

    Azerbaijan is considered eastern europe.

  • ||

    joe'z law strikes again!

  • ||

    The Azerbaijani government is probably completely at a loss to understand why anyone would complain about what they are doing.

  • ||

    Oh, I just love that Armenians are planning to boycott Eurovision in Baku because of their history with Azerbaijan! Armenians are occupying 20% of Azerbaijan's territory, refusing to comply with international laws and THEY are upset!? :))) Pls don't come, maybe this will shine some well needed light on this problem!

  • affenkopf||

    International law is a joke.

    Also: You lost, get over it.

  • hermoda||

    The bigger issue is what does Günther have to do with anything? Did the government touch his talala?

  • ||

    Dude knows he is jsut totally rocking, it in every way dude. Wow.

    www.Gone-Anon.tk

  • Random Liberal||

    Meh. Property rights are way overrated.
    Besides, it's for the greater good.

  • You Know Who||

    I want to take a shit there.

  • ||

    Don't think for a second Donald Trump wouldn't kick a bunch of American war veterans out of their homes if he though it make great location for a $5000 a night hotel.

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