Police Question Azerbaijan Citizens Over “Unpatriotic” Song Voting

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Inga and Anush, Armenian sisters

Citizens in Azerbaijan who voted in the Eurovision Song Contest (Europe’s version of American Idol, only much bigger and much older) for an act from Armenia found themselves being interrogated by Azerbaijan’s police for being disloyal. Approximately 40 Azeris gave their votes to Inga and Anush of Armenia, including Rovshan Nasirli, who was summoned to the National Security Ministry to explain his unpatriotic behavior.

“They wanted an explanation for why I voted for Armenia. They said it was a matter of national security,” Nasirli told Radio Free Europe. “They were trying to put psychological pressure on me, saying things like, ‘You have no sense of ethnic pride. How come you voted for Armenia?’ They made me write out an explanation, and then they let me go.”
Azerbaijan and Armenia have had longstanding disputes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a predominantly Armenian enclave located within Azerbaijani territory.
The harassment by police wasn’t the only controversy that arose for Azeris who watched the Eurovision Song Contest, which drew an audience of 122 million (compared with American Idol’s 29 million in the U.S.). Some Azeris were unhappy with their country’s entry into the contest—the Iranian-born pop star Arash who lives in Sweden, and was partnered with a relatively young and unknown Azerbaijani singer, AySel. To make matters worse, Aysel and Arash took third place in the contest, even though an audit of the voting afterwards revealed they finished second in the televoting by fans.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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