International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) has joined other members of the Sport for Rights campaign in urging singers Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias and Chris Brown to stand up for human rights in Azerbaijan by cancelling their performances at the Formula One European Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place in in Baku in June 2016.
In joint letters sent to the three singers, the Sport for Rights members stress that the Azerbaijani authorities are using the European Grand Prix in an attempt to whitewash their image and distract international attention from the human rights abuses taking place in the country. The letter states: “Whether or not it is your intention, your performance would be used as part of that cover-up, as propaganda for an increasingly authoritarian government. Although you hope for your music to bring happiness to people all over the world, a performance in Azerbaijan would serve to further the suffering of the country’s political prisoners, and the many others whose rights have been violated by the very government that will profit from the European Grand Prix.”
The Sport for Rights members also point out that although 16 political prisoners were recently released in Azerbaijan, dozens of individuals guilty of nothing more than disagreeing with the government still languish in the country’s jail. These include journalists, bloggers, youth activists, politicians, and religious followers. Despite the fact that they never should have spent a single day in jail, the released prisoners have not been rehabilitated and are still under legal restrictions that impede their work and their lives, with some facing travel bans preventing them from accessing urgently needed medical attention. More broadly, the civil society and media environment remains highly repressive in the country.